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Lightmatter Gets Series A Funding For Photonic AI Chip

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Company closes $11 million Series A from Matrix Partners and Spark Capital to bring new chip to market

Lightmatter, a US start-up, has received $11 million in Series A funding to accelerate development of its photonic AI chip. The round was co-led by Matrix Partners and Spark Capital. Stan Reiss from Matrix and Santo Politi from Spark have joined the company’s board of directors.

Lightmatter was founded in 2017 by Nicholas Harris, Darius Bunandar, and Thomas Graham at MIT. The photonic processor technology that underlies Lightmatter was developed over a four year span at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics.

The device accelerates critical operations in neural networks using an array of programmable photonic elements fabricated alongside transistors in conventional CMOS processes. The idea is that the technology can speed up many of the software algorithms underlying image recognition, natural language processing, and more, thereby facilitating the next generation of AI-powered computing.

“It is rare to see true innovation in the chip industry today, but Lightmatter has done it. The importance of this groundbreaking technology cannot be overstated," said Stan Reiss. “The Lightmatter team has applied a major scientific discovery to dramatically increase the power of AI and its reach into our lives."

“We’re already feeling the impact and benefits of artificial intelligence in our daily lives and yet we are still clearly in the early days of what is possible," said Santo Politi, co-founder and General Partner of Spark Capital. “For true advances in AI to occur, massive leaps forward in computational power will be required. I’m delighted to invest in the team at Lightmatter whose breakthrough will usher us into this future."

“For decades, electronic computers have been at the foundation of the computational progress that has ultimately enabled the AI revolution, but AI algorithms have a voracious appetite for computational power," said Nicholas Harris, CEO of Lightmatter. “AI is really in its infancy, and to move forward, new enabling technologies are required. At Lightmatter, we are augmenting electronic computers with photonics to power a fundamentally new kind of computer that is efficient enough to propel the next generation of AI."


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