Kneron, a U.S.-based semiconductor startup, announced on Tuesday that it has secured an additional $49 million in a series B funding round to advance the commercialization of its artificial intelligence chips, aiming to compete with Nvidia.
This fresh funding round brings Kneron’s total funding to $97 million, with notable investors including Taiwan’s Foxconn, known for assembling Apple’s iPhones, and Alltek, a communications tech firm.
Kneron is capitalizing on the growing investor interest in AI and chip technology, fueled by Nvidia’s remarkable 180% growth and the recent IPO of semiconductor designer Arm in the US
In contrast to Nvidia’s GPUs that power data centers, Kneron focuses on designing chips for consumer electronics and vehicles, enabling AI at the edge rather than relying on cloud services for AI processing, which enhances security and speed.
Kneron’s chips, known as neural processing units (NPUs), include the latest product, the KL730, designed for autonomous driving support. Albert Liu, CEO of Kneron, noted that GPUs are costly to operate, potentially driving demand for their more cost-effective NPUs.
Kneron’s primary focus, with this funding, is to expand efforts in making autonomous driving a reality through AI integration. Kneron faces competition from giants like Qualcomm and MediaTek, who are also venturing into on-device AI with their semiconductor offerings, along with various AI semiconductor startups.
One notable investor, Foxconn, aims to diversify beyond electronics assembly, venturing into areas like electric cars and semiconductors. Their collaboration with Kneron aims to accelerate the deployment of advanced AI, developing ultra-lightweight AI chips for cloud-based AI applications like ChatGPT.
Foxconn’s semiconductor endeavors have encountered challenges, including a recent exit from a joint venture with Vedanta, highlighting the complexities of the microchip market.