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Naveen Rao

Fascinated by synthetic and biological computation as a kid, Naveen Rao trained and worked as both a computer architect and neuroscientist. Rao was the CEO and cofounder of Nervana, which was acquired by Intel in August 2016. He now leads the AI Products Group as VP/GM and strongly believes that it’s in Intel Nervana’s DNA to bring together engineering disciplines and neural computational paradigms to make machines smarter.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 12.16.04 PMToday, we’re excited to announce the planned acquisition of Nervana by Intel*.  With this acquisition, Intel is formally committing to pushing the forefront of AI technologies.  Nervana intends to continue all existing development efforts including the Nervana Neon deep learning framework, Nervana deep learning platform, and the Nervana Engine deep learning hardware.  The combination of Nervana’s technology and expertise incorporated into Intel’s portfolio will take deep learning/AI solutions to the next level.  We will continue to operate out of our San Diego Headquarters and will retain our talent, brand, and start-up mentality.

Nervana started with the idea that we can engineer better solutions for computation by bringing together computer engineering, neuroscience, and machine learning.  Amir Khosrowshahi and I brought this idea to Bruno Olshausen (Amir’s PhD advisor) before founding Nervana.  Bruno said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Do it.  Do it now!  You might already be too late.”  This was the catalyst that pushed us over the edge to pursue the idea fully.  At this point we invited Arjun Bansal to join the founding team and Nervana was born.  Amir then sought advice from his cousin Ali Partovi, co-founder of Code.org and iLike and a well-connected angel investor.  Ali became our first investor and trusted advisor to the company.  He made introductions to his network and we pulled together a very high-caliber set of seed investors.  Soon after, Carey Kloss and Andrew Yang (close friends and ex coworkers of mine) joined Nervana to lead the hardware development efforts.  We’re proud to say that in just 2.5 years, we pushed the performance envelope in deep learning and will soon have a revolutionary new architecture to push it even further.

We’ve always been a mission driven company.  Even though we won’t be a startup any longer, our mission hasn’t changed: we are here to make a dent in the world of computation.  With this deal, we can now shatter the old paradigm and move into a new regime of computing.  We’ll look back in 10 years and see this time as the inflection point of when compute architectures became neural.  The semiconductor integrated circuit is one of humanity’s crowning achievements and Intel has the best semiconductor technology in the world.  Nervana’s AI expertise combined with Intel’s capabilities and huge market reach will allow us to realize our vision and create something truly special.

Having strong investors who believed in the company was key.  We were very fortunate to have board members Steve Jurvetson (DFJ) lead our Series A and Matt Ocko (DCVC) our Series A1.  Their inherent interest in innovation and deep technical knowledge was the force that made this company happen.  In addition, Playground Global, CME Ventures, Lux Capital, Allen & Co, AME Cloud Ventures, Fuel Capital, Omidyar Technology Ventures, SV Angel and our seed investors were great partners with which to build a company.

Many thanks to Allen & Company LLC who acted as exclusive financial advisor to Nervana in this transaction.

Sincerely,

Naveen Rao
CEO and Co-founder of Nervana

What our investors have to say:

“The venture world doesn’t often get excited about a chip company these days but Naveen and the Nervana founding team’s audacious plan to build a deep learning compute fabric that would take AI to the next frontier had us captivated from day one. Cheers to the Nervana team on their incredible work so far and the incredible accomplishments that will be possible as part of the Intel team.”
– Steve Jurvetson, Managing Partner, DFJ

“It’s not that often in a VC career you get to work with teams you’re sure will be featured in documentaries about how major industries changed — Nervana’s talented and driven founders and employees are such a team. DCVC was privileged to back Nervana in its mission to make transformative AI capabilities as ubiquitous and seamless as Internet access.  We can’t wait to see their next set of breakthroughs, delivered at even greater speed, with Intel behind them.”
– Matt Ocko, Managing Partner, Data Collective (DCVC)

“Our strategic investment in Nervana Systems has been an exceptional experience for CME Group, leading our company to advance our understanding of deep learning. We’re pleased with the news of their acquisition since we view their technology as foundational in our industry and look forward to seeing what else they will achieve as they make it even more scalable.”
– Rumi Morales, Executive Director, CME Ventures

“In Nervana, we found a magical hardware and software team that together would empower developers to bring us tomorrow’s intelligent machines,”
– Shahin Farshchi, Partner, Lux Capital

“Nervana is a testament to the magic of best in class technical teams coming together with a shared vision. We look forward to seeing this talented team build the compute architecture powering the next generation of intelligent applications as part of Intel.”
– Todor Tashev, Managing Partner, Omidyar Technology Ventures

See Intel’s blog announcement by Diane Bryant here.

 

*Transaction is subject to certain regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions

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