Qualcomm Ventures is the newest investor in SiFive, the RISC-V processor IP startup. The investment of Qualcomm is aimed to unearth the potential of the RISC-V architecture in wireless and mobile. SiFive announced it raised $65.4 million in funding, with another $11m for its Chinese sister company SaiFan China.
SiFive also said it has achieved its 101st design win. The company is claiming it has significant traction in embedded markets as device manufacturers rapidly adopt domain-specific application processor designs to enable efficient computing in edge devices. It puts this down to the scalable capabilities of RISC-V that enable semiconductor companies to move through the selection, customization and enhancement phases of designs in just months.
Qualcomm’s participation in SiFive’s latest funding round attracted notice since the wireless chip maker is a long-time customer of Arm. “SiFive has established itself as a leader in the RISC-V space, making significant contributions to the broader semiconductor industry through its unique design methodology,” said Quinn Li, who heads Qualcomm Ventures.
The company had already raised $50.6 million in April 2018, though not all the investors from that round came in again on this latest round – notably Western Digital Capital, Samsung Venture Investment and Intel Capital. With the funding, SiFive wants to accelerate global expansion and technology development. In the past 18 months, it has grown from less than 40 employees to more than 400 employees across 15 locations globally in the US, India, China, South Korea and Taiwan. The Chinese subsidiary was established last year to serve the local market as an independent local entity, and is headed up by Thomas Xu, who until last year was CEO of Brite Semiconductor. Interest for SiFive’s technology in China is ramping up even faster than the US, according to the company, and SaiFan China already employs around 40 people there.
Qualcomm is a founding member of the RISC-V Foundation.