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AI is Still Hot Stuff
Tenstorrent nets another $100m, Customers in tow
One of the key questions I asked on the semi-regular is the state of 'new' funding towards machine learning hardware start-ups. For a period of around 9-12 months, from just before this time last year, it appeared that VC and institutional funding for new hardware designs had dried up - no-one was canvassing for new money, and no-one was getting any. There was some tenderness on Wall Street as to whether this was the bubble bursting, so to speak. With today's news, and following a good month or so for the ML market, I can simply put that's not the case, and interest in new ML hardware is as strong as ever.
Today's hot potato is a new $100m+ funding round for Tenstorrent. This brings Tenstorrent's total funding up to ~$350m, giving the company almost another 50% more cash flow to drive the development sales of its upcoming designs and hardware. The lead investors for this round are Hyundai Motor Group and Samsung Catalyst Fund, both of which are taking interest simply beyond the funding and engaging in further interactions for Tenstorrent's design portfolio.
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I've covered the company many times here before, but a quick recap - they're a design company looking at ML hardware, specifically big chips, small chips, chiplets, IP, and high-performance RISC-V cores as well. Imagine DEC, but in the 2030s - talented engineers who want to give you high performing and high efficiency designs however you want to take it, and it's currently headed up by industry veteran Jim Keller. The current roadmap consists of:
the Gen 2 product, Greyskull,
the Gen 3 product, Wormhole, and upcoming
the Gen 4 Black Hole, then,
the Gen 5 Grendel
Greyskull and Wormhole are available today for key customers, while a lot of current customer discussions are for the Gen4/5 designs or to licence specific IP blocks as part of the ML design. To date, Tenstorrent has announced several partnerships, including a big one with LG to showcase ML designs for audio/visual product families.
Greyskull and Wormhole
For this investment round, the partnership and funding from Hyundai Motor Group is more than just money - the announcement extends into interest from the Hyundai groups in Tenstorrent's acumen and a deep interest to integrate the technology for 'optimized but differentiated' solutions.
Tenstorrent’s high growth potential and high-performance AI semiconductors will help the Group secure competitive technologies for future mobilities. With this investment, the Group expects to develop optimized but differentiated semiconductor technology that will aid future mobilities and strengthen internal capabilities in AI technology development.
Heung-soo Kim, Executive Vice President and Head of the Global Strategy Office (GSO) at Hyundai Motor Group
This could be anything from in-car entertainment up to management and through to something to assist a self-driving solution. Given Keller's history in self-driving silicon ( TSLA 0.00%↑ ), and Hyundai's position as the world's third largest carmaker behind Toyota and Volkswagen, therer are large number of mobility brands (Hyundai, Kia, Genesis, Ioniq) for which Tenstorrent's vision could be applicable.
It has been impressive watching Hyundai Motor Group become the third largest automaker in the world through their aggressive adoption of technology including their acquisition of Boston Dynamics, their joint venture with Motional, and now their investment in us.
Jim Keller, CEO Tenstorrent
The Samsung partnership on the surface seems a little more standard - the Catalyst Fund is the investment arm of Samsung, and those investments may or not be also used internally. We know that Keller has presented at Samsung Foundry conferences before, and for this agreement, a statement from the EVP of Samsung Electronics was provided, perhaps indicating where a deeper partnership might lie.
Samsung Catalyst Fund invests in disruptive ideas that we believe can change the world. Tenstorrent’s industry-leading technology, executive leadership, and aggressive roadmap motivated us to co-lead this funding round. We are excited by the opportunity to work with Tenstorrent to accelerate AI and compute innovations.
Marco Chisari, EVP of Samsung Electronics and Head of Samsung Semiconductor Innovation Center
Tenstorrent's press release today states that the new investment will be used to accelerate the product development and roadmap, including the design and development of AI chiplets and its software support. In discussions with the company, it’s clear they want to get the hardware out into the market - it’s time to drive some revenue! They also stated that the round of funding actually closes in mid-September, but the high-profile nature of the new investors warranted the announcement.