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Startup SambaNova Systems Raises $150 Million

Add another name to the list of companies that have raised more than $200 million to build custom chips aimed at artificial intelligence. SambaNova Systems, a startup that raised an initial $56 million in venture capital last year, said on Monday it had amassed another $150 million. The funding was raised from Intel Capital and former investors including Walden International and GV, formerly Google Ventures, among others.

SambaNova said that it has designed a systems architecture including custom chips and the software running on top of them. The company, which was founded by Kunle Olukotun, Chris Re and Rodrigo Liang in 2017, said that the software and algorithms inside it are used to determine the compute and other requirements of its solution. SambaNova said that it can roll out solutions for tiny electronic devices and enormous data centers.

“Moore’s Law famously set the pace for the semiconductor industry for nearly four decades as chip processing speed ramped in step with sequential hardware advancements,” said Dave Munichiello, general partner at GV, in a statement. “Today, large-scale chip players are under pressure from their most sophisticated customers to power compute-hungry tasks like artificial intelligence, while simultaneously crashing into the limitations of both physics and economics.”

As the technology industry has added artificial intelligence to its toolbox, semiconductor startups have seen a surge of investment. Most companies are trying to chase down Nvidia and Intel, which have taken the lead in chips used for training artificial intelligence algorithms and inferencing, respecitvely. Sales of these chips totaled around $4 billion in 2018, according to The Linley Group. That total is projected to ramp up significantly in the near future.

“With the advent of deep neural networks, we’ve seen AI processing sweep through the tech sector and spill over into many industries around the world,” Linley Gwennap, principal analyst at The Linley Group, said in a statement. “Although it may appear that the landscape of AI chip and IP vendors is getting crowded, there are still opportunities for new suppliers to gain traction provided they have a superior product.”

These startups are together amassing hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital. Wave Computing, a Silicon Valley startup that has also acquired the MIPS architecture, has taken over $200 million of investment. Graphcore, which is building custom chips for data centers and the tools for programming them, has raised $310 million from Sequoia Capital, Atomico, Microsoft, and Dell Technologies, valuing the private company at over $1 billion.

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