Alignment for Tenstorrent
Jim Keller now CEO, Ljubisa Bajic now CTO
The nature of a startup is that it tends to be fluid - in the very early days, when the company is only a small number of co-founders and initial employees, everyone tends to end up doing a bit of everything, whether that's engineering, marketing/sales, presentations, investor meetings, HR, technical writing, and everything in-between. There may be some distinct separation between c-level and shop-level, but typically we're talking about a tight-knit group of individuals, probably working out of the first basement office, all pitching in to get the work done. It's a free flowing river, and naturally everyone flowing in the same direction aims to get results. Whoever was acting as CEO one week might end up being the COO the next week, then CTO, and back again.
As a company hires more, that fluidity tends to stop as individuals end up settling into those roles. Size, location, and chains of accountability are often the big contributing factors, but everyone filters into the roles that best fit them or to which they were assigned. The main exception to this is the founders and co-founders, who often jump back and forth depending on their expertise and time commitment until we hit an IPO or acquisition. As it so happens, Tenstorrent is experiencing something along those lines.
2021 Interview with Tenstorrent
Users who follow my work will know that I've covered AI hardware and full-stack company Tenstorrent before, and I've had interviews with Jim Keller, then CTO, and Ljubisa Bajic, then CEO. For those that haven't encountered the company before, Ljubisa co-founded Tenstorrent in 2016 with two others after leaving AMD to focus on new machine learning hardware and software. Jim Keller was the angel/seed investor at the time, having known Ljubisa from working together at AMD, but retained his job at Intel. Jim was then hired by Tenstorrent in 2021 as its CTO to help define the competitive roadmap.
When I interviewed Jim and Ljubisa after Jim was hired, as in the video above, he said that the reason he invested at the seed level back in 2016/2017 was because of his personal relationship with Ljubisa, but also he could see the vision of what he was trying to do in the industry. Since then, we've seen Jim (and Ljubisa) showcase the Tenstorrent roadmap to include custom-designed RISC-V cores as well as an interesting BUDA compiler stack.
Tenstorrent Roadmap inc. Chiplets with Ascalon
So why discuss at the beginning of this piece that sometimes roles are fluid? Tenstorrent reached out to us to inform us that Jim and Ljubisa have switched titular roles inside the company - Jim Keller is now the CEO, while Ljubisa Bajic is now the CTO.
Jim’s post on Linkedin
This ultimately reflects what sorts of work the two have been doing of late - Jim has helped the company on the hardware but also engaged Tenstorrent with its lead-customers for upcoming silicon later this year. We saw Jim present at several conferences in 2022, most noticeably the 2022 TSMC OIP Summit towards the end of the year, showcasing the new 8-wide high-performance Ascalon RISC-V core but also indicative of the close collaboration between TSMC and Tenstorrent as well. It was no surprise that in my interviews in 2021, when I asked Ljubisa if hiring Jim was opening doors for the company, the answer was a resounding 'YES!'. Ljubisa has been spending time internally focusing on the compiler aspect of Tenstorrent offering, its BUDA stack, but also the Wormhole chip and other future generations, which is more CTO-like than CEO-like. Hence the switch. Ljubisa retains his role as President.
It's a natural move for the two, and based on my interactions with them this is clearly a personal relationship between the two, and not just a business one, so rather than a game of internal politics, it's clear that they both want to see the company succeed and this is really just a fluid titular change than anything else.
2021 Interview with Jim Keller
On top of this, last year Tenstorrent also hired a new CCO, David Bennett, who came from the NEC group of Lenovo. If you follow Dave on Twitter, he seems very much like a fun character, and it's a shock I've never actually met the guy in person. David has been working with Tenstorrent's customer base, particularly the alpha customers, while also crystallising a lot of the key tenets of the company moving forward: AI Compute, RISC-V Prioritization, Scalability, Open-Source, and the BUDA compiler stack.
While some AI companies are slowing down their hiring, Tenstorrent seems to continue to be investing in future company talent at a rapid pace. For example, the company recently hired Bob Grim, a marketing expert who we’ve worked with with his roles at Intel, AMD, and Rivet Networks, to head up Tenstorrent’s communications. At present the company numbers about 280, but they’re looking to expand this significantly over the next 12 months through their offices in Santa Clara, Toronto, Austin, Bangalore, and Belgrade. Tenstorrent is officially a Canadian company, with its HQ in Toronto.
We expect to hear more about Tenstorrent's new hires and their expanding customer base rollout later this year.
Is the Black Hole chip supposed to be 8 channels of LPDDR5 in that slide, the description reads GDDR6?
Hi Ian, have you heard anything about the Wormhole chip? Will it be releasing soon?