Graphcore starts IPO countdown
Graphcore, the British semiconductor company that develops accelerators for AI and machine learning, says it’s considering a new funding round, prior to a potential initial public offering. According to the company’s CEO Nigel Toon, the move is prompted by major interest from investors.
Graphcore raised $222 million during its latest funding round, valuing the company at $2.8 billion. It was led by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan as well as investors including Fidelity International and Schroders. Existing Graphcore investors, including Baillie Gifford and Draper Esprit, also joined the round.
The $2.8 billion valuation positioned Graphcore as one of the most valuable private tech companies in the fast-growing artificial intelligence industry. The startup first achieved the unicorn status, a valuation above $1 billion, in 2018, when it raised $200 million for a valuation of $1.8 billion. Since its official founding in 2016, Graphcore has raised more than $710 million from investors, including the carmaker BMW, the tech companies Microsoft and Samsung, and the prominent Silicon Valley venture capital business Sequoia Capital.
Now the company is making its 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. 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 U.S. 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.”
“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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