$2.77B startup to take on GPU Goliath Nvidia
Graphcore, the UK-based AI-chip startup, is making its first moves into North America, where it is going to take on Nvidia on its home turf in the enterprise with new channel and reseller partners.
Founded in 2016, Graphcore makes what it calls Intelligence Processing Units. The company believes that its IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for machine intelligence compute and transform several industries, including medical research, robotics, or autonomous cars. The IPU’s unique architecture lets AI researchers undertake entirely new types of work, not possible using current technologies, to drive the next advances in machine intelligence.
Now the AI chip startup is taking aim at Nvidia’s data center GPU business with its IPUs and purpose-built AI systems, so it’s recruiting solution provider powerhouse Trace3 and other channel partners to ramp up sales in North America. “We’re growing both the company and the partner network at a really rapid pace, and that’s due to the fact that the market is absolutely hungry for options that are different than GPUs,” says Graphcore’s channel chief.
The company already had some powerful partners. Microsoft is evaluating use of the IPU in its Azure data centers; Dell Technologies Capital is an investor in the company, and Graphcore is expanding its relationship with Dell Technologies as Dell’s OEM Solutions Group begins working to help their customers adopt IPU technologies.
“As leaders in artificial-intelligence research and deployment, the US and Canada are incredibly important markets for Graphcore,” wrote Victoria Rege, Graphcore director of alliances and strategic partnerships. “These new relationships will help us meet the growing demand for cutting-edge AI compute systems that excel at today’s most widely used applications, as well as being architected for the next generation of models and workloads.”
A critical part of the company’s go-to-market strategy is the Elite Partner Program, which launched last fall. “Having the expertise of the partners, their understanding of our technology and their ability to bring our technology into existing customers but also help innovators in the AI space is absolutely a key part of our strategy,” says Rege.
Graphcore’s go-to-market and research and development efforts received a boost late last year when it raised a $222 million funding round that brought its valuation to $2.77 billion.
Graphcore has made it clear that it’s going after Nvidia’s fast-growing data center GPU business, claiming that its IPU architecture is better suited for AI applications because it was built from the ground up for “fine-grained parallelism” while also coming with 900 MB of on-board ultra-high-speed RAM, allowing the IPU to hold large AI models inside the memory. The company has also claimed that its M2000 systems provide more performance-per-dollar than Nvidia’s DGX systems.
“Graphcore is an amazing company that we are buying at Sakal Ventures. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be revolutionary in the world. Let’s take the finance and trading sector, for example. Graphcore’s Intelligent Processing Unit is a completely new processing architecture designed for machine intelligence, capable of running advanced financial models up to 26x faster. It is no wonder that JP Morgan, D. E. Shaw & Co. and Citadel are among the company’s financial business customers,” says Kris Bort, founding partner of Sakal Ventures, a fund that focuses on late-stage private investing.
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