Read more from Author Rachel Maga here: https://globelivemedia.com/author/rachel-maga/
San Diego and Taipei-based startups are quietly getting funding and contracts from some of the largest electronics companies. Kneron, which specializes in energy-efficient edge AI chips, has raised strategic funding from Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn and integrated circuit maker Winbond.
A year before the round, Kneron closed a $ 40 million round led by Hong Kong millionaire Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures. Other major investors include Alibaba Entrepreneurship Fund, Sequoia Capital, Qualcomm and SparkLabs Taipei.
Kneron has kept Foxconn and Winbond’s investment private at the request of both companies, but founder and CEO Albert Liu said in an interview with TechCrunch that it was an “8-digit” deal. Stated.
Founded in 2015, Kneron’s latest product is an NPU (artificial intelligence processor with a built-in neutral network) that can run sophisticated AI apps without relying on the cloud. Kneron claims that it directly underwrites Intel and Google chips, which consume more energy than their products. The company recently hired Qualcomm Taiwan’s former engineering director Davis Chen to strengthen its talent.
Kneron’s customers include Chinese air giant Gree and German self-driving software provider Terraki, and the funding will bring the world’s largest electromechanical maker to its clients. As part of a strategic alliance, Kneron will collaborate on Foxconn’s smart manufacturing and then the newly introduced open platform for electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the collaboration with Winbond will focus on MCU (microcontroller) -based AI and memory computing.
“Low power AI chips are easy to embed sensors. We all know that sensors are quite small on some operating lines, so big GPUs (graphics processing units) and CPUs (central processing units). ) Is not easy, especially when power consumption is a major concern, “Lu said. Prior to founding Kneron, he was in the R & D division of Qualcomm and Samsung.
Unlike its competitors, Kneron designs chips for a variety of use cases, from manufacturing to smart homes, smartphones, robotics, surveillance, payments and autonomous driving. Don’t just make a chip, embed AI software in the chip. Liu said the strategy is to differentiate itself from Chinese AI darlings who are delivering AI services through the cloud, such as SenseTime and Megvii.
Kneron hasn’t been as aggressive when it comes to financing compared to other companies. Funding through huge rounds will be a source of funding for rapid business expansion. So far, SenseTime, which has been in business for six years, has raised $ 2.6 billion (about 270 billion yen), and Megvii, which has been in business for nine years, has secured about $ 1.4 billion in bank accounts. In comparison, Kneron raised just $ 70 million in a Series A round.
Kneron is considering an IPO like a Chinese AI start-up. The company expects to be profitable in 2023, “probably a good time for an IPO,” Liu said.
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.