Billion-Dollar Babies #10: 13 Unicorn Startups in The Edge Computation Industry

James Dargan

High-level Chips & Processor Architecture

Rough estimates state the AI semiconductor market will be anywhere from $65 to $100 billion by mid-decade. This year alone, semiconductor sales are expected to reach 527.2 billion U.S. dollars worldwide, according to the Statista report, Semiconductor market size worldwide from 1987 to 2022.

With deep tech sectors like big data, AI and ML becoming a greater part of our lives, the need for innovative startups and more established companies to find solutions using high-level chips and processor architecture to speed up exercise will be greatly needed.

At the forefront of this are several deep tech startups changing things for the better. The ones below, thirteen in all, have all reached unicorn status. Surely there will be more to follow, ones that — just like these representatives and the rock stars who founded them — are in it to make our lives better.

1. SambaNova Systems (Estimated valuation: ~ $5.1B)

SambaNova Systems is a Palo Alto-based AI hardware and integrated systems startup that runs AI applications from the data center to the cloud.

Founded in 2017 by Christopher Ré, Kunle Olukotun and Rodrigo Liang, its software-defined analytics platform enables optimum performance for any ML training, inference, oranalytics models.

SambaNova Systems has raised a total of $1.1 billion in funding over six rounds. Its latest, a Series D round in April 2021, was valued at $676 million and led by SoftBank Vision Fund.

According to TechCrunch, SambaNova’s co-founder and CEO Rodrigo Liang confirmed the value of the company was $5.1 billion.

2. Cerebras Systems (Estimated valuation: ~ $2.4B)

Cerebras Systems is a Sunnyvale, California-based computer systems company dedicated to accelerating deep learning. Founded in 2015 by Andrew Feldman, Gary Lauterbach, Michael James, Sean Lie, and Jean-Philippe Fricker, its pioneering Wafer-Scale Engine (WSE) — the largest chip ever built — is at the heart of Cerebras Systems’ deep learning system, the Cerebras CS-1.

In November 2019, Cerebras’ valuation was $2.4 billion, according to some sources. This comes after Cerebras Systems raised a total of $112 million in funding over three rounds. Its latest funding, a $60-million Series C round, was raised in January 2017.

3. Graphcore (Estimated valuation: $2.77B)

AI chipmaker Graphcore, a Bristol, UK-based startup founded in 2016 by Nigel Toon and Simon Knowles, has created a new processor, the Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), specifically designed for AI. The IPU’s unique architecture means developers can run current machine learning models orders of magnitude faster. More importantly, it lets AI researchers undertake entirely new types of work, not possible using current technologies, to drive the next great breakthroughs in general machine intelligence.

Graphcore has raised a total of $682 million in funding over six rounds. Its latest funding, a $222-million Series E round, was in December 2020, bringing the startup’s valuation to $2.77 billion and putting in place a future IPO, according to TechCrunch.

4. Groq (Estimated valuation: ~$2.77B)

Founded in 2016 by Jonathan Ross, Groq has headquarters in Mountain View, California and designs radically simple elegant processor architecture technology to accelerate complex workloads in AI, ML and high-performance computing.

According to an article published in the Financial Times in March 2021, American investment firm Tiger Global Management held discussions about leading a $300-million financing in Groq, valuing the company at roughly $1 billion and gaining the prestigious unicorn status.

The Series C round finally went through that month, led by Tiger Global Management and D1 Capital Partners. The deal meant Groq had raised a total of $362.3 million in funding over five rounds.

5. Hailo (Estimated valuation: ~$1.1B)

Chipmaker for edge devices startup Hailo is an Israeli-based concern founded in 2017 by Avi Baum, Hadar Zeitlin and Orr Danon. Specializing in AI processors to deliver data-center class performance to edge devices with its proprietary chip, Hailo is headquartered in Tel Aviv.

Hailo has raised a total of $87.9 million in funding over five rounds. Its latest funding was raised in March 2020 from a Series B round.

According to Israeli technology news site CTech by Calcalist, in June 2021 Hailo was in the process of completing a $110 million Series C funding round at a valuation of $1.1 billion, making it the latest Israeli company to join the unicorn list.

6. Tenstorrent (Estimated valuation: $1B)

A Canadian hardware company building AI silicon spanning from embedded computing to the data centre to the edge of the Cloud by co-designing hardware, software, and AI algorithms with their technology, Tenstorrent was founded in 2016 by Ivan Hamer, Ljubisa Bajic and Milos Trajkovic.

