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Oct 31, 2016

Graphcore secures $30m in funding to accelerate AI

Written By:

Nigel Toon

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 Today, I’m excited to announce our new company, Graphcore. We’ve spent over two years in stealth mode, building our team of hardware and software engineers and rethinking computing for a world of intelligent machines. 

This month we completed our $30m Series A funding round which means we have the resources to innovate faster and execute at scale with backing from some of the biggest names in the technology industry. Our investors are not just bringing money, they’re providing connections and unique market insights that will help us to develop products that solve major industry challenges.

Graphcore’s mission is to make machine learning faster, easier and more intelligent. Our technology will reduce the cost of accelerating AI applications in the cloud; the same technology will bring AI to low power consumer devices. It will enable recent deep learning applications to evolve more rapidly towards useful, general artificial intelligence.

While innovation at the algorithmic level in machine learning has been unprecedented, the same cannot be said about processors.

GPUs have been used in deep learning because they are the only commercially-available parallel processors that have come close to delivering the high compute density required. Microsoft is experimenting with FPGAs, which remain expensive and difficult to program. These are stopgaps not long term solutions. 

Machine intelligence has a very different compute workload from anything that has come before and needs a new approach.

One of the fundamental questions we have addressed at Graphcore, is how to build highly parallel processors, complete with software tools and libraries, that are much faster, more flexible and easy to use, so that developers can explore machine intelligence approaches across a much broader front.

Introducing Graphcore's Intelligent Processing Unit (IPU)

We have created a complete software and hardware system, based on our Intelligent Processing Unit (IPU) that will accelerate the full range of current and future machine intelligence methods for training, inference and prediction.

We’re on the cusp of big breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. The value to society of intelligent computing will be far greater than that of all computing so far.

Our IPU system provides a less restrictive, more efficient and more powerful solution - making it easier and faster to produce applications, devices and machines that are much more intelligent and which can become more and more useful over time.

The energy in our team as we start our journey is remarkable.  The innovation they are unlocking is ground breaking. We look forward to sharing more about our technology and helping you to create the next generation of machine intelligent applications, services, products and devices.

- Nigel Toon, CEO

What our investors say

Our investors include Bosch, Samsung, Amadeus Capital, C4 Ventures, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital & Pitango Capital. Here’s what they have to say:

Dr Hongquan Jiang, Partner at Robert Bosch Venture Capital GmbH, says that we’ve got “a unique technology that has massive potential in the fast emerging market for deep learning. A new processor technology is needed for intelligent systems and Graphcore has the first technology that we have seen which really delivers the performance and efficiency needed for this style of compute.”

Speaking to EE Times earlier this month, Young Sohn, Chief Strategy Officer at Samsung Electronics, called us out “as one of Samsung’s investments that is “challenging Nvidia.”  Today’s computer architecture “is not up to date, it’s too heavy and can be much more nimble, there’s a lot of waste.”

“Graphcore’s approach is unique in its capability to enable advanced intelligent systems,” said Ekaterina Almasque, Managing Director, Samsung Catalyst Fund, Europe. “It closes the gap between the level of intelligence we want to see on edge devices and compute limitations of existing hardware architectures. At Samsung Catalyst Fund, we invest in disruptive companies in this space, and believe tremendous value will be created in the next 10 years  by artificial intelligence applications. Graphcore will play an important role as a key enabling technology.”

Hermann Hauser, co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners and a renowned technology entrepreneur, has some kind words for us too. “I have worked with Nigel and Simon before in their previous companies where they achieved over $1bn in successful exits for their investors. The team they have assembled is second to none. Machine learning is becoming a major market and Graphcore has the technology to lead this next wave of computing.”

Bill Elmore, General Partner and co-founder at Foundation Capital, one of Silicon-Valley’s top venture capital firms behind a large number of highly successful companies including Netflix, said, “Graphcore will lower the cost of accelerating AI applications in the cloud. This is exactly the type of world-class systems company, with breakthrough technology, and a great team, that Foundation Capital supports.”

Simon Cook, CEO Draper Esprit Plc, stated, “Graphcore is one of the first investments made since we publicly listed in London and Dublin. This is a sector we know well and a founding team that we have successfully backed before. Nigel and Simon have created an exciting company developing next generation processor technology and we are pleased to be investing at this key stage in its development.”

Pascal Cagni, Founding Partner of C4 Ventures, Apple GM and VP EMEA (2000-2012), said: “Since its foundation C4 Ventures has been backing hardware companies revolutionising their sector and we believe Graphcore’s disruptive technology is a game changer in the computing field. Graphcore’s solution pushes further the boundaries of Machine Intelligence, which will unlock value across every industry.”

Eyal Niv, Managing General Partner at Pitango Venture Capital, said: “We are very excited to become part of Graphcore and to be backing great entrepreneur like Nigel and Simon. I believe we are on the verge of a new and smarter era, in which computer intelligence, machine learning and deep learning, will transform every aspect of our lives. Smart personalized medicine, autonomous transportation and robotics, smart infrastructure and accurate business prediction are just some of the areas which will be transformed and immensely improved by machine learning technologies. I really believe machine learning will bring about the biggest transformation ever, bigger than the internet, mobile and social put together.”