Rebellions, a self-made AI chip company in South Korea, announced today that it has raised $124 million (165 billion KRW) in a Series B round of funding to make Rebel, its third AI chip. The startup will also use the new money—more than the initial goal of $90 million—to hire more people and make more of its Atom chip, which is designed for use in data centres.
In an exclusive chat with TechCrunch, Rebellions’ CFO Sungkyue Shin said that the three-year-old company is worth about $658 million (880 billion KRW) after the money is added. With this new round of funding, Rebellions has now raised about $210 million since its founding in 2020.
The big South Korean phone company KT led this new round as a strategic investor. Pavilion Capital from Temasek and the Korea Development Bank, as well as new partners Korelya Capital and DG Daiwa Ventures, took part.
This is a very important time for the chip business, especially when it comes to the creation and use of AI chips.
Nvidia makes the most AI chips and is a household name in the tech world right now thanks to the AI boom. A moat built around a community of hardware and software has helped Nvidia do very well, as many people have seen. But the rest of the field still has a lot of work to do. Data processing and the high costs that come with it are still big problems for AI apps, so people are still rushing to find new ways to make them better.
There are changes happening on many fronts. Big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft either make their own chips for AI to use in their goods and services or work with other companies to do it. Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI, is said to have gone to South Korea last week to meet with Samsung and SK Hynix, two of the biggest companies in the country’s chip business. On top of that, Open AI is said to be raising billions of dollars to build plants that will make its own AI chips. Aside from Rebellions, there are other companies that are coming up with new ways to speed up processing and make things run more smoothly.
Join Forces with Samsung
It has been said for months that this startup will be raising money. This comes after other moves the company has made. Rebellions announced in October of last year that it would be working with Samsung Electronics to make its newest chip, the Rebel. This was an extension of a relationship that the two companies had started working together on its Atoms chips. Shin said that the two companies want to finish developing Rebel by the end of this year and start mass production in 2025. The next-generation AI chip will be aimed at the generative AI market, which uses large language models (LLMs) and hyperscalers.
Samsung Electronics’ 4-nanometer fabrication process will be used by Rebel, and Samsung’s advanced memory chip technology HBM3E will use Rebel’s AI chip. HBM3E is designed to handle high bandwidth memory and is used to build and run big language models. Rebellions’ main selling point is that its technology and goods are more flexible than custom AI chips. This means that they can work with different generative AI models that need AI accelerators.
The chief financial officer of the company made it clear that Rebellions will work with Samsung on everything from co-development and chip design to making a lot of Rebels. Samsung’s work here is also driven by a second reason: In addition to making chips, Samsung Gauss, South Korea’s biggest memory chip maker, has been working on its own creative AI model.
Ion and ATOM
It has also been working with customers who have used chips from earlier versions. As of May 2023, KT, Rebellions’ major investor, put Atom, Rebellions’ AI chip designed for data centres, into its cloud-based neural processing units (NPU) infrastructure. Rebellions says it plans to start making money from Atom in the second half of this year and will keep using Samsung’s 5-nanometer process to make that chip type. Shin said that Atom is made for data centres and language models with up to 7 billion parameters, while Rebel is made for bigger language models.
On the other hand, the company’s first AI chip, Ion, came out in November 2021 and is now being qualified in the U.S. It does not yet have any business customers. Ion is made for edge computing, and the company thinks that one of the best places for it to be used will be in financial services. Bigger companies that are making their own hardware could use the chips to power stock prediction and trade apps.
In 2020, Rebellions CEO Sunghyun Park, who used to work as a quant coder at Morgan Stanley in New York, and four other people started the AI chip company.
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