Stealth company incubated by blockchain unicorn Bitfury Group and global nanoelectronics R&D center imec
Eindhoven, Netherlands – September 15, 2021— AI semiconductor startup Axelera AI announced today that it has successfully closed a seed investment round of $12 million. The round was led by emerging technologies leader Bitfury and joined by global nanoelectronics R&D center imec and deep-tech venture capital funds Innovation Industries and imec.xpand. The funding will support the company’s development of an industry-defining product powering AI applications at the edge.
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. Building on its extensive research and development focused on integrating world-class hardware and software technologies for edge and cloud-to-edge enterprise solutions, Axelera AI has also joined forces with imec since early 2020 to develop groundbreaking computing architecture for high-performance AI. Headquartered in the AI Innovation Center of the High-Tech Campus in Eindhoven, Axelera AI also has R&D offices in Leuven (BE) and Zurich (CH). The company has already recruited an elite team of more than 20 senior engineers and developers from world-leading AI companies and research centers, including Intel, Qualcomm, IBM, and imec.
“With our launch as a new independent company and the closing of this investment, Axelera AI is now claiming its place as a significant player in the global AI sector,” said Fabrizio del Maffeo, CEO and co-founder of Axelera AI. “Our extraordinary team merges complementary expertise in software development, image processing, dataflow architecture, in-memory computing, algorithms and quantization with a proven track record of business success, and we look forward to building on our extensive R&D, introducing new solutions across the globe in the next few years.”
“Bitfury has a proven track record of incubating and bringing game-changing technologies to market,” said Valery Vavilov, CEO and co-founder of Bitfury Group. “We can look no further than LiquidStack, the emerging leader in two-phase liquid immersion cooling for the world’s most intensive computing applications, and Crystal Blockchain, the most advanced blockchain analytics platform for digital asset compliance. We could not be more excited to support the launch of Axelera AI, which is bound to accelerate the development and delivery of critical AI solutions for across global markets.
“Over the years imec has been researching custom circuits and novel architectures for efficient AI using in-memory compute, algorithms and quantization”, said Diederik Verkest, Program Director for machine learning at imec. "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."
Axelera AI is a unique Dutch start-up on a journey to deliver a disruptive AI chip that will accelerate the application of AI at the ‘edge of IOT’,” according to Sander Verbrugge, Partner at Innovation Industries. “Affordable AI compute power operating at low power is essential to unlock the full potential of AI in our everyday lives. We are proud to be part of this journey and to support this world-class team achieve its ambitions”.
“Axelera AI has brought together a stellar team and, as such unites several distinct in-memory compute efforts from across Europe under one roof. We very much look forward to working with Fabrizio and his team and helping them to achieve their ambitious goals by leveraging imec.xpand’s cross-border, value-add platform and network,” said Cyril Vančura, Partner at imec.xpand.
About Axelera AI
Axelera AI is designing the world’s most efficient and advanced solutions for AI at the edge. Its game-changing 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. The company’s groundbreaking solution will empower thousands of applications of AI at the edge, making the use of AI more efficient and accessible than ever before. Axelera AI’s products will be fully integrated with the leading open-sourced AI frameworks when it launches to select customers and partners in early 2022.
About Axelera AI Leadership
Axelera AI is led by CEO and co-founder Fabrizio del Maffeo. Prior to founding Axelera AI, he was Head of Artificial Intelligence at Bitfury and Vice President/Managing Director of Asus Group company AAEON Europe. Axelera AI is advised by internationally renowned AI experts Professor Luca Benini, chair of digital Circuits and Systems at D-ITET ETH Zurich, and Professor Marian Verhelst, Scientific Director at imec and professor MICAS in KU Leuven. To its non-executive board, Axelera AI has welcomed Bitfury Executive Vice President George Kikvadze alongside Innovation Industries partner Sander Verbrugge. Valery Vavilov, CEO and co-founder of Bitfury, will also serve as a board member.
About Artificial Intelligence at The Edge
More than 125 billion “things” are expected to be connected to the internet (IoT) by 2030 – including smartphones, cameras, smart city sensors, and more. Each of these devices, even the most miniature sensor, creates an exponential amount of data for analysis. While available now, only 2% of that data has been analyzed due to a lack of expertise and AI tools. Artificial intelligence allows us to analyze and understand this data thoroughly. However, the sheer amount of information and the increasingly complex algorithms require a new generation of more powerful, efficient, and accessible computation hardware. Due to growing privacy, security and bandwidth concerns, data is increasingly processed close to its origin, or “the edge.”
The AI hardware available today has been designed primarily for cloud computing operations, a sector with limited cost, power, and scalability constraints. This computational hardware for edge applications needs an entirely new design that considers specific power needs, computational needs and economics. Axelera AI will capture this opportunity by developing and delivering a game-changing and scalable technology with superior performance and efficiency to accelerate AI applications at the edge.
About The Bitfury Group
The Bitfury Group is the world’s leading emerging technologies company. Bitfury™ is building solutions for the future, with the most 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. Founded in 2011, Bitfury is the leading security and infrastructure provider for the Bitcoin Blockchain. In addition to securing the Bitcoin Blockchain, Bitfury also designs and produces innovative hardware that keeps cryptocurrencies and blockchains secure, including custom semiconductor chips and mobile data centers. Bitfury is also a software provider for some of the world’s most cutting-edge applications through its Exonum™ private blockchain framework and its Crystal™ Blockchain advanced analytics platform. To learn more, visit www.bitfury.com.
Imec is a world-leading research and innovation centre in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. Imec leverages its state-of-the-art R&D infrastructure and its team of more than 5.000 employees and top researchers, for R&D in advanced semiconductor and system scaling, silicon photonics, artificial intelligence, beyond 5G communications and sensing technologies, and in application domains such as health and life sciences, mobility, industry 4.0, agrofood, smart cities, sustainable energy, and education. Imec unites world-industry leaders across the semiconductor value chain, Flanders-based and international tech, pharma, medical and ICT companies, start-ups, and academia and knowledge centers. Imec is headquartered in Leuven (Belgium), and has research sites across Belgium, in the Netherlands, Taiwan and the USA, and offices in China, India and Japan. In 2020, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 680 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec-int.com.
About Innovation Industries
Innovation Industries is a Deeptech venture capital investor that invests up to €30M in Hightech, Agri&Foodtech and Medtech businesses. Today, Innovation Industries manages over €275M across two funds and has a team of 15 investment professionals. Its largest investors are the Dutch pension funds PME and PMT. Innovation Industries invests from seed to late stage and has partnerships with all Dutch technical universities and research institute TNO. For more information on Innovation Industries see: www.innovationindustries.com
Imec.xpand is an early stage and growth fund with a game-changing approach to turn hardware driven nanotechnology innovation into successful global companies. The fund is independently managed by a team of entrepreneurs, seasoned venture capitalists and business experts and is targeting ambitious tech start-ups were imec knowledge, expertise and infrastructure can play a determining role in the success. For more information about imec.xpand please visit us on www.imecxpand.com