AI chipmaker Hailo raises $ 136 million as it doubles new opportunities for AI modules in cutting-edge devices – TechCrunch

In the middle of a global semiconductor shortage, a newcomer to the world of AI chips announces a big fundraiser to meet a boom in demand for its technology. Hailo, which makes edge device chips customized to work with AI workloads – typical implementations include smart cities, retail environments, industrial environments, and next-gen automotive systems – raised $ 136 million in a Series C funding round, one of the largest to date in the AI ​​chip market. We have confirmed with sources close to Hailo that the investment values ​​him at around $ 1 billion.

Poalim Equity and Gil Agmon co-led the cycle, also with participation from previous funders, Hailo Chairman Zohar Zisapel, ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), Latitude Ventures, OurCrowd; and new investors Carasso Motors, Comasco, Shlomo Group, Talcar Corporation Ltd. and Automotive Equipment (AEV). The company has now raised some $ 224 million to date.

This latest round comes about 18 months after Hailo’s $ 60 million Series B, and about a year after the company’s most recent AI modules based on its Hailo 8 chip were released, intended to compete with Intel and Nvidia. .

Orr Danon, the co-founder and CEO, said in an interview that in the meantime the company has seen a huge surge in interest in the market – in the last quarter alone he said Hailo doubled the number of projects she is working on. 100 – so this latest cycle is about scaling to meet that demand, but also to continue to customize how and where its processors can be used.

“We are now in the market with the Hailo 8, and people are very enthusiastic about its effectiveness,” he said. A unique aspect of Hailo’s state-of-the-art chips is that they are designed to adapt to existing resources to work with custom neural networks, so not only are they fast, but they require less power to operate than quantity. equivalent processing power that you would otherwise need in the data center computer to perform a similar task. “However, we want to expand our offer. It is not a one size fits all, so we are also investing in software.

The funding follows a complicated year in the chip world, where the pandemic has led to strong alternative demand in some areas (for example in consumer environments, where users have started the renewal cycle for better devices at a cost). when other activity was restricted); sharp declines in activity, among others (for example, ambitious projects in areas such as autonomous vehicles); and one major slowdown in overall production. For a company working in edge devices like Hailo, this offers an opportunity to advocate for more efficient and profitable systems, aided by the fact that it is able to integrate with users’ own neural networks and executives. preferred developers such as TensorFlow or ONNX.

Danon said that while Hailo has experienced a slowdown in demand in certain segments – for example, automotive – the diversity of its business means that aggregate demand has continued to increase. Even the automobile returns after a particularly foamy period and some fallout as a result. So, for example, while the number of projects focused on fully autonomous vehicles may have declined, there are still a number of efforts on semi-autonomous systems, which he says still translates into business. for Hailo.

“Companies are now starting to look for realistic deployments and are facing real challenges,” he said. “Okay, maybe we don’t need our self-driving cars to drive on the highway, but we still have to learn new tasks. “

At the same time, he said the company is seeing strong interest from industrial customers, those in the retail sector (where edge devices are used for computer vision applications, such as those in you might have in a security system, or in an automated control -out service, or for analysis), and in smart cities, where transportation will also continue to be a major driver of business. It is as much for the opportunity to come as for the current activity that investors support the company.

“In the years to come, AI will become the defining feature to create new business value and reshape the user experience as we know it. The ability to bring AI-powered features to market will increasingly be the deciding factor in whether companies succeed or fail, ”said Mooly Eden, who recently left Intel, where he worked for nearly 40 years and most recently was president of its operations in Israel. , and is now part of the board of directors of Hailo. “Hailo’s innovative and hyper-efficient processor architecture responds to the growing demand for a new type of chip to handle these new types of workloads, challenging traditional computing solutions.

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