December 10, 2023

Albert Liu, founder and CEO of Kneron.

Harry Murphy | Sportsfile | Getty Images

Kneron, a U.S.-based semiconductor startup, said on Tuesday it raised a fresh round of funding as it looks to ramp up the commercialization of its artificial intelligence chips, which it hopes will rival Nvidia’s.

The company said it raised an additional $49 million, bringing its total round of funding to to $97 million.

Taiwanese giant Foxconn, the company that assembles Apple’s iPhones, and Alltek, a communications tech company, were among the investors in the round.

Kneron is looking to capitalize on massive investor interest in artificial intelligence and the chip technology that underpins it — underscored by Nvidia’s 180% rally this year and the initial public offering of semiconductor designer Arm in the U.S. last week.

Nvidia makes graphics processing units, or GPUs, which run in servers and data centers and can handle the massive computing power required to use huge amounts of data to train artificial intelligence systems. Many AI services today, such as ChatGPT, are run from the cloud.

In contrast, Kneron designs a chipset that goes into devices like consumer electronics and cars that allow AI on the “edge.” That means AI runs on a device rather than in the cloud. Advocates say this is better for security and speed as the AI application doesn’t need to come from the cloud.

Kneron calls its semiconductors neural processing units, or NPUs. Its latest product is called the KL730. This chip is designed for cars and the company says that it can be used to support autonomous driving.

“With this tranche in funding, Kneron is specifically focused on expanding its efforts in enabling AI to make autonomous driving a reality,” Kneron said in a press release.

Kneron has no shortage of competitors from giants like Qualcomm and MediaTek — which are aiming for on-device AI with their chips — and startups developing AI semiconductors.

Foxconn’s semiconductor push

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