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UK chipmaker Graphcore gets $50m from Sequoia

Nigel Toon Graphcore

Bristol-based chipmaker Graphcore has scored $50m (£38.2m) from Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capital firms.

The startup, which previously closed a $30m Series B led by Atomico, is seeking to become the UK’s biggest producer of AI hardware.

At present, firms running artificial intelligence algorithms use standard processing units, despite the fact that AI requires huge bulks of data to be crunched very fast. Graphcore’s new chips are said to have 100 times more processing power than conventional processors.

Nigel Toon, Graphcore‘s chief executive and co-founder, who previously sold Icera to Nvidia for $367m, said: “Efficient AI processing power is rapidly becoming the most sought-after resource in the technological world. We believe our IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for machine intelligence compute.

“The performance of Graphcore’s processor, compared to other accelerators, is going to be transformative, whether you are a medical researcher, roboticist, online marketplace, social network or building autonomous vehicles.

“At Graphcore, we are focused on building a successful, enduring company that can serve the needs of all of those communities, over the long term. Sequoia has a deep understanding of what it takes to scale and build a successful business and we are looking forward to a long partnership with them.”

The money will be used to expand Graphcore’s Silicon Valley-based team.

Matt Miller, a partner at Sequoia, said a China office was also on the cards “in the very near future”.

He added: “Machine intelligence will cause an explosion of new applications and services that will transform every industry. The unique nature of this workload and scale of this opportunity creates an opening where a valuable new chip company can be created.

“We believe Graphcore’s product architecture, team and early market interest make it the best positioned new entrant in this market. We look forward to helping them build a large and enduring company,” concluded the investor.

To date, Graphcore has also raised from Amadeus Capital, Robert Bosch Venture Capital, C4 Ventures, Dell Technologies Capital, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital, Pitango and Samsung Catalyst Fund.

AI pioneers Demis Hassabis (DeepMind), Greg Brockman (OpenAI), Ilya Sutskever (OpenAI), Pieter Abbeel (UC Berkeley/OpenAI), Scott Gray (OpenAI) and Zoubin Ghahramani (University of Cambridge, chief scientist at Uber) have also backed the firm in the past.

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