AI chip startup Graphcore lands $150 million in Series D funding

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AI chip startup Graphcore lands $150 million in Series D funding.
Image: Graphcore

Recently, British chipmaker Graphcore revealed it has secured $150 million in Series D funding. As such, the startup, which has partnerships with Dell and Microsoft, has been valued at $1.95 billion, up $200 million from 2018. To date, the firm has received $460 million in outside investments. The company plans to bolster its research and development and client acquisition efforts with its newfound capital.

What Makes Graphcore Special

Founded in 2016, Graphcore’s primary offering is its Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), a next-generation chipset capable of facilitating high-level artificial intelligence (AI) tasks. The startup boasts its product can complete BERT-basing training faster than GPUs using TensorFlow with 20 percent less energy consumption. The firm also notes its components feature three times greater throughput with 20 percent less latency when performing BERT inference.

The innovative nature of Graphcore’s hardware has allowed it to foster relationships with some of the tech industry’s largest corporations. In tandem with Dell, the startup created the DSS8440 IPU Server. Supported by the firm’s Polar software stack, the device allows users to quickly and seamlessly develop new algorithmic solutions. Plus, since the system is interoperable with machine learning platforms like PyTorch, firms don’t need to recode their projects to utilize it.

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Graphcore has also teamed with Microsoft to make its technology available to enterprise customers. Firms can now preview virtual machine instances driven by its IPU through Azure. TechCrunch reports the Redmond, Washington-based corporation will use the startup’s products on its internal AI development.

Graphcore’s Recent Growth and Future Plans

The company Series D round included leading contributions from Baillie Gifford, M&G Investments, and returning investor Mayfair Equity Partners. With its latest capital infusion, Graphcore now has cash reserves of $300 million. The startup announced plans to utilize its cash to advance its R&D and further build its operational footprint.

Last year, the company doubled headcount by hiring new software, silicon, and hardware engineers to work in its facilities in Bristol, Norway, and Taiwan. The firm also grew out its sales and support personnel in Beijing and Palo Alto, California. The startup’s workforce up scaling proved beneficial as it added Carmot Capital, Citadel Securities, Microsoft, and Qwant to its client list in 2019.

Because of its recent success in fundraising and customer acquisition, the firm offered a strong forecast regarding its prospects. Graphcore CEO Nigel Toon said the company’s 2019 investments would ensure its robust performance this year. “Demand for our Intelligence Processor Unit products is increasing at existing and new customers, and the outlook for our business in Fiscal 2020 is extremely positive,” said the executive.

Despite recent tumult in the semiconductor sector, venture capitalists have been keen to put money into innovative chipmakers. Last week, The Burn-In reported AI processor manufacturer Hailo secured $60 million in Series B funding. Similarly, touch interface innovator Sensel landed a $28 million cash injection earlier this month.

It’s worth remembering; the market will reward “out of the box” thinking in even the most adverse conditions.

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