AI chipmaker Graphcore raises $222M at a $2.77B valuation and puts an IPO in its sights – TechCrunch

Applications based on artificial intelligence – whether they are systems running autonomous services, platforms being used in drug development, or for predicting the spread of viruses, traffic management for 5G networks, or anything else – run completely Requires an unprecedented amount of computing power. And today, one of the big names in the world of processors fit and designing for work has closed a big round of funding as it takes its business to the next level.

GraphcoreThe Bristol, UK-based AI chipmaker has raised $ 222 million, a series E that CEO and co-founder Nigel Toon said in an interview that it would be used for some purposes.

First, Graphcore Will use the money to continue expanding its technology, based on an architecture called “IPU” (intelligence processing unit) that competes against chips from the likes of Nvidia and Intel, also optimized for AI applications. . And second, Graphcore will use the funds to shore up its finances ahead of a potential public listing.

On the balance sheet, Graphcore values ​​$ 440 million in cash and $ 2.77 billion to start in 2021, Fundan said.

“We are in a strong position to grow twice as fast and move faster and take advantage of the opportunity,” he said. He said it might be “premature” to describe this series E as an “e-IPO” round, “We have enough cash and it puts us in a position to take that next step,” ” They said. The company is rumored to be in recent weeks Preparing a list on Nasdaq not in the UK but in the US.

This latest round of funding is coming from a roster of financial investors. Led by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, it also includes the participation of Fidelity International and Schroders as well as past investors Bailey Gifford and Draper Esprit. Graphcore has raised some $ 710 million so far.

The series gives E Graphcore a definite step in its valuation – the company last raised funds back in February this year $ 150 million expansion for its Series D It is valued at $ 1.95 billion – but all the same, it closes what Toon described as a “challenging” year for the company (and indeed, the world at large).

“I see this year as a speed bump,” he said. “It’s been challenging and we’ve remodeled to speed things up.”

The year came in various parts, as it has done for many companies.

On the one hand, Graphcore’s hardware and software product development continued apace with faster processors, sometimes in smaller packages. In July, Graphcore launched The second generation of its flagship chip, the GC200, and a new IPU machine running on it, the M2000, were described by the company as the first AI computer of the time to achieve a petaflop of processing power “a pizza In the shape of “box.”

But on the other hand, those products were largely manufactured and launched with a remote workforce that sent employees to work from home to help slow the spread of coronovirus that gripped the world Is and rewrote how much it operates.

Indeed, there is also potential for large scale industries, and how companies are spending and investing during periods of uncertainty. Some companies, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, are becoming more serious about their own chipmaking efforts. Others are caught in a wave of consolidation: witness Nvidia attempted to acquire ARM in a $ 40 billion deal.

All of these spellings have upstart challenges like Graphcore. Toon said that Graphcore has no plans to acquire: its strategy is based around organic growth.

And, not too big of a surprise here, he’s not enthusiastic about Nvidia’s acquisition of ARM: “If we’re not careful, things will get a lot more cohesive and that could kill innovation,” he said. “We have made our position clear to the UK government. We don’t think the Nvidia ARM deal is a good thing. “(A bit ironic, given that he and Graphcore co-founder Simon Knowles Sold out None other than nvidia

He also declined to talk about new customers for Graphcore, but said there had been some interest from financial services companies, and the world of healthcare, automotive and Internet companies, in his words “big hyperscaleers”, The way it is needed is by building Graphcore technology either to run their systems, or to complement the processors they are potentially building themselves as well. (The company’s strategic backers include the likes of Microsoft, BMW, Bosch and Dell.)

Graphcore said the company is sending its new products to customers “in production volume”, and Toon said that some big names are likely to be announced in the coming year.

And it is the pull of technology, and especially the demand for the next generation of computing processing, that investors believe will make Graphcore continue to run business as dust settles this year.

“The market for purpose-built AI processors is expected to be important in the coming years due to cloud technology and the computation of megatrends such as 5G and increases AI adoption, and we believe that Graphcore is leading the way in this space. Is marching forward, ”said Olympia Steadman. , Senior Managing Director, Teachers Innovation Forum (TIP) in Ontario Teachers. “TIP focuses on investing in tech-enabled businesses like Graphcore which are at the forefront of innovation in their fields. We are excited to partner with Nigel and a strong management team to support the company’s continued growth and product development. “