Qualcomm recently invested in SiFive, a fabless semiconductor company that makes custom silicon products based on the RISC-V open architecture.
The Qualcomm investment was part of a $65.4 million series D round for SiFive that promises to help position Qualcomm for continued growth. Overall, SiFive has raised $125 million in funding.
SiFive is a competitor to Arm, which has supplied Qualcomm and other companies with chip designs for years. SiFive, based in San Mateo, California, has grown from 40 workers to 400 in the past 18 months and now has 15 officials globally. “We are excited to invest in SiFive to bring the potential of RISC-V to wireless and mobile,” said Quinn Li, senior vice president of Qualcomm, in a statement.
Last year, Qualcomm also created a $100 million fund to invest in AI work.
Samsung and Intel are also investors in SiFive, which now counts six of the top 10 chipmakers among its customers.
SiFive has deals for more than 100 licenses for RISC-V processors. The company claims it can develop a chip design in under three months, while competitors like Arm might take a year or longer. On its website, SiFive even claims it can help customers design a RISC-V CPU in under one hour.
RISC-V is an open-source hardware instruction set architecture that relies on reduced instruction set computing (RISC) concepts. As such, it is widely used in IoT devices, microcontrollers, network gear and even smartwatches such as one by Huami.
Arm Holdings, owned by Softbank, cut trading ties with China-based Huawei earlier in June following a series of U.S. government moves against Huawei that partly stemmed from worries over security and privacy. Huawei could itself be in line to use RISC-V architecture for its cell phones such as the P-20 and P-30.