Graphcore founder Nigel Toon to talk about AI chips at Disrupt Berlin

It’s easy to forget that Silicon Valley starts with ‘silicon’, and that there would be no technology innovation without innovation at the silicon level. And Graphcore is well aware of that as the Bristol-based company is designing its own dedicated AI chipset. That’s why I’m glad to announce that Graphcore co-founder and CEO Nigel Toon is joining us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

Graphcore has managed to attract a ton of attention from day one. Originally founded in 2016, the startup has raised more than $300 million from top investors, such as Sequoia Capital, BMW, Microsoft, Samsung and a ton of others.

The company last raised a $200 million Series D round led by Atomico and Sofina. It values the company at $1.7 billion.

So what is the magic product behind Graphcore? The startup’s flagship product is an Intelligence Processor Unit (IPU) PCIe processor card combined with a software framework. Essentially, it lets you build your own AI applications more efficiently. Those dedidacted AI chips should perform better than repurposed GPUs.

Tobias Jahn, principal at BMW i Ventures, summed it up pretty well in a statement for the Series D round: “The versatility of Graphcore’s IPU – which supports multiple machine learning techniques with high efficiency – is well-suited for a wide variety of applications from intelligent voice assistants to self-driving vehicles. With the flexibility to use the same processor in both a data centre and a vehicle, Graphcore’s IPU also presents the possibility of reduction in development times and complexity.”

It seems crazy that a tiny startup is competing directly with giant chip companies, such as Nvidia, AMD, Intel, Qualcomm, etc. But this isn’t Nigel Toon’s first company. He has been the CEO of Picochip and Icera, two companies that have been sold to Intel and Nvidia.

Graphcore believes that there’s an underserved niche with a lot of potential. And it feels like there’s a race to create the most efficient AI chip. So I can’t wait to hear Nigel Toon’s take on that race.

Buy your ticket to Disrupt Berlin to listen to this discussion and many others. The conference will take place on December 11-12.

In addition to panels and fireside chats, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield to compete for the highly coveted Battlefield Cup.