A major Silicon Valley investor has identified Graphcore in Bristol as the world’s leading chip designer for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), backing the startup with $50m in a third round of funding.
“Efficient AI processing power is rapidly becoming the most sought-after resource in the technological world”
The investment from Sequoia Capital sees leading venture capitalists join the Graphcore board and technical advisory panel. Sequoia has previously backed companies such as Apple, Cisco, Google, NVIDIA and Microchip.
“Machine intelligence will cause an explosion of new applications and services that will transform every industry. We believe Graphcore’s product architecture, team and early market interest make it the best positioned new entrant in this market,” said Matt Miller (pictured above), the partner at Sequoia who will join the Graphcore board of directors.
The deal brings the total investment in the company to over $110m, one of the largest in the region.
The funding will be used to scale up production of its Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU) chips and accelerator cards, building a community of developers around its Poplar ML software platform, driving Graphcore’s extended product roadmap, and investing in its Palo Alto-based US team to help support customers.
Speeding up AI
The company is planning to ship its first IPU devices to early access customers at the start of 2018, slightly later than its original plan of the end of 2017. Early benchmarking has shown 10x to 100x speed up in running AI algorithms and the ability to scale across many separate accelerator cards.
“We believe our IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for machine intelligence compute”
“Efficient AI processing power is rapidly becoming the most sought-after resource in the technological world,” said Nigel Toon, CEO at Graphcore. “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. 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.”
Last month, Graphcore shared preliminary benchmarks demonstrating that its IPU can improve performance of machine intelligence training and inference workloads by 10x to 100x compared with current hardware. One test showed that a developer could use eight IPU cards to run a training model in the same amount of time as 128 GPU cards.
Graphcore has already attracted investments from many of the biggest names in machine intelligence including Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind, Zoubin Ghahramani of Cambridge University and Chief Scientist at Uber and Pieter Abbeel, Greg Brockman, Scott Grey and Ilya Sutskever, from OpenAI.
The Series C round has full support from existing 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.
Miller will join Graphcore’s board of directors and Bill Coughran, another partner at Sequoia, will join Graphcore’s technical advisory board.
You can see more about how Graphcore’s development environment emulates brain functions at www.graphcore.com
- You may like: Startup peers into the mind of AI