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Optical processor developer Lightmatter raises $154M to take products to market

02 Jun 2023

Viking Global Investors, Google Ventures, and others join Lightmatter Series C — tripling firm’s valuation.

Lightmatter, a developer of chip-based photonic processors, has announced it has raised a further $154 million Series C investment round from SIP Global, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Viking Global Investors, GV (Google Ventures), HPE Pathfinder and existing investors.

With this round, Lightmatter has raised a total of over $270 million to date. The company says it will leverage this new financing to “arm some of the largest cloud providers, semiconductor companies, and enterprises with the power of photonic technology to bring a new level of performance and energy savings to the most advanced AI and HPC workloads.”

Lightmatter co-founder and CEO Nick Harris commented,“Rapid progress in artificial intelligence is forcing computing infrastructure to improve at an unprecedented rate. The energy costs of this growth are significant, even on a planetary scale.

“Generative AI and supercomputing will be transformed by photonic technologies in the coming years, and our investors, partners, and customers are aligned with Lightmatter’s mission of enabling the future of computing infrastructure with photonics.” said Harris.

Generative AI ‘boom’ and computational impact

As generative AI systems proliferate across industries, the energy consumed and capital needed to run these algorithms is rising exponentially. The result is excessive heat loads, stagnant performance per watt, and increasing operating costs.

Large language models that power Generative AI are both more lucrative and resource intensive than their predecessors—leaders in the space are now claiming they see power and cost limits to the size of these models. Under this backdrop, Lightmatter says it is introducing its photonics-enabled products to the market.

Lightmatter states, “[Our] portfolio – Envise, Passage, and Idiom – offer a range of hardware and software solutions to realize the benefits of photonic compute and interconnect technologies. The new capital will be used to fund the delivery of these products to customers.”

Jeffrey Smith, General Partner at SIP Global Partners, said, “Lightmatter’s unique approach to harnessing the power of photonics in hardware trips will further the initial capabilities and use cases that we’re seeing from generative AI.

“These technologies and its global customers will need the highest compute power to run these algorithms and apply them to new verticals, and we’re thrilled to invest in Lightmatter who can make that potential with computing that is faster and more sustainable,” added Smith.

Erik Nordlander, General Partner at GV, said, “Photonic technology has the potential to meet the demand of today’s artificial intelligence compute workloads. Lightmatter is taking a differentiated approach by using silicon photonics and bringing together a deeply technical team to further its mission.”

In 2022, Lightmatter announced significant growth with the recruitment of top talent to its leadership team, including Richard Ho, who led Google’s Tensor Processing Unit program, and Ritesh Jain, who led datacenter chip packaging at Intel, as VPs of Hardware Engineering.

Lightmatter also announced Jessie Zhang, who led corporate financial planning at Apple, as VP of Finance, and Steve Klinger, former VP at Innovium, as VP of Product. Lightmatter currently has over 20 active roles across product, R&D, and engineering, and holds over 150 patents worldwide.

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