SK Hynix joins in $60 mn funding for US chip design startup SiFive

  • 2020-08-12

SK Hynix Inc. has recently participated in a $60 million funding for the US semiconductor startup SiFive, SK Hynix said on August 12.

Saudi Aramco and the existing shareholders of the startup also joined in the investment.

The South Korean chipmaker said that the investment was aimed at securing future technology and new business opportunities for the medium to long term. But it declined to break down the investment.

The latest funding has brought the total investment SiFive has secured to $185 million since its inception in 2015. Its previous investors include Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Intel Corp.

The investment comes as SoftBank Group, which holds full ownership of SiFive’s rival ARM Ltd. along with its Vision Fund, is reportedly seeking to sell the UK-based chip design company.

ARM dominates the semiconductor intellectual property (IP) market and receives royalties for graphic processing units from Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp.

To aid its foray into the monopolized semiconductor IP market, SiFive has unveiled the RISC-V architecture for free. In a similar case, the open-source operating system Linux was rolled out in the 1990s to challenge Microsoft Windows.

Samsung announced late last year the adoption of the SiFive’s RISC-V architecture for upcoming chips for a variety of applications, including Samsung’s flagship 5G smartphones. Nvidia and Qualcomm also have adopted the RISC-V cores.

Yunsup Lee, a South Korean national with a Ph.D from UC Berkeley, is a co-founder and chief technology officer at SiFive.

Hynix’s investment in the Silicon Valley startup is seen as readying itself for a possible change in the semiconductor ecosystem, amid expectations that SiFive’s open-source processor architecture may replace the ARM CPU cores.

Market talk of SoftBank’s plan to sell ARM adds to speculation that the CPU architecture market has peaked.

By Jeong-soo Hwang

hjs@hankyung.com

<Edited by Yeonhee Kim>