LONDON — Adrian Cheng is continuing his quest to acquire digital lifestyle brands and platforms, that speak specifically to Millennials and Gen Z. Today, the billionaire entrepreneur has announced that he is investing $10 million, via his K11 investment fund, in the U.S.-based artificial intelligence company ObEN.
The company’s AI technology focuses on creating intelligent avatars, which look, talk and behave like users and can also perform tasks on their behalf.
K11’s investment, which brings the company’s total funding to date to $23.7 million, will help the company drive further product development, as well as integrate their technology in retail, real estate and hospitality applications.
“ObEN is at the forefront of creating intelligent avatars that enhance the consumer experience,” says Nikhil Jain, cofounder and chief executive officer of ObEN. “With this strategic investment from K11, we are able to reach millions of new customers and create experiences that will shape the future of retail.”
The investment is in line with Cheng’s strategy to partner with digital companies at the forefront of technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, which will constitute the future of retail, according to Cheng, and attract the new generation of consumers.
“ObEN’s personal artificial intelligence platform simplifies the implementation of artificial intelligence technologies for real-life applications. K11 is committed to localizing the platform and bringing an immersive AI experience for visitors at all K11 projects,” Cheng said.
K11 projects span across retail, art and culture and include K11 Art Malls, a museum-retail concept, K11 Kulture Academy, an open education platform and K11 Natural, a Terrarium-inspired transformative retail space, among others.
Last year, Cheng also introduced a new fund, C Ventures, which is focusing on bringing together Chinese investors and Western digital brands in fashion and retail.
In December, he took a “significant stake” in the luxury e-tailer Moda Operandi via both his vehicles, in a round of investment which also included Matchesfashion.com majority stakeholders Apax Partners.
C Ventures has also taken stakes in companies such as Armarium, which offers luxury rentals right off the runway; Not Just a Label, an editorial and e-commerce platform that promotes emerging designers from around the world; upscale fitness brand Bandier; women’s social media platform Galore, and the entertainment site SkyBound.
Cheng has said his vision is to unite culture-oriented brands into a portfolio that marries fashion, art and creative media, and to meet the demands of next-generation consumers. His theory is that, in the eyes of consumers under the age of 25, the world is without borders.
“The younger generations are much more globally connected. They fly around. You look at China, you look at the West, they don’t care what race you are, what boundaries you have, all they care about is whether you’re cool. This word is important and while ‘coolness’ is a little bit of a cliché, it connects people,” Cheng told WWD in an interview.