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Dell's VC Arm Backs Data Center Chip Startup Founded By Apple Vets

'The best companies start when founders with outstanding track records of performance come together to identify a big problem and line up the best investment team to help them succeed,’ says Scott Darling, president of Dell Technologies Capital.

Dell Technologies' venture capital arm has invested in a data center chip startup founded by former Apple semiconductor executives that plans to take on Intel and AMD.

Nuvia said Friday that it has raised $53 million from Dell Technologies Capital and other venture capital firms to develop a processor with the code name Phoenix. The startup, which is based roughly a mile away from Intel and AMD's headquarters in Santa, Clara, Calif., currently has 60 employees and plans to reach 100 by the end of the year, according to a company spokesperson.

Nuvia was founded earlier this year by Gerard Williams III, Manu Gulati and John Bruno with the goal of "reimagining silicon design to deliver industry-leading performance and energy efficiency for the data center," according to the startup's press release. The startup's emergence from stealth mode is happening as Intel faces greater competition from AMD's EPYC server processors and Nvidia's GPUs for artificial intelligence acceleration.

[Related: Intel Fires Back At Nvidia With Nervana AI Chips, New Movidius VPU]

"The world is creating more data than it can process as we become increasingly dependent on high-speed information access, always-on rich media experiences and ubiquitous connectivity," Williams, CEO of Nuvia, said in a statement. "A step-function increase in compute performance and power efficiency is needed to feed these growing user needs. The timing couldn’t be better to create a new model for high-performance silicon design with the support of a world-class group of investors."

When asked about the startup’s timeline for a product launch, a spokesperson said, "Product delivery is a multiyear journey,” while adding that multiple customers are already being engaged.

Williams was previously senior director and chief CPU architect at Apple for nearly a decade and worked on a range of CPUs and system-on-chip (SoC) modules for multiple devices. Prior to that, he spent more than 10 years at Arm, where he served as a technical adviser to Arm architecture and CPU development for multiple partners, according to Nuvia's website. He got his start at Intel and Texas Instruments.

Gulati, Nuvia's senior vice president of silicon engineering, was most recently the lead SoC architect for consumer hardware at Google, according to Nuvia's website. Before that, he was at Apple for eight years, serving as the company's lead SoC architect for several mobile SoCs in a variety of devices.

Bruno, Nuvia's senior vice president of system engineering, was previously a system architect at Google, where he helped lead areas such as SoC definition, competitive performance and power analysis. Prior to that, he spent half a decade in a similar role in Apple's platform architecture group, where he helped start the company's silicon competitive analysis team.

Scott Darling, president of Dell Technologies Capital, called the formation of Nuvia "a prime example of remarkable innovation born in Silicon Valley."

"The best companies start when founders with outstanding track records of performance come together to identify a big problem and line up the best investment team to help them succeed," he said in a statement. "As part of that team, we’re focused on providing Nuvia with [Dell Technologies Capital's] unique value and market leverage."

The startup's other investors include Capricorn Investment Group, Mayfield, WRVI Capital and Nepenthe LLC.

The news was first reported by Reuters.

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