Announcements

Dutch AI Semiconductor Startup Axelera AI Launches With $12 Million Seed Round

Stealth company incubated by blockchain unicorn Bitfury Group and global nanoelectronics R&D center imec

Eindhoven, Netherlands – September 15, 2021 – AI semiconductor startup Axelera AI announced today that it has successfully closed a seed investment round of $12 million. 

The round was led by emerging technologies leader Bitfury and joined by global nanoelectronics R&D center imec and deep-tech venture capital funds Innovation Industries and imec.xpand. The funding will support the company’s development of an industry-defining product powering AI applications at the edge.  

Axelera AI was incubated by Bitfury Group in 2019, formerly operating as Bitfury AI until the company came out as an independent entity this year. Building on its extensive research and development focused on integrating world-class hardware and software technologies for edge and cloud-to-edge enterprise solutions, Axelera AI joined forces with imec in early 2020 to develop groundbreaking computing architecture for high-performance AI. Headquartered in the AI Innovation Center of the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, Axelera AI also has R&D offices in Leuven (BE) and Zurich (CH). The company has already recruited an elite team of more than 20 senior engineers and developers from world-leading AI companies and research centers, including Intel, Qualcomm, IBM, and imec.   

“With our launch as a new independent company and the closing of this investment, Axelera AI is now claiming its place as a significant player in the global AI sector,” said Fabrizio del Maffeo, CEO and co-founder of Axelera AI. “Our extraordinary team merges complementary expertise in software development, image processing, dataflow architecture, in-memory computing, algorithms and quantization with a proven track record of business success. We look forward to building on our extensive R&D and introducing new solutions across the globe over the next few years.” 

“Bitfury has a proven track record of incubating and bringing game-changing technologies to market,” said Valery Vavilov, CEO and co-founder of Bitfury Group. “We can look no further than LiquidStack, the emerging leader in two-phase liquid immersion cooling for the world’s most intensive computing applications, and Crystal Blockchain, the most advanced blockchain analytics platform for digital asset compliance. We could not be more excited to support the launch of Axelera AI, which is bound to accelerate the development and delivery of critical AI solutions across global markets.” 

“Imec has spent years researching custom circuits and novel architectures for efficient AI using in-memory compute, algorithms and quantization”, said Diederik Verkest, Program Director for machine learning at imec. “We are proud that after working together with the Bitfury Group, we can leverage and contribute this expertise to ensure Axelera AI develops and brings the best possible product to the edge AI market.” 

“Axelera AI is a unique Dutch start-up on a journey to deliver a disruptive AI chip that will accelerate the application of AI at the ‘edge of IOT’,” said Sander Verbrugge, partner at Innovation Industries. “Affordable AI compute power operating at low power is essential to unlock the full potential of AI in our everyday lives. We are proud to be part of this journey and to support this world-class team in achieving its ambitions.” 

“Axelera AI has brought together a stellar team and unites several distinct in-memory compute efforts from across Europe under one roof. We very much look forward to working with Fabrizio and his team and helping them achieve their ambitious goals by leveraging imec.xpand’s cross-border, value-add platform and network,” said Cyril Vančura, partner at imec.xpand.  

Axelera AI is designing the world’s most efficient and advanced solutions for AI at the edge. Its game-changing hardware and software product will concentrate the AI computational power of an entire server into a single chip at a fraction of the power consumption and price of AI hardware today. The company’s groundbreaking solution will empower thousands of applications of AI at the edge, making the use of AI more efficient and accessible than ever before. Axelera AI’s products will be fully integrated with the leading open-sourced AI frameworks when it launches to select customers and partners in 2022. 

For more information, contact: 

Rachel Pipan, press@axelera.ai   

Jade Liu, Press Officer imec, Jade.Liu@imec.be  

More Information: 

Axelera AI Leadership 

Axelera AI is led by CEO and co-founder Fabrizio del Maffeo. Prior to founding Axelera AI, he was Head of Artificial Intelligence at Bitfury and Vice President/Managing Director of Asus Group company AAEON Europe. To its non-executive board, Axelera AI has welcomed Bitfury Executive Vice President George Kikvadze and Innovation Industries partner Sander Verbrugge. Valery Vavilov, CEO and co-founder of Bitfury, will also serve as a board member. 

