Garage chipmaker forms startup with processor veteran

Feature articles |
By Peter Clarke

Sam Zeloof, an undergraduate at Carnegie-Mellon who has made ICs in a garage, has formed a startup called Atomic Semi Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.).

Zeloof has showed on youtube videos how his “homebrew” IC manufacturing set up can produce chips with complexities of more than 1,000 transistors. He has now partnered with processor design veteran Jim Keller to found a startup, according to a TechCrunch report.

Keller is a vastly experienced processor designer who started with Harris Corp.  before spending much of the 80s and 90s with Digital Equipment. Corp. From there Keller spent periods with AMD, SiByte, Broadcom, PA Semi, Apple, AMD again, Tesla and Intel. Keller joined Tenstorrent as CTO in December 2020.

Atomic Semi, founded 28 October, 2022, is in discussions with the OpenAI Startup Fund over a seed round of funding set at US$15 million that would value the company at US$100 million, TechCrunch said.

In keeping with Zeloof’s history Atomic Semi plans to use simplified and miniaturized manufacturing to produce prototypes and small batches of ICs, according to the report. This could make simple chips available to customers within hours and even with low yields the supply could be much more affordable than standard manufacturing flows.

Conventionally manufactured foundry wafers can spend months inside a wafer fab before eventually being sent to be tested and packaged.

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