JD.com, one of China’s largest e-commerce companies, is launching a new Beijing-based accelerator program for artificial intelligence and blockchain startups. Called AI Catapult, its first batch includes six companies: Bankorus, CanYa, Bluezelle, Nuggets, Republic Protocol and Devery.
In an announcement, JD.com said startups will work with its operational teams to “test real-world applications of their technologies at scale.” This includes its logistics unit, which recently raised $2.5 billion and claims to run the largest last-mile logistics network in China.
Though Alibaba Group is probably better known outside of China, JD.com is a formidable rival. In 2016, it recorded 658.2 billion RMB, or about $100 billion, in gross merchandise value (JD.com will announce its full-year results for 2017 next month). JD.com and Tencent frequently partner to take on Alibaba, most recently backing several of the same online and offline retail companies, including Vipshop and Better Life. Walmart and JD.com also signed a strategic partnership in 2016 to combine their resources in China.
JD.com currently operates a sponsored AI research lab called the SAIL JD AI Research Institute with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The company already uses blockchain technology in its supply chain to track products and AI in software it developed to control its logistics drones and automated package sorting centers.
Here are more details about AI Catapult’s inaugural batch:
CanYa—Based in Australia, CanYa is a peer-to-peer marketplace that lets users pay for digital or home services with cryptocurrency. During the program, CanYa will be marketed to JD.com’s customers.
Bluezelle—A Singaporean startup that provides scalable data storage and management services for decentralized apps.
Nuggets—a London-based e-commerce payments and ID platform that stores information on the blockchain to prevent data breaches.
Republic Protocol—a decentralized dark pool, or private exchange, for atomic cross-chain trading between Ether, ERC20 tokens and Bitcoin pairs.
Devery—Another Australian-based company, Devery uses blockchain tech to allow e-commerce companies to verify products through all steps of the supply chain and avoid counterfeits.
Bankorus—Formerly known as MiCai, this Chinese fintech startup claims to be the “world’s first private wealth management platform powered by AI and built on the blockchain.”