Sapeon raises $46m for AI chips

Sapeon raises $46m for AI chips

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By Nick Flaherty

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Sapeon in Korea has raised KRW60bn ($46m, €42m) for its AI chip and software development.

Sapeon is a spin out of SK Telecom, sk Hynix and SK Square and plans to provide AI services with an AI full-stack strategy, ranging from the AI semiconductor hardware to AI algorithms and software to AI-based services.

It has already developed the X220 chip for 16, 8 and 4 bit  inference with a deep learning computation speed of 6.7 Kframes per second, meaning it can process 6,700  images per second.

The next generation X330 chip is scheduled to be released in the second half of this year with four times the performance of the X220 using GDDR6 memories and added self-learning capability. Other versions, the X340 and X350, are also planned for this year. A third generation chip, the X430, with high speed HBM3 memory is planned for 2025.

The Series A round was led by Ascent Equity Partners with GS affiliates and Daebo Information & Communication, Hana Financial Group, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, We Ventures and E1 and values the company at KRW500bn ($380m).

“Regarding the new investment by Ascent Equity Partners, Hana Financial Group, affiliates within the GS Group, Mirae Asset Venture Investment, We Ventures, and E1, this is a verification of Sapeon’s technological capabilities,” said Ryu Su-jeong, CEO of Sapeon. “It is meaningful that we have been recognized for going beyond this and actually applying it to various business areas,” he said. “Based on the technology and experience we have accumulated so far, we will work closely together to provide quality AI services in various fields.”

Ascent Equity Partners led this investment as a strategic investor and is acting as a bridge across the SK group companies.

Sapeon has used the X220 in two PCI Express 3.0 cards, ranging from 65 to with 87TOPS to 174TOPS. The company is working with Hana on stability testing of the OCR (Optical character recognition) model using AI semiconductors. OCR is used to improve document recognition within banks. As a result of the test, it was confirmed that Sapeon X220 operates effectively in the OCR model.

Sapeon has also been working with the GS Group on SK Telecom’s AI-based image/video quality improvement solution, SUPERNOVA, to strengthen CDN (Content Delivery Networks) services in the media field. It is also working on contact centre AI artificial intelligence services using Sapeon chips in data centres to provide cloud infrastructure.

Sapeon and Daebo Information & Communication are working on smart transportation applications, with plans to expand into smart factories, retail and the IoT.

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