About Artificial Intelligence at The Edge 

More than 125 billion “things” are expected to be connected to the internet by 2030 – including smartphones, cameras, smart city sensors, and more. Each of these “internet of things (IoT)” devices, even the most miniature sensor, creates an exponential amount of data for analysis. Currently, only 2% of that data has been analyzed due to a lack of expertise and AI tools. Artificial intelligence allows us to analyze and understand this data thoroughly. However, the sheer amount of information and increasingly complex algorithms require a new generation of more powerful, efficient and accessible computation hardware. Due to growing privacy, security and bandwidth concerns, data is increasingly processed close to its origin, or “the edge.” 

The AI hardware available today has been designed primarily for cloud computing operations, a sector with cost, power, and scalability constraints. Computational hardware for edge applications needs an entirely new design that considers specific power needs, computational needs and economics. Axelera AI will capture this opportunity by developing and delivering a game-changing and scalable technology with superior performance and efficiency to accelerate AI applications at the edge. 

About The Bitfury Group 

The Bitfury Group is the world’s leading emerging technologies company. Bitfury™ is building solutions for the future, with the most significant technologies of the millennium. Our mission is to make the world more transparent and trusted by innovating at every level of technology – hardware, security, and software.  

Founded in 2011, Bitfury is the leading security and infrastructure provider for the Bitcoin Blockchain. In addition to securing the Bitcoin Blockchain, Bitfury also designs and produces innovative hardware that keeps cryptocurrencies and blockchains secure, including custom semiconductor chips and mobile data centers. Bitfury is also a software provider for some of the world’s most cutting-edge applications through its Exonum™ private blockchain framework and its Crystal™ Blockchain, the most advanced blockchain analytics platform for digital asset compliance.  To learn more, visit www.bitfury.com.     

About IMEC 

Imec is a world-leading research and innovation centre in nanoelectronics and digital technologies. Imec leverages its state-of-the-art R&D infrastructure and its team of more than 5.000 employees and top researchers, for R&D in advanced semiconductor and system scaling, silicon photonics, artificial intelligence, beyond 5G communications and sensing technologies, and in application domains such as health and life sciences, mobility, industry 4.0, agrofood, smart cities, sustainable energy, and education. Imec unites world-industry leaders across the semiconductor value chain, Flanders-based and international tech, pharma, medical and ICT companies, start-ups, and academia and knowledge centers. Imec is headquartered in Leuven (Belgium), and has research sites across Belgium, in the Netherlands, Taiwan and the USA, and offices in China, India and Japan. In 2020, imec’s revenue (P&L) totaled 680 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at www.imec-int.com. 

About Innovation Industries  

Innovation Industries is a Deeptech venture capital investor that invests up to €30M in Hightech, Agri&Foodtech and Medtech businesses. Today, Innovation Industries manages over €275M across two funds and has a team of 15 investment professionals. Its largest investors are the Dutch pension funds PME and PMT. Innovation Industries invests from seed to late stage and has partnerships with all Dutch technical universities and research institute TNO. For more information on Innovation Industries see: www.innovationindustries.com 

About Imec.xpand 

Imec.xpand is an early stage and growth fund with a game-changing approach to turn hardware driven nanotechnology innovation into successful global companies. The fund is independently managed by a team of entrepreneurs, seasoned venture capitalists and business experts and is targeting ambitious tech start-ups were imec knowledge, expertise and infrastructure can play a determining role in the success. For more information about imec.xpand please visit us on www.imecxpand.com 

Executive Team

Fabrizio Del Maffeo

Chief Executive Officer

Co-Founder ​- Axelera AI

Fabrizio Del Maffeo is the CEO and co-founder of Axelera AI, the Netherlands-based startup building game-changing, scalable hardware for AI at the edge. Axelera AI was incubated by the Bitfury Group, a globally recognised emerging technologies company, where Fabrizio previously served as Head of AI. In his role at Axelera AI, Fabriozo leads a world-class executive team, board of directors and advisors from top AI Fortune 500 companies.

