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SiFive raises $175 million after selling OpenFive SoC design unit to Alphawave

Mar 16, 2022 — by Eric Brown 656 views

RISC-V IP leader SiFive announced it has raised $175 million in Series F financing from Coatue, which values the company at over $2.5 billion. Earlier this week, SiFive sold its OpenFive SoC design business to AlphaWave for $210 million.

SiFive announced a Series F round of $175 million led by Coatue Management, adding to previous rounds for a total of over $350 million raised since the company’s founding in 2016. The RISC-V core IP developer is now valued at $2.5 billion, a half billion more than the valuation last year when Intel attempted but then abandoned an acquisition of the company. Earlier this week, Canadian semiconductor IP designer Alphawave announced that it had acquired SiFive’s OpenFive RISC-V SoC design business for $210 million (see farther below).

SiFive will use the new funds to invest in global hiring, new product development, and the RISC-V software ecosystem. The Silicon Valley firm claims to have achieved design wins with more than 100 customers, including eight of the top 10 semiconductor companies, in applications including automotive, AR/VR, client computing, data center, and intelligent edge devices.



SiFive Performance P550 block diagram (left) and typical multi-core SoC design
(click image to enlarge)

Earlier investors have included Sutter Hill Ventures, Ibex Investors, Intel Capital, Prosperity7 ventures, SK hynix, Western Digital Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, Osage University Partners, and Spark Capital. Last month, Intel announced a $1 billion fund to boost RISC-V, x86, and Arm IP development at Intel Foundry Services and revealed IFS collaborations with SiFive, Andes, Esperanto, and Ventana Micro using RISC-V and “open chiplet” technology.

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The SiFive announcement includes a testimonial from Intel noting that that its previously announced Horse Creek developer platform based on SiFive’s Cortex-A75 like, RISC-V RV64GC Performance P550 core will be broadly available in late 2022, built with Intel 4 (7nm) process technology. In December, SiFive it announced a 21G3 release of its RISC-V cores, including a new, embedded focused “Essential 6-Series” featuring the Linux-ready, 64-bit U64 and a similar U64-MC designed for quad-core SoCs.

“The market has spoken and made it abundantly clear that RISC-V computing will be competing for the heart of all future computing platform,” stated Patrick Little, President and CEO, SiFive. “As the founder and market leader of RISC-V computing it’s our role to lead this ecosystem forward and offer customers advanced computing alternative to Arm and others.”

 
OpenFive goes to AlphaWave

The $210 million sale of OpenFive to Toronto-based AlphaWave is likely to be completed later this year pending regulatory approvals. The deal hands over to the Toronto based chip IP designer the entirety of SiFive’s primarily India-based OpenFive unit. OpenFive comprises approximately 300 employees out of approximately 700 now working at SiFive. The deal also calls for SiFive to license RISC-V IP to Alphawave.


HiFive Unmatched

By jettisoning OpenFive, SiFive is doubling down on its core IP rather than system-on-chip IP development. SiFive has designed SoCs such as its Cortex-A55 like U74-MC SoC used on the HiFive Unmatched SBC. In this way, it is following the path of Arm, which leaves SoC designs to its customers. (The exception is an Arm Total Solutions for IoT program in which it develops Arm Corstone system-on-chip reference designs for smaller customers.) Now that Nvidia has cancelled its attempted acquisition of Arm, the company’s major semiconductor customers no longer need fear that Arm will become an SoC competitor.

The OpenFive business unit was launched by SiFive in Sep. 2020 with the task of enabling “customizable, silicon-focused solutions with differentiated-IP.” In April of last year, OpenFive announced it had completed a successful tape-out of an upcoming MCU-like SoC using TSMC’s 5nm N5 process.

The acquisition of OpenFive will nearly double the number of connectivity-focused IPs available to Alphawave customers from 80 to over 155 “and will provide customers with a one-stop-shop for their bundled connectivity needs in the most advanced technologies at 5nm, 4nm, 3nm and beyond,” says Alphawave. The IP will include “an expanded die-to-die connectivity portfolio that will accelerate chiplet delivery capabilities to customers.” The deal will enable Alphawave’s customer base to grow from 20 currently to over 75, including a new hyperscaler customer based in North America.

The two companies have been partners since SiFive’s founding. For the last two decades, AlphaWave has developed SoC IP technologies for Arm, and more recently, RISC-V customers. For more background on AlphaWave and details on the OpenWave sale, check out this BusinessInsider story.

 
Further information

More information on the $175 million funding from Coatue, see SiFive’s announcement. For more on the OpenWave sale, see AlphaWave’s announcement.
 

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