Quadric.io, a startup founded by some of the folks behind the once-secretive bitcoin mining operation “21E6,” has raised $15 million in a Series A round that will fund the development of a supercomputer designed for autonomous systems.
The round was led by automotive Tier 1 supplier DENSO and its semiconductor products arm NSITEXE, which will also be one of Quadric.io’s customers for future electronic systems in all levels of autonomous driving solutions. Leawood VC also participated in the Series A round.
The company says it will use the injection of capital to build out its product and hire more people, as well as business development.
Pear, Uncork Capital, SV Angel, Cota Capital and Trucks VC are seed investors in Quadric.io.
The roots of Quadric.io grew from a seemingly disconnected mission to produce an agricultural robot designed to transform the way vineyards were managed. The company launched in 2016 by CEO Veerbhan Kheterpal, CTO Nigel Drego and CPO Daniel Firu — all co-founders of 21 Inc. The bitcoin startup, once known as 21E6, would later rebrand as Earn.com before being acquired by Coinbase for $100 million.
Quadric’s original plan was stymied by some real-world fundamentals. The power-hungry ag robot was weighed down by batteries that became too unwieldy to move amongst vineyard rows and the processing time to turn loads of environmental data into actual actions based on algorithms were too slow.
Quadric was looking for a chip designed for processing on the edge and that supported decision making in real time — all while crunching data faster and sipping, not slurping power. That need grew into Quadric’s core product today: a supercomputer that the company says hits that sweet spot of increased computational speed and reduced power consumption.
Kheterpal noted in a recent post on Medium that Intel’s CPUs work “very well for standard computer processing” and Nvidia’s GPUs have “ushered in astounding new graphics processing for gaming and much more.” But, he argued, Quadric needed something neither of those companies could provide: a chip designed for processing on the edge.
The company created a single unified architecture in the supercomputer that enables high-performance computing and artificial intelligence. The supercomputer, which is built around the Quadric Processor, is plug-and-play. This means people can plug in their sensor set and build their entire application to support “near-instantaneous” decision making, Quadric says. The company claims that early testing of Quadric’s system has shown up to 100 times lower latency and a 90% reduction in power consumption.
Quadric designed the instruction set, chip architecture and system architecture of the chip. System-level manufacturing is done at a contract manufacturer in Santa Clara, Calif., while chip manufacturing and assembly is done in Asia.
Quadric argues this underlying technology is a prerequisite for companies developing autonomous systems that will be used in the construction, transportation, agriculture and warehousing industries. The underlying tech that supports autonomous machines used in these industries either lacks the performance or solves only a small part of the full application, according to Quadric.
The startup contends that machines with autonomous functions require processing speed and responsiveness “on the edge” — meaning at the machine level, not in the cloud.
Other companies, most recently Tesla, have opted to build their own chips to meet this specific need. But as Kheterpal notes, not all companies have the resources to build the tech from the ground up.
“ Quadric is a plug and play option that eliminates the need for building heterogeneous systems with significant hardware and software integration costs — thereby taking years off of product development roadmaps,” Kheterpal wrote.