13 Nov 2017

Graphcore raised $50 million from Sequoia to help it build AI processors

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From Business Insider: 

UK chip startup Graphcore has raised $50 million (£38 million) from Sequoia Capital — a household name in the Silicon Valley venture capital scene that backed companies like Google and Apple in their early days.

Graphcore is a Bristol-based company developing a new generation computer processors that can be used to train artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. The company claims that its IPU (intelligence processing units) can improve the performance of machine intelligence training by 10x to 100x compared with current chips.

The funding round comes just four months after Graphcore announced a $30 million (£23 million) investment from: Atomico, the London-based VC firm set up by Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström; Demis Hassabis, the CEO of Google-owned AI lab DeepMind; Zoubin Ghahramanic, the chief scientist of Uber; and several other investors.

Graphcore, which plans to start shipping its processors in the first half of 2018, said it plans to use the money from the Series C funding round to accelerate growth. The funding will specifically be used to scale up production, build a community of developers around its Poplar software platform, and investing in its Palo Alto-based US team.

Graphcore CEO Nigel Toon said in a statement: "Efficient AI processing power is rapidly becoming the most sought-after resource in the technology world. We believe our IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for machine intelligence compute."

Toon added that he thinks Graphcore's chips will be transformative to medical researchers, robotocists, people building autonomous vehicles, and other industries.

Prior to Graphcore, Toon founded a business called Icera that he sold to Nvidia in 2011 for $367 million (£281 million) before it was shut down in 2015.

Matt Miller, partner at Sequoia, is joining Graphcore's board.

"The unique nature of this workload and scale of this opportunity creates an opening where a valuable new chip company can be created," Miller said in a statement. "We believe Graphcore's product, architecture, team, and early market interest make it the best positioned new entrant in this market."