Israeli startup Hailo is the newest member welcomed into the Israeli Unicorn club following a $136 million Series C round. The investment was led by Poalim Equity and Gil Agmon. The round was joined by existing investors, including prominent Israeli entrepreneur and Hailo Chairman Zohar Zisapel, Swiss-based ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), London’s Latitude Ventures, Israel’s OurCrowd, and new investors, including Carasso Motors, Comasco, Shlomo Group, Talcar Corporation, and Automotive Equipment (AEV). According to reports, the mega-round was done at a market valuation of $1 billion, thus cementing the Israeli AI chip maker as the new Unicorn on the block.

The company’s product rivals some of the biggest tech companies in the world. For this reason, Hailo has recruited Mooly Eden, former Senior VP at Intel Corporation, to join Hailo’s board of directors, and Eyal Waldman, Co-Founder and former CEO of Mellanox Technologies, will join its advisory board.

Hailo has developed a specialized AI processor that delivers the performance of a data center-class computer to edge devices, such as drones, smart appliances, cameras, TVs, AR/VR products, wearables, IoT devices, and more.  Based on the neural networks of the human brain, the Hailo-8 flagship product delivers the same performance for smart devices as that provided by large data center computers, paving the way for a future of smarter edge products. More recently, the company launched both its M.2 and Mini PCIe high-performance AI acceleration modules for empowering edge devices

In a conversation with Geektime, Orr Danon, co-founder and CEO of Hailo, shares the startup’s busy year, as it continues trying to challenge the technology giants: “We have begun manufacturing the company’s first chip (Hailo-8). In addition, we’ve launched a product line for our AI accelerator cards based on the processor. Furthermore, we have announced collaborations with leading computing manufacturers from the embedded world, including Socionext, NXP, Foxconn, Lanner, Microsys, Vecow and more.” According to Danon, through software improvements, the company has managed to improve CPU performance 2X, and now the company also holds a database of models that is comparable in scope to those of Intel and NVIDIA.

Last time we talked, you claimed that the global pandemic would not impact your chip production. Is this still the case?

Danon: “COVID has undoubtedly created new challenges on a daily basis. The supply chain difficulties have indeed caused delays, sometimes in unexpected places, and we, like the rest of the semiconductor companies in the world, have to fight to get priority in the various fabrication plants. The scope of our activity and the profile of our customers help us a lot in convincing the factories that they should 'invest' in us by preserving the allocation of their expensive production capacity, in the expectation that Hailo will reach significant market shares in the future."

Hailo was founded in February 2017 by Orr Danon, Avi Baum, and Hadar Zeitlin. The company currently employs 160 people between offices in Tel Aviv, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and the U.S. To date, the up-and-coming Israeli chip innovator has raised $224 million. In addition,  Hailo recently announced a partnership with Macnica, a leading global semiconductor distributor in Japan.

“In the coming years, AI will become the defining feature for creating new business value and reshaping user experience as we know it. The ability to bring AI-based features to market will increasingly be the deciding factor over whether companies succeed or fail,” said former Intel executive Mooly Eden. “Hailo’s innovative and hyper-efficient processor architecture addresses the growing demand for a new kind of chip to handle these new types of workloads, challenging traditional computing solutions.”