More AI Chips: NextVPU Completes CNY 300 Million Series B
COVID-19 and China
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Shanghai-based semiconductor startup NextVPU (Next Vision Processing Unit, 肇观电子) has raised CNY 300 million (around USD 42 million) in its Series B, as tech media outlet Xindongxi (芯东西) reported (in Chinese) on March 30. 

The chipmaker has previously closed at least six (in Chinese) venture capital deals, involving CETHIK, a safety electronics subsidiary of China Electronics Technology Group, private equity manager FREES FUND, local clothing brand Septwolves and entertainment-focused venture capital firm StarVC, to name a few. In October 2018, NextVPU grabbed CNY 200 million (USD 28 million) in its Series A. 

Tailoring customized embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions, the company is also currently marketing a number of self-developed products. For one, the rollout of its flagship System-on-a-Chip (SoC) N171, designed to accelerate computer vision algorithms, was announced in August 2018. This tiny device was built for a broad range of applications, including Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS), smart home, robotics and surveillance, per NextVPU.

Besides this, the startup has been engaged in several projects beyond chips. It is developing the smart glasses product AngelEye, which "assists the visually impaired to perceive the world." The 99-gram headset improves object detection, color and light recognition, according to the firm's official website.

Since its establishment in 2016, NextVPU has grown into a 200-employee research-driven organization. Many of them graduated from top Chinese universities. The company also claims to have personnel from a litany of powerhouses: AMD (AMD:NASDAQ), Intel (INTC:NASDAQ), Qualcomm (QCOM:NASDAQ), NVIDIA (NVDA:NASDAQ), Marvell (MRVL:NASDAQ), Huawei and SMIC (0981:HKEX).

The firm's founder and CEO, Feng Xinpeng, has over ten years of industry experience. He started the venture after his earlier life as a senior engineer and director at the Chinese arm of AMD. 

As the number of possible machine learning applications increases, the AI accelerator market is warming up, stirred by downstream demand. Many companies in the space are receiving hefty investments and making huge strategic moves. For instance, Israeli Hailo, developer of an AI chip that enables its users to run calculations on the edge, raised USD 60 million on March 5. Another example is Beijing chipmaker Cambricon, which has filed a prospectus with the local regulator, planning to go public on the Star Market, China's answer to Nasdaq.

"NextVPU is set to disrupt the immense machine vision hardware market," StarVC's Wei Wei told EqualOcean. "We can see this from both its largest competitors' sales numbers and the ever-growing demand for its products related to a plethora of applications."

NextVPU was among 50 selected chipmaking startups in EqualOcean's 'Next Global Tech 2019' report.

Editor: Luke Sheehan
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