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Chinese GPU startup Moore Threads raises billions of yuan to take on Nvidia

Written by Song Jingli Published on     2 mins read

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The company, which was founded only recently, is already a unicorn.

Semiconductor company Moore Threads, founded just 100 days ago, has closed two rounds of funding amounting to “several” RMB 1 billion (USD 155 million), Winsoul Capital, the dealmaker in the pre-Series A round, disclosed on its official WeChat account on Thursday.

Moore Threads’ core business centers on providing GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) technology and services to corporate clients in a wide variety of sectors such as gaming, the creative industry, and artificial intelligence. GPUs are normally designed to accelerate the rendering of 3D graphics, to create more interesting visual effects and realistic scenes with advanced lighting and shadowing techniques. They also speed up workloads in high performance computing and deep learning.

The firm is currently hiring engineers for positions in Beijing and Shanghai. Founded in October 2020, Moore Threads is backed by Sequoia China Capital, and GGV Capital, Shenzhen Capital Group as leading investors in the round, that is taking its valuation into unicorn territory. China Merchants Venture, 5Y Capital, ByteDance, and autonomous driving company Pony.ai also participated.

“GPU chips, which can satisfy general graphics and high-performance computing, represent the top height of chip technology,” said Jixun Foo, managing partner at GGV Capital. “It is very demanding for a team in China to develop GPU chips with world-level performance and to achieve commercial success as well.”

GPU giant Nvidia’s market share in China has increased from 50% in 2008 to 80%, according to Gu Lan, a chip expert at Shenzhen Capital Group. “We have evaluated many entrepreneurial teams in the GPU sector. Moore Threads is the only one with a mature team of world-class capabilities,” Gu added.

Tussle for talent

Moore Threads hired former Nvidia executives for its management team, and also recruited from Microsoft, Intel, AMD, and ARM, according to Winsoul Capital, which didn’t identify any of the executives.

According to AI4Auto, a Chinese media outlet, the founder could be James Zhang, who joined Nvidia in 2005 and reportedly resigned in September 2020, when he was global vice president and general manager of the company’s Greater China business. AI4Auto based its assumption on Winsoul’s description of someone who has been “working in the GPU sector for 15 years,” and “built an ecosystem in the Chinese market for a world-class chip company,” and confirmed it with industry insiders.

Moore Treads is another example of China’s current investment focus on chips, attracting significant venture capital as the country seeks to break loose from its dependence on the US.

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