Expanding into Japan: RISC-V Going Global
Paid Collaboration with Tenstorrent
We’re at a point in the AI hardware space that a lot of the startups are refining their strategy when it comes to product lines, geographical markets, and target verticals. Most are focusing on either the USA by region, or are going after specific markets, such as video inference, edge, and there’s even one specifically aiming for the financial market. Tenstorrent, as we’ve covered on this newsletter, has a slightly different approach, because they’re not simply aiming to sell AI chips – in the roadmap exists AI focused hardware, but there’s also a high-performance RISC-V core and IP that will be coming in both their own products. That core might be paired with AI cores, or on its own chiplet, for non-AI tasks like compute and HPC. This means that Tenstorrent could, when applied correctly, have tendrils into many different facets of the industry. Only a few of the major players can say something similar.
But this means that we’re going to see Tenstorrent expanding into different regions as well. The latest news off the wire is that the company, headed up by CEO Jim Keller, is establishing an office in Japan. Japan, historically, is a hub of scientific advancement and engineering, having also had the world’s fastest Supercomputer called Fugaku for over two years until it was toppled by Frontier. It was also a highlight to see a non-x86 core at the top of the charts. Tenstorrent sees Japan and their new Tokyo office as a way into a variety of Japanese markets with its current and upcoming portfolio, especially as one of the few companies truly offering a high performance RISC-V core in Ascalon (see the interview with Jim to learn more).
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Now, getting into the Japanese market as a western company is going to be tricky. Many have tried, and most have failed. The culture and language differences makes it a hard sell, and Japanese businesses often still use fax machines for official documents. As a result, the people matter, and Tenstorrent has hired expertise to make this work.
The first hire to note here is CCO David Bennett, who spent over a decade running various Japanese divisions for different high-end tech companies, such as the NEC laptop business in Japan (which was a joint venture between Lenovo and NEC) as well as AMD’s OEM Go-To-Market strategy there. David is well versed in the Japanese consumer and commercial markets, highlighting that the talk of the AI market interest in Japan has been increasing ever since the first computational neural networks were making the news.
Tenstorrent has also hired Mamoru Nakano to head up the Japanese office. Nakano-san has almost two decades of experience in management and sales of computer hardware in Japan, firstly as HP’s General Manager for Linux and HPC in all of Asia, focusing on Cray, and then as Country Manager for another AI hardware startup where he led customer engagement efforts. In David’s own words, his experience in working with Nakano-san is what Tenstorrent needs to build up a strong base in the country and provide a wide offering to markets that want optimized AI and HPC hardware from Tenstorrent’s portfolio.
We sent David a few questions about the news.
Tenstorrent will be attending the RISC-V Technology Conference Asia in Bangalore on April 5th-6th, where Jim Keller will be presenting on their efforts on RISC-V.