Moore Threads, a China-based GPU developer, raised around $215.4 million in Series B funding to finance its continuous multi-functional GPU research and development, reports DigiTimes. The fund-raising signals investors' confidence in the rise of China GPU development in general fueled by the country's need for AI/ML accelerators as well as graphics processors for gaming.
Since its inception in late 2020, Moore Threads has introduced two graphics processors compatible with the company's MUSA computing platform — Sudi and Chunxiao — and multiple add-in-boards (AIBs) built around that base design. Both multi-functional GPUs are designed for numerous markets, including gaming, cloud computing, artificial intelligence/machine learning, FP32 high-performance computing, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Pursuing so many market opportunities lets Moore Threads attract investors with various backgrounds.
In its Series B funding round, Moore Threads secured $215.4 million from an investment fund of China Mobile and Hexe Health Insurance. China Mobile can take advantage of Moore Threads GPU's AI/ML, gaming, and cloud computing capabilities, whereas Hexe Health Insurance is probably interested primarily in the acceleration of its artificial intelligence workloads.
Meanwhile, the company received seed funding and A Series funding rounds from ByteDance (Tik Tok owner), Tencent, Shenzhen Capital Group (SCGC), Sequoia China, and GGV Capital. The Series A funding round brought the company around $313 million.
Moore Threads' latest Chunxiao is a rather complex GPU containing 22 billion transistors and packing 4,096 stream processors, 128 tensor cores, 256 texture units, and 256 render outputs clocked at 1.80 GHz. The unit supports FP32, FP16, and INT8 precision for various workloads and comes with a video engine that supports AV1, H.264, and H.265 codecs for up to 8K videos as well as can decode up to 32 streams at a 1080p30 resolution.
Meanwhile, the Chunxiao-based MTT S80 16GB graphics card yet has to demonstrate its full potential in video games popular in Europe and the U.S. as it currently fails to beat even Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 despite its higher complexity and compute performance (14.4 FP32 TFLOPS vs 12.7 FP32 TFLOPS) due to imperfect drivers.
Yet, the MTT S80 as well as its datacenter-oriented MTT S3000 sibling can be used to play games popular in China as well as for remote Android game rendering, VDI, various artificial intelligence, machine learning, light high-performance computing (HPC) that only requires FP32 precision, and video streaming workloads. Essentially, Moore Threads' Chunxiao GPU meets all the primary goals of a Chinese GPU developer — address China's needs in AI/ML, gaming, cloud computing, and video streaming.
Moore Threads has proven that it can build rather complex and capable graphics processors, but now the company's main challenge is to ensure that these GPUs can address all the workloads they are intended for, which means developing drivers and the rest of the software stack. Market leader Nvidia has spent years polishing off its drivers to address markets that Moore Threads wants to address. Will Moore Threads be able to do the same in a shorter amount of time is something only time will tell. But at least investors seem to be confident that over time the company will be able to at least partially replace Nvidia in China.
This is the key point. They know they'll receive preferential treatment in their domestic market, which is probably already enough for their company to be viable. Now that they've shown they can implement hardware that seems to have all the key specs, it's probably seen as a fairly low-risk investment.
However, you'd expect them to invest in low-risk assets, with stable returns. I can understand taking on a little more risk, in a blended approach, but it does seem a bit extreme to go investing in startups. However, as the article mentions, perhaps they see it as more than a pure asset, and are instead focused on developing technology they want to use for the sake of their own claims and risk-analysis processes.
An Insurance company having a diversified portfolio of capital stocks that include a reasonable portion in aggressive growth stocks makes perfect sense.
Becoming a major capital investor in the same aggressive company might not be good for the stability of the company, economy or the insured customers.
OTOH - Investing in the interest of the social credits involved and with knowledge of what the countries' leaders consider "too important (too connected?) to fail" could make this as solid as any Chinese "Blue Chip" stock.
Note to self - Rewatch the Nicholson/Polanski masterpiece Chinatown and remember to take the titular point literally. (and multiply by the cultural gulf of the actual Pacific Ocean)
A more topical choice would be The China Hustle, which I thought was fairly entertaining, for a documentary.
I understood it as closer to "the dynamics of Chinatown were so complex and foreign to the authorities that any action they took was likely to make things worse."
Like I said, I need to watch it again!