Korea’s AI champions – Rebellions, Sapeon – set to merge

Korea’s AI champions – Rebellions, Sapeon – set to merge

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

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Sapeon Inc. and Rebellions Inc., two South Korean startups developing artificial intelligence (AI) chips have announced they are planning to merge.

Rebellions is set to be the senior partner in the merger although financial details were not disclosed. Rebellions CEO Park Sung-hyun is set to be CEO of the merged entity but a name has yet to be decided for the company.

Sapeon recently changed its headquarters location to San Jose, California.

SK Telecom, the parent of Sapeon, issued a statement saying the two companies would merge to improve their chances in an “all-out battle” for the future of AI semiconductors in Korea. Sapeon and Rebellions aim to complete a merger by the end of September with a merged entity launched by the end of 2024, reports said.

Sapeon was founded in 2022 as a spin-off from three companies – SK Telecom, SK Hynix and SK Square – to develop AI processors as a fabless company. Rebellions founded in 2020 is linked to KT Corp., the country’s leading data center business.

In November 2023 Sapeon launched its X330 AI accelerator chip for data centers implemented in TSMC’s 7nm manufacturing process. Sapeon has also diversified into autonomous driving and edge services.

Rebellions raised US$124 million in a Series B round of funding at the beginning of 2024 to help it take on Nvidia in the AI data center and is part of a fabless Korean AI wave being supported by Samsung as foundry chip maker. The funding is earmarked for the development of Rebellions’ third AI processor, Rebel design to run large language models.

The backers of Rebellions and Sapeon think time is of the essence and SK Telecom referred to the next two to three years as the “golden time” of AI semiconductor competition.

SK Telecom said that after the merger, it and other investors including SK Hynix, SK Square and KT Group would support the merged corporation in efforts to develop AI semiconductors in Korea and secure technological sovereignty.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Sapeon launches X330 neural processor  

SK spin-off Sapeon raises funds for neural processors

Korean AI chipmaker Rebellions closes $124 million funding round

South Korean startup Rebellions launches AI processor

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