Axelera AI announces $12 million seed investment round, focuses on edge AI

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Axelera AI announces $12 million seed investment round, focuses on edge AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) semiconductor startup Axelera AI announced the closure of a $12 million seed investment round. The investment was led by Bitfury with the participation of imec, Innovation Industries Fund, and imec.xpand.

“The announcement of the seed round is very exciting for us, and we are very happy with the support and trust of our investors,” Felipe Augusto Chies, co-founder and Head of Product Marketing for Axelera AI, told EdgeIR in an email interview.

“Axelera AI is developing a game-changing hardware and software platform for AI, the investment will allow us to finish the design of our first chip that will be sent to production in 2022,” he added.

Specifically, the firm will use the funding to target the market for edge AI, a segment of the chip market that is expected to grow at a 20% CAGR and exceed sales of 1.5 billion processors by 2024, according to a report from Deloitte.

“We are investing in enabling the final customer to deploy their applications in a platform that will bring 10x more efficiency at 10x lower cost of the leading players,” Augusto Chies said. “Most importantly, customers will be able to use open-source tools such as PyTorch or TensorFlow and won’t need expertise in new AI development environments,” he added.

For context, Axelera AI was originally founded as the AI spinoff of the Bitfury Group in 2019 but emerged as an independent entity earlier this year.

“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,” the firm’s CEO and co-founder Fabrizio del Maffeo commented.

To understand the rationale behind the investors supporting the startup in its initial phases, it is useful to notice that the Axelera AI collaboration with imec started in early 2020, and saw the firms working on the development of hardware and software technologies for edge and cloud-to-edge enterprise solutions.

“Over the years imec has been researching custom circuits and novel architectures for efficient AI using in-memory compute algorithms and quantization”, explained 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,” he added.

Axelera AI is headquartered in the AI Innovation Center of the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, but the company also has R&D offices in Leuven (BE) and Zurich (CH).

The firm currently employs a team of more than 20 senior engineers and developers who previously worked at Intel, Qualcomm, IBM, and imec. The team has expertise in a variety of complementary fields such as software development, image processing, dataflow architecture, in-memory computing, algorithms, and quantization, del Maffeo noted.

Moving forward, Axelera AI will continue to focus on its mission to accelerate and democratize the adoption of artificial intelligence.

“Our products will empower organizations from diverse sectors like smart cities, retail and markets, to adopt AI at scale,” Augusto Chies said

Axelera AI’s products will be reportedly integrated within major open-source AI frameworks when it is released to select customers and partners in the first half of 2022.

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