AI Graphcore chip startup closes $ 200M Series D, …

UK AI chipcore startup chip today announced a $ 200 million Series D round, jointly led by an existing investor, European VC Atomico, along with new investor Sofina, an investment firm.

Graphcore says the Series D values ​​the company at $ 1.7M. We have confirmed that the valuation is $ 1.5M before including the new capital raised. We are also told that all new money is received, with no withdrawals at this stage of growth.

The 2016-founded Bristol-based startup that is building dedicated processing hardware for machine learning applications racked up $ 50M in Series C financing a year ago, led by Sequoia Capital. That was pretty tough after a $ 30M Series B led by Atomico, in July 2017.

It also raised $ 32M Series A in October 2016. Therefore, the total funding raised to date from Graphcore is around $ 312M.

In a blog post announcing Series D, co-founder Nigel Toon said that interest in the round was high, but that meant there was a bit of a balance between existing and new investors.

“We have been receiving great interest from many new potential investors, but our current investors can see the solid growth path we are on, we also wanted to invest much more and we did not want to be diluted,” he writes. “We worked through the different offerings and we were able to achieve a great result with new investors taking half the round and our existing investors matched the amount of this investment.”

A new investor in Series D is London-based Merian Global Investors, through their Merian Chrysalis Fund along with other funds they manage.

Two new strategic investors BMW and Microsoft are also added. – Compensation is excited about the potential of Graphcore’s Intelligence Processor Unit (IPU) PCIe processor cards to accelerate the deployment of a range of AI-based technologies that intersect with its own R&D labs.

Commenting in a statement, Tobias Jahn, Head of BMW i Ventures, said: “The versatility of the Graphcore IPU, which supports multiple machine learning techniques with high efficiency, is suitable for a wide variety of applications, from intelligent voice assistants to self-help, driving vehicles. “With the flexibility to use the same processor in both a data center and a vehicle, the Graphcore IPU also presents the potential to reduce development times and complexity.”

Existing investors also contributing to Series D include Amadeus Capital Partners, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, C4 Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital, Pitango, Samsung, and Sequoia Capital.

“We had to tell a lot of potential investors that we didn’t have room for them,” adds Toon.

Graphcore says the new funding will go towards rapid expansion, with the company poised to bolster its engineering teams at its Bristol headquarters; its offices in london; Oslo in Norway; and Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

It will also open new offices in Beijing, China and Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Overall, he says he intends to triple the size of his team.

“We will be increasing our production and will be adding to our sales, marketing, finance, legal and people teams,” says Toon. “Our goal is to build the global market leader in machine intelligence hardware and we look forward to an exciting new period of massive growth.”

Graphcore has been shipping its first products to early access customers this year and generating its first revenue. And it says high-volume production is now “ramping up” to meet demand for its IPU cards, which is seen as a 10x to 100x speed increase compared to current-generation chipset hardware.

At the same time, there is growing competition in the dedicated AI chipset space, with which there is now a set of startups attracting an influx of VC dollars (SambaNova, Cerebras Systems, Cambricon Technology, and Horizon Robotics, to name). Some); Along with the existing chip giants (like Intel and Nvidia), they also place their own bets; and device makers like Apple dig deep into designing their own silicon.

The race is undoubtedly to test different ideas and architectures, and see what combines best with artificial intelligence technologies and developers.

This report was updated with a correction that the Series D round is jointly led by an existing investor (Atomic) and a new investor (Sofina); Rather than being both existing investors, as we initially said