Prior to joining Bitfury, Fabrizio was Vice President and Managing Director of AAEON Technology Europe, the AI and internet of things (IoT) computing company within the ASUS Group. During his time at AAEON, Fabrizio founded “UP Bridge the Gap,” a product line for professionals and innovators, now regarded as a leading reference solution in AI and IoT for Intel. In 2018, Fabrizio, alongside Intel, launched AAEON’s “AI in Production” program. He also previously served as the Country Manager for France and Sales Director for Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe at Advantech, the largest industrial IoT computing company. In this role, he also led the intelligent retail division. Fabrizio graduated with a master’s degree in telecommunication engineering from Milan Politecnico University.

Board of Directors

Sander Verbrugge

Non-Executive Director

Partner - Innovation​ Industries

Sander Verbrugge is a Partner at Innovation Industries, an independent venture capital firm that combines company-building and venture investment. Sander also sits on the Board of Directors at Axelera AI, the Netherlands-based startup building game-changing, scalable hardware for AI at the edge.

Sander works to bridge the gap between disruptive technologies and profitable businesses. He has more than six years of strategy consulting experience at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, where he has acquired a deep understanding of technology and successful business practices. He previously held positions at NXP Semiconductors working on global technology scouting efforts led by the CTO. He was also part of the central PMI team for a successful M&A with Freescale, as well as Co-Lead for PMI of the Sales and Marketing Organisations for an intended Qualcomm M&A with Qualcomm. He additionally managed a global business development team focused on IoT Security.

In early 2019, Sander started his position at Innovation Industries where he focuses on the High-Tech part of the portfolio. He is heavily involved in the early-stage efforts of the fund and holds a supervisory board seat in multiple portfolio companies, the latest addition being Axelera AI. Sander received his PhD in Molecular Biophysics from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and an MsC from TU Delft.

Board of Directors

George Kikvadze

Non-Executive Director

Executive Vice Chairman​ - Bitfury Group

George Kikvadze is the Executive Vice Chairman of the Bitfury Group, the world’s leading emerging technologies company. George currently sits on the Board of Directors for Axelera AI, the Netherlands-based startup building game-changing, scalable hardware for AI at the edge.

Prior to joining Bitfury in 2013, George held positions at Emergent Capital, GCF Fund, York Capital Management, AFK Sistema and Morgan Stanley. He obtained his MBA in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and his MA in International Relations and Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). George is a Founding Director of the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC). He is also a Board Observer at LiquidStack – the world’s largest liquid immersion cooling company for hyperscale, edge and high performance computing.

Board of Directors

Valery Vavilov

Non-Executive Director

Founder and CEO - ​Bitfury Group

Valery Vavilov is the CEO and founder of the Bitfury Group, the world’s leading emerging technologies company. Axelera AI, the Netherlands-based startup building next-gen, scalable hardware for AI at the edge, was incubated by Bitfury and advised by other technology companies, including nanotechnology firm IMEC and deep-tech venture capital funds Innovation Industry Fund and imec.xpand. Other game-changing companies Bitfury has incubated and brought to market include LiquidStack, the emerging leader in two-phase liquid immersion cooling for the world’s most intensive computing applications, and Crystal Blockchain, the most advanced blockchain analytics platform for digital asset compliance.

 

Valery’s entrepreneurial experience and passion for blockchain led him to found the Bitfury Group in 2011 when blockchain was just beginning to capture the world’s attention and imagination. A native Latvian who experienced first-hand the challenges resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union, Valery was inspired by the innovative technology and saw an opportunity to build technological solutions that could improve the lives of people worldwide. Valery focused first on hardware solutions that would ensure security and trust in the Bitcoin Blockchain, leading Bitfury to develop six generations of cutting-edge chips and state-of-the-art data center designs. Under his leadership, the company has expanded its focus to provide custom-designed software and advanced hardware in cryptocurrency, blockchain and artificial intelligence, all while maintaining its position as one of the major public Bitcoin Blockchain security and transaction providers. Prior to founding Bitfury, Valery spent more than 15 years in a variety of technical and leadership positions. 

 

He has received his M.S. degree in Computer Science from Riga’s Transport & Telecommunication University in Latvia and has completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Among other leadership initiatives, he is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Fourth Industrial Revolution Council on Blockchain.