US semiconductor giant Intel is in advanced talks to buy Israeli startup Habana Labs for an estimated $1 billion. Both Intel and Habana Labs refused to comment on the report.
Habana Labs operates in Tel Aviv, Caesarea, San Jose, Beijing, and Gdansk. It was founded in 2016, and since then has raised $120 million. Its latest financing round took place in November 2018, when it raised $75 million in a round led by Intel Capital, which was joined by Lip-Bu Tan's WRV Capital (Lip-Bu Tan is CEO of Cadence Design Systems), Bessemer Venture Partners, Battery Ventures, Samsung and others.
In June this year, Habana Labs announced the launch of a new chip called Gaudi. Gaudi is an AI Training Processor for data centers, which the company says will deliver an increase in throughput of up to four times over systems built with equivalent number GPUs. The Gaudi chip joins the company's Goya AI Inference Processor launched a year ago.
The training stage of artificial intelligence requires huge computing resources. This is a field led by Nvidia, with chips based on technology originally intended for graphics processing. Habana Labs, like fellow Israeli company Hailo and Graphcore of the UK, have developed chips designed from the outset for artificial intelligence processing.
Behind the founding of Habana Labs was Avigdor Willenz, founder of chipmaker Galileo, which was sold to Marvell in 2000 for $2.7 billion. He went on to found Annapurna Labs, sold to Amazon in 2015 for $370 million. He serves as chairman of Habana Labs. Habana Labs CEO is co-founder David Dahan, and its VP R&D is the third co-founder Ran Halutz. Both are formerly of PrimeSense, bought by Apple for $345 million in 2013. PrimeSense's 3D sensing technology is integrated into Apple's iPhone X. Habana Labs' chief business officer is Eitan Medina, who was VP Product Definition at Gallileo Technology.
In April this year, Facebook stated on its developers site that it was collaborating with Habana Labs. "Facebook, the most important data centers company, works with us, including on other points that we can't talk about," Medina said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 3, 2019
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