Axelera AI, an Eindhoven-based AI semiconductor startup, has exited stealth mode and announced that it raised $12M (approx €10.16M) in its Seed round of funding. The company says it is developing a “game-changing” hardware and software platform for AI.
Incubated by Bitfury Group
The current round was led by Amsterdam-based Bitfury, a blockchain unicorn. Founded in 2011, Bitfury claims to be building solutions for the future, with significant technologies of the millennium. “Our mission is to make the world more transparent and trusted by innovating at every level of technology – hardware, security, and software – to put trust back into the equation.”
Axelera AI was incubated by Bitfury Group in 2019, formerly operating as Bitfury AI, until the company came out as an independent entity this year. The company is led by the former Head of AI for Bitfury Group, Fabrizio del Maffeo.
“With our launch as a newly independent company and the closing of this investment, Axelera AI is now claiming its place as a significant player in the global AI sector,” says del Maffeo.
The company has already recruited a team of more than 20 senior engineers and developers from world-leading AI companies and research centres, including Intel, Qualcomm, IBM, and imec.
“Our extraordinary team merges complementary expertise in software development, image processing, dataflow architecture, in-memory computing, algorithms, and quantisation with a proven track record of business success. We look forward to building on our extensive R&D and introducing new solutions across the globe over the next few years,” he adds.
It has also joined forces with imec since early 2020 to develop computing architecture for high-performance AI.
Diederik Verkest, Program Director for machine learning at imec says, “Imec has spent years researching custom circuits and novel architectures for efficient AI using in-memory computing, algorithms, and quantisation. 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.”
The proceeds from this round will support Axelera AI’s development of an “industry-defining” product powering AI applications at the edge.
What is Edge AI? It describes a class of Machine Learning (ML) architecture in which AI algorithms are processed locally on devices (at the edge of the network). Edge AI systems process information, extract insights and make decisions autonomously on-site at the edge. A device using Edge AI does not need to be connected to work properly and can process data and take decisions independently without a connection.
This technology can bring several benefits, especially for the industry, which relies more and more on IoT devices. It can offer reduced latency to improve the user experience;
integration between wearable technologies, such as bracelets; reduction of the necessary bandwidth and, consequently, of the costs of internet services; and security and privacy of data, since the processing is done locally and not in the cloud.
In 2020, Deloitte estimates that more than 750 million Edge AI chips that perform or accelerate ML tasks on-device, rather than in a remote data centre, will be sold, representing $2.6B in revenue.
About Axelera AI
Founded by Bram-Ernst Verhoef and Fabrizio Del Maffeo, Axelera AI is focused on integrating “world-class” hardware and software technologies for edge and cloud-to-edge enterprise solutions.
Axelera AI explains on its website, “The world is more interconnected now than ever before. Yet, 98 per cent of the data being collected remains unused due to technology and processing limitations. Bridging this data gap requires a new generation of more powerful, efficient, and accessible computation hardware. With growing privacy, security, and bandwidth concerns in mind, much of this data is increasingly processed close to its origin, or “the edge.” Axelera AI is working to deliver solutions that meet this demand, empowering AI applications at the edge and data centres.”
The company’s hardware and software product will concentrate the AI computational power of an entire server into a single chip at a fraction of the power consumption and price of AI hardware today. It claims that the solution will empower thousands of applications of AI at the edge, making the use of AI more efficient and accessible than before.
Axelera AI’s products will be fully integrated with open-sourced AI frameworks when it launches to select customers and partners in early 2022. The company’s products will empower organisations from diverse sectors like smart cities, retail, and markets, to adopt artificial intelligence at scale.
Axelera AI is headquartered in the AI Innovation Center of the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven and also has R&D offices in Leuven (BE) and Zurich (CH). The company has a team of more than 20 engineers and developers from well-known AI companies and research centres, including Intel, Qualcomm, IBM, and imec.