EnCharge AI, a Santa Clara, California-based underdog in the AI accelerator chip arena, just hit a milestone by raising $22.6 million in its latest funding round. This funding was led by the VentureTech Alliance, the strategic VC linked with semiconductor giant TSMC, and saw participation from RTX Ventures, ACVC Partners, Anzu Partners, and Schams Ventures. With this infusion, EnCharge has now raised a total of $45 million.
The startup, founded by Naveen Verma, Echere Iroaga, and Kailash Gopalakrishnan, is on a mission to carve a niche in the competitive AI hardware market. Unlike giants like Nvidia and Intel, EnCharge aims to make AI more accessible by developing cost-effective and energy-efficient AI chips.
The latest funds will be instrumental in expanding EnCharge’s team, which currently consists of 50 employees spread across the U.S., Canada, and Germany. The focus will be on advancing the development of EnCharge’s AI chips and comprehensive AI solutions.
Verma, EnCharge’s CEO, expressed the company’s commitment to democratizing AI: “EnCharge’s mission is to provide broader access to AI for the 99% of organizations that can’t afford to deploy today’s costly and energy-intensive AI chips. Specifically, we’re enabling new AI use cases and form factors that run sustainably, from both an economical and environmental perspective, to unlock AI’s full potential.”
EnCharge’s roots trace back to federal grants awarded to Verma in 2017, stemming from DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative. This initiative focuses on advancing various computer chip technologies. Verma’s $8.3 million project investigated new types of non-volatile memory devices, capable of retaining data without a continuous power supply, potentially making them more energy-efficient.
Now, EnCharge seeks to commercialize this research, leveraging in-memory computing to accelerate AI applications while reducing power consumption. Verma contends that today’s AI compute is expensive and power-intensive, limiting innovation to well-capitalized organizations. EnCharge aims to break down these barriers.
While EnCharge’s claims are ambitious, it’s essential to note that the company is yet to commence mass production, and its hardware performance is yet to be independently benchmarked. The AI accelerator hardware market is highly competitive, with established players and well-funded startups. EnCharge faces challenges, but its investors remain optimistic about its unique architecture and technological approach to computing, positioning it as a potential disruptor in the AI hardware landscape.