SiFive said it's getting huge traction and its latest funding puts it in a position to target Arm sockets directly.
SiFive has raised $175 million in a series F funding round aimed at accelerating its processor roadmap and strengthen its position in the market against Arm. The investment puts the company valuation at over $2.5 billion, and in a position to prepare itself for an initial public offering (IPO) next year.
In an interview with EE Times, Patrick Little, president and CEO of SiFive, told us that adoption of the company’s Performance and Intelligence line processors had “wildly exceeded” their expectations. He said, “Almost every customer we spoke to said there’s a mandate from their boards to diversify their processor base. While we may have been focused previously on simple embedded designs, we’re now seeing a shift where we are targeting the center of the customer’s requirements for intelligent designs. And the automotive community is also looking at our processors.”
“As a result, this funding will allow us to double the cadence of launches of new processor cores. We had the P550 and the P650, and we’ll have a P750 and others coming up. Hence, we’ll be able to accelerate our roadmap. We’ll also be able to get the company to a position where it would be ready for an IPO within 12-18 months. We should be fit for an IPO then.”
Little, who joined SiFive as CEO in 2020 from Qualcomm’s automotive business, said that SiFive is very deliberate and very focused on its mission. Explaining how the P550 was demonstrably up to 30% better than other processor cores in performance per watt and having customer validation for these figures, he said, “Our goal is to be substantially better than Arm, and now we are in a position to move even quicker on our Arm intercept strategy.”
He emphasized SiFive’s razor-sharp focus by saying that the funding round plus its sale of OpenFive to Alphawave IP, also announced this week, was evidence of the company’s determination to succeed in this aspect. He said, “We’re in a billion chips, including some success in handset SoCs. Our goal over the next 3-4 years is to get to 10 billion.”
Keen to emphasize SiFive’s rapid move from embedded products to the center of a customer’s design, Little commented, “While in the previous year 98% of our revenue might have been from embedded products, since we launched the P550 and X280, we’ve seen a shift towards these high-performance products as revenue from these now represents half our business. Last year our revenue grew over 3.5x, and now half our pipeline is from the Intelligence products.”
SiFive claims it has design wins with more than 100 customers including 8 of the top 10 semiconductor companies, in applications ranging from automotive, AR/VR, client computing, data center, and intelligent edge. Little commented, “The market has spoken and made it abundantly clear that RISC-V computing will be competing for the heart of all future computing platforms. As the founder and market leader of RISC-V computing it’s our role to lead this ecosystem forward and offer customers advanced computing alternative to Arm and others.”
The latest funding round brings total investment in SiFive to date to $350 million. Little said the company’s valuation is a validation of its strategy, team, and singular focus on building a portfolio of RISC-V compute products.
He also said Intel has been a valuable partner. Bob Brennan, Intel Foundry Services’ VP and GM for customer solutions engineering, said, “Intel believes in enabling a multi-ISA strategy, including RISC-V as the open compute base for future platforms. Our IFS investment in RISC-V includes partnering with RISC-V leader SiFive to build the Horse Creek developer platform that will be broadly available in late 2022, based on Intel 4 process technology.”
Steve Leibson, a principal analyst with Tirias Research, commented, “It will take a determined company like SiFive to make significant inroads into the myriad processing needs currently served by various microprocessor architectures. SiFive continues to innovate across multiple performance tiers, taking the RISC-V architecture where it needs to go if it’s to gain the sort of traction in the industry that its worldwide network of advocates seeks.”
He added, “With this latest funding round coupled with its share of the recently announced billion-dollar Intel Foundry Services Investment Fund, SiFive appears to be determined to accumulate a stockpile of cash that will allow the company to accelerate its already torrid pace in developing new RISC-V processor cores up and down the price, performance, and power spectrum.”
The funding round was led by Coatue Management, who joined existing investors Sutter Hill Ventures, Ibex Investors, Intel Capital, Prosperity7 ventures, SK hynix, Western Digital Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Osage University Partners, and Spark Capital.
During our interview, Little continually stressed how in just under two years since taking the helm at SiFive, how the company has focused on RISC-V compute products. He said that we are in the midst of a computing super-cycle where the opportunity is “unlimited.” In concluding our call, he said, “That means the future of RISC-V is also unlimited, and I believe RISC-V will be pervasive across every platform.”
This article was originally published on EE Times.
Nitin Dahad is a correspondent for EE Times, EE Times Europe and also Editor-in-Chief of embedded.com. With 35 years in the electronics industry, he’s had many different roles: from engineer to journalist, and from entrepreneur to startup mentor and government advisor. He was part of the startup team that launched 32-bit microprocessor company ARC International in the US in the late 1990s and took it public, and co-founder of The Chilli, which influenced much of the tech startup scene in the early 2000s. He’s also worked with many of the big names—including National Semiconductor, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Dialog Semiconductor and Marconi Instruments.