“As more and more fabless companies are looking to design SoC by using RISC-V core, we believe our mission is to help these firms create a healthy chip designing eco-system,” said Cho Myung-hyun, founder and CEO of SemiFive.
SemiFive is an affiliate of US-based semiconductor startup SiFive. The founder of SiFive invested in Semifive, which established the Korean corporation in the first half of this year.
SiFive was founded in 2015 by UC Berkley Professor Krste Asanović and two other experts including Dr. Lee Yoon-sup. They developed the RISC-V, an open-source hardware instruction set architecture based on established reduced instruction set computer principles. Industry watchers say that the RISC-V core is smaller and uses less energy compared to the ARM core.
In the latter half of 2015, companies like Google, HP, IBM, MS, Oracle, Nvidia and Qualcomm came together to establish the RISC-V foundation, under which they opened up CPU cored development to the public.
Just three years since its inception, SiFive received around 150 billion won of investment from firms and investors such as Samsung, Intel and Mirae Asset Venture Investment. During this period, SiFive developed the E core going into mostly MCUs, the S core for storage and the U core for data centers and baseband chips. Since June this year, more than 100 chip projects were developed or are being developed with the SiFive core.
SemiFive’s business lies mostly in chip designing for RISC-V core-based custom chips for fabless firms. This means even for companies with no chip designing history at all, Semifive does everything from designing to wafer shipment.
“Since RISC-V ISA is not owned by a specific company, software developed from it also can be used in many different ways,” said Cho.
So far, the firm has attracted 9 billion won of investment from four different investors and entities including Mirae Asset Venture Investment. It is also in talks with a major Korean foundry firm for producing the RISC-V-based SiFive core.
To support such activities, Park Sung-ho – formerly head of SoC development at Samsung Electronics’ System LSI business, joined as co-CEO of SemiFive. The number of developers will also rise to around 30 from the current 20 by the end of this year, according to Cho.
Prior to SemiFive, Cho worked for consulting firm BCG for five years. He met SiFive co-founder Lee Yoon-sup while studying for his doctorate in CPU designing at MIT.
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