ThinkForce Born with China Chip Industry Booms
COVID-19 and China
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ThinkForce is an artificial intelligence (AI) integrated circuit (IC) company providing ASIC(application specific integrated circuit) and one-stop solution founded in 2017 based in Shanghai, China. ThinkForce, as an ASIC startup, acquired series A funding in amount of CNY 450 million (USD 66 million) from Sequoia China, Hillhouse Capital, YiTu Tech and YF Capital(云峰基金) in November 2017. In the year 2017, the investment heat in AI chip reached a peak, with 109 funding activities in the total amount of CNY 161.59 billion (USD 23.76 billion).

Along with the development of AI, the hardware demand for better calculation abilities is stimulated. AI plus chip attracts uncountable capital into the industries. The best example is Nvidia, whose stock price has boomed 450% since 2016. Main types of AI chips are GPU (graphics processing unit), FPGA (field programmable gate array) and ASIC. Nvidia is the best GPU producer due to its rich experience in graphics processing while Xilinx is the big name in FPGA. FPGA has an extremely high tech entrance bar comparing to the other two main types, and GPU is more universal and expensive than ASIC which makes GPU less competitive than ASIC since it is customized for targeted AI solutions and cheaper. Most chip producers are developing their own ASICs, and so is ThinkForce.

In 2016, China imported chips at a worth of USD 277.1 billion, while exported only USD 61.38 billion. As 52% of the chips are sold to China, China is the largest chip consumer but only 10% of the consumption is made in China. The unmatched sizes of demand and supply restrain China’s AI development at some degree.

To even the gap formed from low-level self-supply of chips, Made in China 2050 set goals: in 2020, IC self-supply rate should reach 40% and in 2050, the rate should be above 50%. With the plan, the state fund distributed in IC investment is as high as CNY 140 billion. As National Integrated Circuit Development Outline planned, the annual growth rate of the semiconductor industry should exceed 20%. With favored policies and financial supporting, IC industry’s spring has come. The market in China is expecting a market size of USD 5.2 billion with an ACGR of 53%.

ThinkForce with its cooperation with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, its team is a guarantee for people who take bets on it. In September’s WAIC, ThinkForce presented its latest progress of DNN(deep neural network) computing acceleration kernel ManyCore. The industry is looking forward to seeing the final version of ManyCore and ThinkForce’ one-stop solution.

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