Chip design is a long trial and error process that takes years to get a design to market. Motivo, a five-year-old chip industry veteran startup, is developing software to accelerate chip design with AI from years to months. Today the company announced a $ 12 million Series A.
Intel Capital led the round together with the new investors Storm Ventures and the Seraph Group as well as the participation of Inventus Capital. The company reports that it has now raised a total of $ 20 million from its previous seed funding.
Motivo co-founder and CEO Bharath Rangarajan has worked in the chip industry for 30 years and saw some fundamental trends and issues. First of all, the chip design process is very time consuming and it takes years to find a successful candidate and usually the first to win in the market.
In addition, Moore’s Law, which puts more and more electronics on an increasingly powerful chip, adds complexity to these designs, and once they are in production, there is a lot of waste. Rangarajan founded the company to integrate artificial intelligence into the design process and bring chips to market faster and more accurately in the production cycle.
“We can train an AI engine to use human judgment and do a lot of design for manufacturability without causing other problems. So we avoid all of these iteration loops [and we can also] Design code and validation and timing and again we go from weeks and months to days, ”he said.
The company’s ultimate goal is to slash the chip design process and use software and intelligence to reduce it from three years to three months of chip layout, the underlying RTL code that runs the chip, and the netlist that runs the chip describes how the different parts and the electronics on the chip are connected to each other.
Another differentiator is that the company tries to make its AI transparent to explain why it made its decisions. “A lot of AI is just a black box. I don’t know why the self-driving car suddenly decided to move here. Our AI is understandable. We designed the solution so that we can tell you why the AI is saying to change the chip this way or why it says it will be changed that way, ”explained Rangarajan.
The company has paying customers. While it can’t name them, there’s likely a limited market for this type of software, so you can make an educated guess that it’s the chipmakers, especially with Intel Capital as the main investor in this round. The company currently employs 15 people, 12 of whom are full-time with plans to double or even triple over the next year, depending on how things go.
Hiring people is always a challenge for a company with a specific engineering focus like this, but Rangarajan says the team is already quite diverse and he definitely tries to keep this going as the company grows. “We have to find the right people to join the company and they are looking for all kinds of great people or backgrounds. […] Indeed, the more the better as far as we are concerned. We have very experienced people who grew up in the industry and we still have a pretty diverse team here, ”he said.
For now, he plans to keep the office hybrid that people who want to come in can come in, but people who dislike those with younger children who haven’t been vaccinated can still work from home, he said. And this flexibility should remain even after the offices have been fully opened.