Israeli AI Chip Upstart Hailo Closes USD 60 Million Series B
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A little goes a long way. Image credit: Hailo

Hailo, a Tel Aviv-based chipmaking startup, has carried out a Series B investment round, securing USD 60 million – a great deal of money for an early-stage semiconductor company.

The event saw participation from several existing backers, including automotive retailer Delek Motors and high-tech savants Gil Agmon and Zohar Zisapel. A handful of new names can also be observed on the list: a venture capital arm of industrial automation giant ABB (ABB:NYSE), global IT network provider NEC Corporation (6701:JP) and Latitude, a sister fund of impact investing evangelist LocalGlobe.

The fresh corporate shareholders are expecting to discover essential synergies between their core businesses and the Tel Aviv upstart. “We look forward to combining Hailo’s solution with our cutting-edge industrial technology,” said Kurt Kaltenegger, head of ABB Technology Ventures. According to NEC Corporate Technology division’s general manager Hiroto Sugahara, Hailo’s technology will help the Japanese company to “dive even deeper into the intelligent video analytics market.”

“The new funding will help us expedite the deployment of new levels of edge computing capabilities in smart devices and intelligent industries around the world,” said Orr Danon, co-founder and CEO of the Israeli disruptor. He went on to say that the scope of potential applications now spans many immense sectors, such as mobility, smart cities and industrial automation. 

Leaving aside seed financing, this is Hailo’s second private equity deal. In July 2018, the firm grabbed USD 12.5 million in its Series A, which gathered automotive-focused VC fund Maniv Mobility, crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and Next Gear, a value-seeker in the smart mobility sector. Several months later, the first non-Israeli investor – Shanghai-based cross-border fund Glory Ventures – led a USD 8.5 million extension of that round.

Scattered all over the map, the company’s list of backers seems to be a harbinger of its possible global takeover. Locally, it has already grown into an undisputed champion in the field of embedded AI. “After Intel’s acquisition of Habana, Hailo remains the only significant AI chip maker in Israel,” Eric Yang, a founding partner at Glory Ventures, told EqualOcean.

However, there is nothing permanent in the harsh global semiconductor market. Many Israeli hardware startups have been acquired over recent years. Take, for example, Nvidia’s purchase of Mellanox or Intel’s Mobileye story. Mr. Yang believes that the probability of a scenario where one of the international chipmaking titans gobbles up Hailo in the following few years is quite high. “Nonetheless, currently, the company still wants to go independent,” he added.

Hailo, which has made its way from concept to production in just two years, still has the same goal of “bringing intelligence to any product.” Customized for neural network acceleration, its upcoming processor – Hailo-8 – is claimed to be game-changing, performing nearly 20 times more efficient than Nvidia’s Jetson AGX Xavier.

While there is a domain-wide discussion about the optimal solution for how to collocate compute, control and memory, most agree that classic von Neumann architecture is far from being a perfect fit for machine learning and AI. Hailo’s first “dataflow family” chip is designed to prove this statement in practice on a large scale – as early as 2020.

Hailo was among the 'Next Global 50' semiconductor startups selected by EqualOcean as potentially game-changing (download the full report).

Editor: Luke Sheehan
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