AI chip startup SambaNova Systems raised $56 million in recent Series A round of financing that was led by Walden International and Google’s venture capital arm, GV.
This exercise marked GV’s first investment into an artificial intelligence hardware entity. Other companies that invested in the Series A financing round included venture capital firms like Atlantic Bridge Ventures and Redline Capital.
Dave Munichiello, GV’s general partner, acknowledged that GV possesses a distinctive insight as to why existing products from leading companies would not be necessarily ideal for AI in the future.
To train AI models, Google gets its graphic cards from Nvidia. It has also created the tensor-processing unit, a custom AI chip. Furthermore, Intel, another partner of Google, has created silicon for AI after it acquired Nervana, an AI chip startup, in 2016.
SambaNova has its headquarters in Palo Alto, California. The startup was created last year through the collaboration of two Stanford University professors and the former head of processor development at Sun Microsystems and Oracle. The startup is based on DARPA-financed research on efficient AI processing by the two founding professors.
The recent move by GV comes at a time when Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, and other company executives are frequently emphasizing that Google is an AI-first entity. In fact, the company not only sells artificial intelligence(AI) services for developers but also relies on AI to enable certain features, especially in its consumer products. On the other hand, Waymo counts on artificial intelligence for autonomous driving. What’s more, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, mentioned AI in its 2016 and 2017 annual reports’ business overview section.
SambaNova ’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Kunle Olukotun, said in a press statement that the company ’s innovations in software-defined hardware and machine learning algorithms would drastically boost the capability and performance of intelligent applications.
According to Olukotun, the flexibility of SambaNova ’s technology will help the company in creating a unified platform to provide numerous benefits for data analytics, machine learning, and business intelligence. Olukotun is not only a renowned pioneer in multi-core processing but also a recent winner of the acclaimed IEEE Computer Society’s Harry H. Goode Memorial Award.
SambaNova’s other Stanford professor and co-founder, Chris Re is renowned for his in-depth work in database theory. He also holds several accolades such as the MacArthur Genius Award. Rodrigo Liang is the third co-founder of SambaNova. Previously, he served as the VP of processor development at Oracle. At SambaNova, he doubles up as the CEO.
The talent at SambaNova, currently with over 50 employees, was drawn from different places. Kunle Olukotun and Christopher Re came from Stanford University while Rodrigo Liang previously worked at Oracle where he managed a team of 1,000 chip designers. In addition, both Olukotun and Liang worked together at Afara Websystems, a chip company, before Sun purchased it in 2002.
Thanks to the recent funding, SambaNova becomes the latest addition to the group of startups that have received financing in the AI chip space. Other firms in the group include Graphcore, Wave Computing, and Cerebras Systems among others.