Dutch AI chip startup raises $12m seed funding

Dutch AI chip startup raises $12m seed funding

Business news |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Dutch semiconductor startup Axelera AI has emerged from stealth with a seed investment of $12 million. The round was led by emerging technologies leader Bitfury and joined by Belgian nanoelectronics R&D centre imec and deep-tech venture capital funds Innovation Industries and imec.xpand.

The funding will support the company’s development of an edge AI with a custom dataflow architecture with multicore in memory computing with a a power envelope of few watts and flexibility to support multiple networks. In-memory computing is one of the areas identified by CEA-Leti for sustainable electronics.

Axelera AI was incubated by the Bitfury Group in 2019, formerly operating as Bitfury AI until the company came out as an independent entity this year. The company worked with imec on a new computing architecture for high-performance AI and is baed at the AI Innovation Center of the High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven, Axelera AI also has R&D offices in Leuven (BE) and Zurich (CH).

The company has already recruited a team of more than 20 senior engineers and developers from Intel, Qualcomm, IBM and imec. It is advised by Prof Luca Benini, chair of digital Circuits and Systems at D-ITET ETH Zurich and Prof Marian Verhelst, Scientific Director at imec and part of the Micas group at KU Leuven.

“With our launch as a new independent company and the closing of this investment, Axelera AI is now claiming its place as a significant player in the global AI sector,” said Fabrizio del Maffeo (above), CEO and co-founder of Axelera AI who was previously Vice President and Managing Director of Asus Group company AAEON Europe before joining Bitfury.

“Our extraordinary team merges complementary expertise in software development, image processing, dataflow architecture, in-memory computing, algorithms and quantization with a proven track record of business success, and we look forward to building on our extensive R&D, introducing new solutions across the globe in the next few years,” he said.

“Bitfury has a proven track record of incubating and bringing game-changing technologies to market,” said Valery Vavilov, CEO and co-founder of the Bitfury Group. “We can look no further than LiquidStack, the emerging leader in two-phase liquid immersion cooling for the world’s most intensive computing applications, and Crystal Blockchain, the most advanced blockchain analytics platform for digital asset compliance. We could not be more excited to support the launch of Axelera AI, which is bound to accelerate the development and delivery of critical AI solutions for across global markets.”

“Over the years imec has been researching custom circuits and novel architectures for efficient AI using in-memory compute, algorithms and quantization”, said Diederik Verkest, Program Director for machine learning at imec. “We are proud that after working together with the Bitfury Group, we can leverage and contribute this expertise to ensure Axelera AI develops and brings the best possible product to the edge AI market.”

“Axelera AI has brought together a stellar team and, as such unites several distinct in-memory compute efforts from across Europe under one roof. We very much look forward to working with Fabrizio and his team and helping them to achieve their ambitious goals by leveraging imec.xpand’s cross-border, value-add platform and network,” said Cyril Vančura, Partner at imec.xpand.

Axelera AI’s products will be integrated with the leading open-sourced AI frameworks when it launches to select customers and partners in early 2022.

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