May 24, 2024
Semron raises $7.9M for AI chips with 3D packaging

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Semron has raised $7.9 million (7.3 million euros) for AI chips with 3D packaging for mobile devices.

Dresden, Germany-based Semron said its goal is to set a new standard for AI chips in mobile devices, addressing the evolving needs of the industry.

Led by Join Capital and supported by SquareOne, OTB Ventures, and Onsight Ventures, this funding positions Semron for semiconductor innovation at a time when Moore’s Law is slowing down.

In an era dominated by the demand for increasingly sophisticated AI capabilities, Semron is targeting development of advanced computer chips designed to power the smallest consumer devices like smartphones, earbuds, and VR headsets.

The breakthrough lies in Semron’s 3D semiconductor technology, which promises a remarkable up to 20-fold increase in chip efficiency. This efficiency allows the operation of AI models up to 1,000 times larger while maintaining the same chip size.

Semron’s proprietary technology is called CapRAM, which utilizes a novel semiconductor device architecture based on a variable capacitor (‘memcapacitor’). Unlike traditional approaches relying on currents and transistors, CapRAM significantly reduces electron movement, resulting in a 20-fold increase in energy efficiency at the chip level.

Strategic seed funding round

Semron founders: CEO Aron Kirschen (left) and CTO Kai Uwe Demasius.

The recent seed funding round, led by Join Capital, attracted significant attention from new investors, including SquareOne, OTB Ventures, and Hermann Hauser of Onsight Ventures. Previous pre-seed investors, such as Wolfram Drescher (BlueWonder), Andreas Werner and Sven Sieber (Gigahertz Ventures), and Hans Rohrer, former president at TSMC, also continued their support.

“This funding round signifies a major stride for Semron in the AI infrastructure landscape. Our focus is not merely on energy consumption reduction and performance enhancement; rather, we envision a radical shift towards cost reduction, increased flexibility, and the capability to run vast AI models with billions of parameters on a fingertip-sized silicon. This transformation is essential for realizing advanced applications such as smart contact lenses in the near future,” said Aron Kirschen, CEO of Semron, in a statement.

CapRAM technology and 3D-scaled AI chips

Semron’s CapRAM technology marks a significant leap in developing the world’s most energy-efficient semiconductor for AI inference. The use of a variable capacitor as opposed to currents reduces noise and energy consumption, leading to a 20-fold increase in energy efficiency.

Notably, Semron’s chips can utilize three-dimensional space without overheating, allowing support for AI models two to three hundred times larger than current capacities, with potential for a 1,000-fold expansion in the future.

The technology leverages conventional semiconductor materials, eliminating the need for extensive development processes in production, potentially saving up to $108 million (€100 million) in development costs.

Georg Stockinger, partner at SquareOne, said in a statement, “Computing resources will become the ‘oil’ of the 21st century. With infrastructure-hungry LLMs conquering the world and Moore’s law reaching the limits of physics, a massive bottleneck in computing resources will shape the years to come. Insufficient access to computing infrastructure will greatly slow down productivity and competitiveness both of companies and entire nation-states. Semron will be a key element in solving this problem by providing a revolutionary new chip that is inherently specialized on computing AI models. It breaks with the traditional transistor-based computing paradigm and reduces costs and energy consumption for a given computing task by at least 20x.”

Expansion plans

With the fresh capital infusion, Semron plans to intensify hardware and compiler development, expand its team, and focus on internationalization. The company aims to quadruple its team by the end of the year.

Jan Borgstädt, managing partner at Join Capital, said in a statement, “We at Join Capital are thrilled to be at the vanguard of this technological revolution with our investment in Semron. We recognize the immense potential of Semron’s innovation to redefine the landscape of AI capabilities in smart devices globally and to start a new dynamic in the semiconductor industry that is struggling with the era of GenAI. This investment aligns perfectly with our commitment to supporting technologies that are set to redefine their industries. We are confident that Semron will not only lead but also inspire this new era of smart devices.”

Asked how the company can beat established rivals like Nvidia, Kirschen said in an email to VentureBeat, “What differentiates our technology from other players is our strong focus on performance, cost-efficiency, and targeting the edge computing market for advanced AI features. Our advantage lies in our technology’s ability to run several hundred times larger AI models and to deliver up to 20 times the efficiency at a cost that is two orders of magnitude lower per unit of performance. This is achieved through the paradigm shift to stack many compute layers on the same silicon substrate.”

The company is targeting markets such as edge devices with a strong AI need. Examples include large language models (LLMs)/GenAI in smartphones for a digital assistant or video processing, LLMs in earbuds for voice control and live translation, and LLMs/GenAI in VR headsets. To date, the company has raised $10.9 million and it has 11 employees.

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