For those who aren’t following the AI business, one of many key metrics to look at for a lot of these AI semiconductor startups is the quantity of funding they’re able to generate. Whereas funding isn’t any express assure of success, it does point out maybe how a lot religion the enterprise capitalists (in addition to OEMs and different silicon distributors) have within the know-how. Some of the well-funded ventures on this area is Graphcore, and the corporate simply introduced its newest Sequence E funding spherical of $222 million, taking it to $710m whole throughout the 5 rounds.
Graphcore, primarily based in Bristol UK, is already on its second era product, launching the Colossus MK2 GC200 in 2020. This chip comprises 60 billion transistors, 900MB of built-in reminiscence, is manufactured on TSMC’s N7 node at 823 mm2, and might obtain 250 TFLOPs of AI compute. Graphcore bundles 4 of them right into a 1U chassis together with an Arm-based management chip and a loopy quantity of networking to allow a community containing as much as 64000 chips. Clients can order this IPU-M2000 unit, or 16 of them in a devoted rack. Graphcore additionally supplies the POPLAR software program stack, with direct help for PyTorch, TensorFlow, ONNX, and PaddlePaddle machine studying frameworks.
The most recent $222m Sequence E funding spherical was led by Ontario Academics’ Pensions Plan Board (what?), with extra funds managed by Constancy Worldwide and Schroders as new buyers. Earlier buyers additionally participated, together with Baillie Gifford and Draper Esprit. With the newest spherical of funding bringing the entire as much as $710m, this could put Graphcore at #2 when it comes to AI Chip pure-play startups. That is simply behind the $850m invested into Chinese language semiconductor startup Horizon Robotics, based by a CEO Yu Kai a Baidu veteran, of which the newest $150m spherical completed in December. SambaNova is #3 with $456m, and Nuvia has $293m. The most recent spherical of funding brings Graphcore’s valuation to $2.77 billion.
With Graphcore’s first era product, the corporate aligned with Dell to offer server models that includes eight add-in PCIe playing cards, every with two of its first era IPUs. The corporate is claiming that the latest second era MK2 is rolling out to extra clients even throughout COVID occasions, particularly to educational analysis comparable to UMass, Oxford, and ICL. Official particulars on its company clients appear considerably skinny, past an official tie-in with Microsoft, nevertheless Graphcore has mentioned that they’re presently working with hyperscalers and monetary service firms.
That is maybe why Graphcore additionally stating that it has $440m cash-in-hand is sort of necessary. As each startup has an efficient burn fee of capital, this needs to be adequate for the corporate to additionally exit to allow extra clients, in addition to develop subsequent era merchandise. Graphcore has already introduced by means of TSMC that it’s already scoping TSMC’s 3nm course of for a future product line. Graphcore can also be a member of the not too long ago fashioned MLCommons, the governing physique behind MLPerf, and expects to take part with its first submissions on MK2 in Q2 this yr.