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British AI chip start-up raises another $50 million in funding

Graphcore, a UK-based start-up focusing on microprocessors for machine learning and artificial intelligence, has raised $50 million from Sequoia Capital in a new round of venture financing. 

The company has raised about $110m in the past 18 months alone as it looks to accelerate the development of its artificial intelligence processors. It’s last round of funding – $30m – was only announced in July. 

Based in Bristol, the company will scale production of a chip it calls the “Intelligence Processing Unit”, which will form the basis for the company’s future AI developments.

Sequoia is one of the world’s most prolific venture capital companies, having previously provided funding to – and profited immensely from – technology giants such as Apple, Whatsapp and Google.

Its funding will help Graphcore bring the IPU chip to potential customers by the start of next year. The company is also looking to build a community of developers to support its roadmap of products.

Graphcore will also provide significant resources to its US team, based in Palo Alto, California. They’re working on the company’s Poplar software platform.

In July, the company raised money from AI experts that included Uber chief scientist Zoubin Ghahramani and DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis. The start-up’s chips are intended to be used in driverless cars and other technologies powered by AI.

Samsung Catalyst Fund and Robert Bosch Venture Capital have previously invested in the firm, too. Matt Miller, partner at Sequoia, will join the company’s board of directors. And Bill Coughran, who also works at Sequoia, will advise the firm on technical matters.  

Nigel toon, chief executive of Graphcore, said: “Efficient AI processing power is rapidly becoming the most sought-after resource in the technological world.

“We believe our IPU technology will become the worldwide standard for machine intelligence compute.

“The performance of Graphcore’s processor, compared to other accelerators, is going to be transformative, whether you are a medical researcher, roboticist, online marketplace, social network or building autonomous vehicles.

He added: “At Graphcore, we are focused on building a successful, enduring company that can serve the needs of all of those communities, over the long term.

“Sequoia has a deep understanding of what it takes to scale and build a successful business and we are looking forward to a long partnership with them.”

Matt Miller, partner at Sequoia, said:  “Machine intelligence will cause an explosion of new applications and services that will transform every industry.

“The unique nature of this workload and scale of this opportunity creates an opening where a valuable new chip company can be created.

“We believe Graphcore’s product architecture, team and early market interest make it the best positioned new entrant in this market. We look forward to helping them build a large and enduring company.”


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