Intel acquires deep learning start-up co-founded by Indian-origin man

With the acquisition of Nervana Systems, Intel forays into the world of artificial intelligence


Intel is one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers, based on revenue. Photo: Bloomberg
Intel is one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers, based on revenue. Photo: Bloomberg

San Francisco: Tech-giant Intel on Wednesday acquired California-based deep learning start-up Nervana Systems run by an Indian-origin entrepreneur, allowing the chip maker to foray into the world of artificial intelligence.

Co-founded by Naveen Rao in 2014 and headquartered in San Diego, California, Nervana has a fully-optimised software and hardware stack for deep learning.

The US-based chip giant isn’t actually saying how much it is paying, but a source with knowledge of the deal said it is valued at around $408 million, Recode, a technology news

website that focuses on the business of Silicon Valley reported.

“Today, Iam excited to announce that Intel signed a definitive agreement to acquire Nervana Systems, a recognised leader in deep learning,” Diane Bryant, executive vice president of Data Center Group at Intel said.

“We will share more about artificial intelligence (AI) and the amazing experiences it enables at our Intel Developer Forum next week,” Bryant said. “Their IP and expertise in accelerating deep learning algorithms will expand Intel’s capabilities in the field of Artificial Intelligence. We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimise the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry standard frameworks,” she said.

“Nervana’s Engine and silicon expertise will advance Intel’s AI portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance and TCO of our Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors,” she added.

“We believe that bringing together the Intel engineers who create the Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors with the talented Nervana Systems’ team, we will be able to advance the industry faster than would have otherwise been possible. We will continue to invest in leading edge technologies that complement and enhance Intel’s AI portfolio,” Bryant said.

“We’ve always been a mission driven company. Even though we won’t be a startup any longer, our mission hasn’t changed. we are here to make a dent in the world of computation, Rao said.

“With this deal, we can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing. We’ll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural,” he said.

According to Rao, the semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity’s crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world.

Nervana’s AI expertise combined with Intel’s capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realise our vision and create something truly special, Rao said. He said that the deal didn’t reflect any hurdles in getting more capital to stay independent.

“Raising money was not the problem. That was going to be relatively easy. But by selling to Intel, we have access to technology we’d never dream about,” Rao was quoted as saying Recode.

Intel is one of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers, based on revenue.

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