Artificial Intelligence (AI) chip startup Graphcore has raised a $50 million Series C round from Silicon Valley-based Sequoia Capital, in order to take on chip giants Intel, AMD and Nvidia.
Graphcore, based in Bristol, UK, is developing Intelligence Processing Units (IPUs), made for machine learning applications. These outgun current hardware by up to "10x to 100x" according to Graphcore. IPUs can be combined to form massively powerful architectures which can crunch numbers and algorithms at unprecedented speed. Graphcore does not have a product on the market yet, with a launch for early-access customers due in 2018. The new capital,
then, will be used to launch the company's first product, and to "accelerate growth" as it looks to keep up with international demand for its IPUs.
Graphcore co-founders Nigel Toon (left), CEO, and Simon Knowles (right), CTO. Image: Graphcore
Sequoia Capital, meanwhile, very rarely invests in startups outside of Silicon Valley, and as Sequoia is also the only participant in the round, the firm must have seen something in Graphcore that it rarely sees in others. Graphcore has moved fast over the past year -- it raised its Series A round in October 2016, followed by a Series B in July.
The latest round has the "full support" of the young startup's other investors: Amadeus Capital Partners, Atomico, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, C4 Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital, Pitango Venture Capital and Samsung Catalyst Fund.
Graphcore CEO Nigel Toon said in a statement about the new round, “Efficient AI processing power is rapidly becoming the most sought-after resource in the technological world. We believe our IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for machine intelligence compute. The performance of Graphcore’s processor, compared to other accelerators, is going to be transformative, whether you are a medical researcher, roboticist, online marketplace, social network or building autonomous vehicles."
Graphcore's IPUs are optimized for use in deep tech situations, such as in self-driving cars or powering the cities of tomorrow. Toon continued: “At Graphcore, we are focused on building a successful, enduring company that can serve the needs of all of those communities, over the long term. Sequoia has a deep understanding of what it takes to scale and build a successful business and we are looking forward to a long partnership with them.”