AI startup Rivos raises $250 million in funding to develop RISC-V AI chips for generative AI markets

AI chip startup Rivos has raised $250 million in funding to address the ongoing chip shortage in generative AI markets. This financial boost, part of an oversubscribed Series A-3 funding round, was led by Matrix Capital Management, with a lineup of notable investors including Intel Capital, MediaTek, and others. Romit Shah from Matrix Capital Management has also joined Rivos’ Board, marking a significant development.

Rivos plans to utilize this capital injection to develop its inaugural server chip and expand its operations to keep pace with the escalating demand for data analytics and generative AI solutions. Puneet Kumar, Rivos’ CEO, emphasized the importance of adaptable accelerators and seamless data movement, stressing their approach of recompiling rather than redesigning to meet these evolving needs.

While Nvidia currently dominates the AI chip market, with over 80% share as of 2023, competitors are emerging. Rivos is among them, with plans to base its chips on the open-source RISC-V architecture, offering an alternative to established players like Arm and Intel. This strategy not only aligns with Rivos’ vision of innovation but also saves on licensing fees.

“The rapid changes in LLMs and the merger with the data analytics stack make it vital that accelerators be easy to program and debug, and that data can seamlessly move between CPU and accelerator. Rivos addresses this need through our recompile-not-redesign approach,” said Puneet Kumar, co-founder and CEO of Rivos. “I’m grateful for Matrix’s vote of confidence in this approach and pleased to welcome Romit to the Board.”

Founded in 2021, Rivos boasts a top-tier team and strategic investors committed to its vision of creating cutting-edge, power-efficient server solutions. Their approach, starting with software development before designing the hardware, sets them apart in the industry. CEO Puneet Kumar explained this unconventional strategy, emphasizing their focus on meeting the demanding requirements of large language models and data analytics.

“Expanding the application of data analytics and large language models to encompass not just traditional data types such as text, images, and video, but also genomic and medical data, unlocks unprecedented opportunities for innovation in research and treatment,” David Goel, Managing General Partner of Matrix Capital Management, said in a news release.

Goel also added, “The Rivos team has adeptly integrated the groundbreaking new RISC-V architecture with an inventive accelerator, effectively bringing this vision to life. Their prototype chip serves as a compelling demonstration of their unique capability to leverage the advanced TSMC 3nm process node – a feat few startups have managed to achieve. We eagerly anticipate furthering our support for the company’s move into new realms of achievement, marking each milestone with shared enthusiasm and commitment to excellence.”

Going forward, Rivos’ goal is to provide comprehensive solutions tailored to the needs of modern enterprises, combining RISC-V CPUs with Data-Parallel Accelerators and a full software stack. This approach promises immediate benefits for customers, aligning with the company’s long-term vision of reshaping the AI landscape. With strong financial backing and a commitment to innovation, Rivos is poised to make significant strides in the AI chip market.

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