Kickstarted Processor Startup Raises Venture Capital

16 January 2014

Adapteva Inc. (Lexington, Mass.), a 2008 startup that has developed a highly parallel processor architecture called Epiphany, has raised $3.6 million in equity funding from Carmel Ventures and communications technology company Ericsson AB. This brings the total raised by Adapteva across two rounds to $5.1 million.

Compared with the sums usually used for IC development at the leading edge the amount raised is tiny. Nonetheless, the financing will support Adapteva's plans to deliver chips and boards that enable parallel computing, the company said.

The company also announced that in the first quarter of 2014 that it will finalize the shipment of Parallella $99 reference boards to all 6,300 backers of its 2012 Kickstarter program. Adapteva confessed to major problems with the board in the second half of 2013 when one of the components on the Parallella board became unavailable.

Adapteva’s parallel co-processor approach enables a scalable architecture that allows multiple Epiphany chips and thousands of cores to be linked together and applied. Ericsson's support for Adapteva is driven by an interest in energy-efficient computing for telecommunications infrastructure, an executive said.

Founded by former Analog Devices design engineer Andreas Olofsson, Adapteva has developed a series of processors under the Epiphany architecture on meager resources. In 2012 the company turned to the crowd-finding website Kickstarter to try and get funds for an Epiphany processor mask revision. It raised nearly $900,000 and considerable awareness for its Parallella board. The board includes a 16-core Epiphany processor plus a Xilinx Zinq FPGA with an embedded dual-core ARM Cortex A9 processor and consumes less than 5 watts.

Adapteva has worked with Globalfoundries Inc. over multiple generations of its Epiphany multicore floating-point coprocessor. The two companies have maintained overall power consumption at 2 watts while moving from 16 cores at 65nm to 64 cores at 28nm. The Epiphany IV when implemented in the 28nm SLP bulk planar CMOS manufacturing process technology offers 64 cores operating at up to 800-MHz clock frequency. The 16- and 64-core Epiphany chips are C/C++ programmable floating-point capable RISC processors able to deliver 5GFLOPS/watt performance, a factor of ten better than competing offerings Adapteva claims.

"Adapteva's open-source, community-driven approach to parallel programming and processing is a breakthrough for the computing industry," said Olofsson, in a statement. "Even prior to shipping all our initial orders, we have more than 5,000 active followers in our community. With this investment and the upcoming fulfillment of our Kickstarter shipments, we expect the momentum to continue to snowball."

Sebastian Tolstoy, a vice president of business development at Ericsson said that energy efficient parallel processing would be key to progress in the telecommunications industry and had driven the company's involvement with Adapteva.

"Adapteva’s approach is very different to the traditional silicon vendor model and we believe this could lead an industry transformation – just the type of innovation we like to invest in," said Ori Bendori, partner at Carmel Ventures.

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