The startup has raised a total of $234.5 million in funding over six rounds. Its latest funding was raised on May 20, 2021, from a $200-million Series C round. On that day, according to a news release on Tenstorrent’s website, that Series C round put the company at a $1 billion valuation.

7. NextSilicon (Estimated valuation: $1.5B)

NextSilicon is the second Israeli startup on the list. Rethinking compute architectures for the future of computer processing, it was founded in 2018 by Elad Raz.

To date, NextSilicon has raised a total of $202.6 million in funding over four rounds. Its latest funding, a $120-million Series C round, was raised in June 2021 and led by Third Point Ventures, bringing the Israeli startup unicorn status off its $1.5 billion valuation, according to Jewish Business News.

8. Preferred Networks (Estimated valuation: ~$3.3B)

Preferred Networks implements Deep Intelligence throughout the Internet to integrate data from the physical and digital worlds. A Tokyo-based startup, it was founded by Daisuke Okanohara, Morikawa Hiroyuki, Nishitoba Jiro, and Toru Nishikawa in 2014.

According to NikkeiAsia, Preferred Networks was worth an estimated 351.5 billion yen ($3.33 billion) at the end of September 2019, making the company Japan’s most valuable unicorn.

9. VAST Data (Estimated valuation: ~$3.7B)

VAST Data is simplifying the data centre and redefining how organizations interact with data with its Universal Storage concept.

Based in New York City, VAST Data was founded in 2016 by Jeff Denworth, Renen Hallak and Shachar Fienblit.

So far in its journey to bring an end to complex storage tiering and unlocking the ability to use flash across the enterprise, VAST Data has raised a total of $263 million in funding over six rounds. Its latest funding, an $83-million Series D round led by Tiger Global Management, was raised in May 2021, giving the startup a post-money valuation of $3.7 billion — tripling its valuation since April 2020.

10. NUVIA (Now part of Qualcomm) (Valuation: $1.4B)

NUVIA, now part of Qualcomm after a $1.4 billion acquisition in January 2021, developed processors intended to create high-performance silicon design for a compute-intensive world. According to Qualcomm’s press release, NUVIA’s technology will be incorporated across the company’s line of chips, with its leadership centred around its 5G-focused Snapdragon chip.

It was founded in 2019 by Gerard Williams III, John Bruno and Manu Gulati and was based in Santa Clara, California.

Regarding its funding history, NUVIA raised a total of $293 million in funding over two rounds.

11. Alphawave IP (Estimated valuation: ~$4.2B)

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, Alphawave IP is a semiconductor IP company focused on providing DSP-based, multi-standard connectivity Silicon IP solutions targeting both data processing in the Datacenter and data generation by IoT end devices.

Founded in 2017 by Tony Pialis, Alphawave’s vision is to make the integration of complex DSP-based mixed-signal IPs, simple, reliable and cost-effective for the semiconductor industry.

On 13th May of this year, on its first day of trading on the London Stock Exchange, the company raised 856 million pounds ($1.2 billion) on its initial public offering (IPO), giving Alphawave a rough valuation of 3.1 billion pounds ($4.2 billion).

12. Habana Labs (Now part of Intel) (Estimated valuation: ~$2B)

Habana Labs focuses on developing disruptive solutions that are shaping the future of AI and Deep Learning computing in the data center cloud and on-premise. It was founded in 2016 by David Dahan and Ran Halutz and is based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

In December 2020, however, it was acquired by Intel for around $2 billion.

This comes after the chipmaker had raised a total of $75 million in funding from one round.

13. Innovium (Estimated valuation: $1.1B)

The last entry for today’s list is Innovium, a provider of high-performance, innovative switching silicon solutions for data centres.

The company was founded in 2014 by Mohammad Issa, Puneet Agarwal and Rajiv Khemani and is based in Silicon Valley.

Innovium has raised a total of $375.3 million in funding over ten rounds. Its latest funding, a $143-million Series F round led by BlackRock and Qualcomm Ventures, was raised in July 2020.

According to TechCrunch in August of this year, Marvell Technology, an American company that develops and produces semiconductors and related technology, announced this morning it had reached an agreement to acquire Innovium for $1.1 billion in an all-stock deal. So far, the deal has yet to go through, however.

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