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4 July 2019

Qualcomm invests in RISC-V IP start-up

Qualcomm is rarely associated with open source, having built a business around proprietary intellectual property, but it is skilled at sensing the way industry winds are blowing, and has taken an investmnent in one of the growing tribe of start-ups supporting the open processor platform, RISC-V.

Through its Qualcomm Ventures are, the chip giant has taken part in a $65.4m round of funding for SiFive, which already claims over 100 design wins. The news shows that Qualcomm is keeping a beady eye on RISC-V’s early moves towards processors for the 5G market, and particularly on the potential to build an intellectual property (IP) base (open source platforms still include patents of course).

Qualcomm’s backing follows in the footsteps of Intel, whose Intel Capital division was part of SiFive’s previous round, worth $50.6m, in April 2018. Other participants at that time included Samsung Venture Investment .

SiFive has grown, since the start of 2018, from fewer than 40 employees to more than 400, across 15 locations in the USA, India, China, South Korea and Taiwan. It has also established a Chinese subsidiary, SaiFan, to serve the local market as an independent local entity, presumably with the hope of working around any US sanctions against Chinese technology (ARM has a similar remote Chinese unit to house local IP). At the same time as the most recent funding round, SaiFan raised an additional $11m itself.