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Startup Rivos Secures $250 Million in Funding to Develop AI Chips Based on RISC-V Architecture

ByYasmeeta Oon

May 4, 2024
Startup Rivos Secures $250 Million in Funding to Develop AI Chips Based on RISC-V Architecture

Startup Rivos Secures $250 Million in Funding to Develop AI Chips Based on RISC-V Architecture

In a significant move that underscores the growing competition in the AI computing market, chip startup Rivos has announced a successful $250 million funding round. This influx of capital sets the stage for the Santa Clara, California-based company to advance its plans to manufacture its debut server chip, designed specifically for artificial intelligence applications.

Rivos enters a market currently dominated by Nvidia, renowned for its robust combination of chips and CUDA software which caters predominantly to AI-related computing. In 2023, Nvidia maintained a commanding lead, securing more than 80% of the AI chip market share. Despite Nvidia’s dominance, the landscape is rapidly evolving with major players and emerging startups alike introducing competitive alternatives. Notably, last week saw the unveiling of Intel’s Gaudi 3 and Meta’s inference chip, signaling a heated race to capture market share in this high-stakes domain.

Rivos has maintained a level of secrecy about the details of its forthcoming product. However, it has revealed that its design efforts are centered around the RISC-V architecture, an open-source alternative to the traditional architectures offered by industry giants like Arm, Intel, and Advanced Micro Devices. By opting for RISC-V, Rivos circumvents the licensing fees typically associated with using architectures from entities like Arm.

Lip-Bu Tan, the founding managing partner at Walden Catalyst and an investor in Rivos, expressed his strategic vision for the company, drawing inspiration from Nvidia’s approach: “RISC-V doesn’t have a (large) software ecosystem, so I decided to form a company and then build software-defined hardware—just like what CUDA did with Nvidia.”

Rivos is taking a novel approach in the chip industry by prioritizing software development at the outset, rather than following the traditional path of hardware-first development. CEO Puneet Kumar, in an interview with Reuters, highlighted this strategy: “Usually, chip companies do it the other way: build the silicon, and then build the software on top. We decided, as a company, that we should first look at software.”

This approach has led to the creation of a server chip that integrates both a central processing unit (CPU) and an AI accelerator component. This chip is tailored to efficiently handle large language models and data analytics, benefiting from the foundational software that enables the compilation of computer code necessary for operational programming.

The recent funding round saw significant contributions from several prominent firms, with Matrix Capital Management leading the charge. Other notable investors included Intel, MediaTek, and Dell Technologies, all of which have a vested interest in the evolving capabilities of AI-centric computing solutions.

Highlights of Rivos’ Strategic Development:
  • Funding Achievement: Successfully raised $250 million to finance the development of their AI server chip.
  • Market Positioning: Positioned to challenge Nvidia’s dominance in the AI chip market.
  • Strategic Use of RISC-V Architecture: Opting for open-source RISC-V architecture to avoid licensing fees and foster innovation.
  • Investor Confidence: Backed by major investors like Matrix Capital Management, Intel, and Dell Technologies.
Key Details of Rivos’ Funding Round
ContributorContribution TypeNotes
Matrix Capital ManagementLead InvestorMajor stake in funding
IntelInvestorStrategic investment in AI chips
MediaTekInvestorInvestment in AI technology
Dell TechnologiesInvestorSupport for hardware development

As Rivos continues to refine its server chip, the tech community eagerly anticipates what could be a transformative entry into the AI computing arena. The company’s commitment to a software-first development process could set a new standard in the industry, potentially leading to more efficient and flexible AI applications. With substantial financial backing and a clear strategic vision, Rivos is well-positioned to carve out a significant presence in the AI chip market, challenging established giants and altering the competitive landscape.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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