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  • Mal McCallion

The chips aren't down

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Tenstorrent, an AI chip startup, has raised $100 million from strategic investors including car manufacturer Hyundai and fridge / TV / phone behemoth Samsung.

It’s a company that was founded in 2016 by former Nvidia (current darlings of the AI hardware world) and AMD (challengers for that title) engineers. Led by Jim Keller, an increasingly high-profile chip designer who has worked at Apple, Tesla and Intel, the company’s goal is to create a wide range of AI chips for different markets, such as data centres, automotive, robotics and consumer devices.

The company claims that its chips can deliver up to 10 times better performance per watt than existing solutions, which is a serious investor pitch. The pitch is strengthened further by its strong team of experts in chip design, software engineering, machine learning, and computer architecture.

The semiconductor industry has been booming in recent years, with mega-deals such as AMD’s £38 billion acquisition of Xilinx and Marvell’s £8 billion acquisition of Inphi. However, the industry also faces some challenges, with a global chip shortage that has affected various sectors including automotive, consumer electronics and cloud computing. Also, some deals have faced regulatory scrutiny or opposition from competitors or governments, such as Nvidia’s deal with Arm and Qualcomm’s failed bid for NXP.

Alongside many of the sexy deals taking place at the front-end of AI, the manoeuvres behind the scenes at the infrastructure layer are building huge, influential businesses too. Worth keeping an eye on these as well, as the likes of Tenstorrent will increasingly shape what we can do with AI – and how fast.

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