Menu visibility control



Startup Surgery

Most Recent

Tech City Voices

Spring Budget 2017: The key takeaways for tech entrepreneurs


Top tech stats: Job automation, driverless cars and much more


Startup Weekly: Nesta’s £5m prize fund, Digital Catapult and Seedcamp’s VR cohort and much more

Press Releases

Starling Bank unveils beta as it begins roll out to first customers
VentureFounders surpasses £40m funding mark in 2 years of operation
Software testing leader TestPlant appoints Dr. John Bates as CEO

Graphcore co-founder Nigel Toon on how you can make your startup a success

Nigel Toon Graphcore

At Tech City News, we’re always keen to shine a light on those who make up the UK’s thriving technology community.

This week, we spoke with Nigel Toon, CEO and co-founder of Graphcore, an AI chip startup. 

He shared some advice on what tech startup founders should do to keep their companies afloat and make them a success.

Graphcore’s $30m Series A, Uber’s employment tribunal ruling & more in the Week in Tech

Tech vertical: Machine learning / AI

Funding: $30m Series A

Staff count: 40

Location: Bristol

Founded: 2014

Q: Where did the idea for Graphcore come from?

At Graphcore, we make processors for innovators looking to expand human potential with machine learning and AI technology. Simon (CTO and co-founder) and I started thinking about the fundamental compute challenges of machine learning workloads, which are completely different to other types of computing, about five years ago. Over the last three years we built the best team capable of re-thinking processors and produced a completely different solution. We’ve created a new processor that’s the first to be specifically designed for machine learning workloads – an Intelligent Processing Unit (IPU) that will set a new pace of innovation. We emerged from stealth in October, but we started exploring the idea a long time before that.

Q: What’s your background? What were you doing before?

I was CEO of two VC-backed silicon companies before founding Graphcore; Picochip, which was sold to Mindspeed in 2012 and most recently, XMOS, in which Graphcore was incubated for two years before being established as a separate entity in 2016. Before that I was co-founder of Icera, a 3G cellular modem chip company which was sold to NVIDIA in 2011 for $435m.

Before that, I was Vice President at Altera for 13 years where I was responsible for establishing and building the European business that grew to over $400m annual revenues.

Q: Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I have spent over five years of my working life in Silicon Valley without ever living there. I hate to think how many years of my life I have spent on a plane.

Q: What has been the most challenging part about setting up your company?

We have built a team of around 40 of the best silicon and software engineers in the world over the last two years, mainly by recruiting people we have worked with before. We have also attracted a renowned set of investors, including Bosch, Samsung, Amadeus Capital, C4 Ventures, Draper Esprit, Foundation Capital & Pitango Ventures. None of this has been easy.

Q: Have you had any mentors along the way, if so, what have they helped with?

I have been fortunate to know Sir Robin Saxby for the last 20 years (Saxby grew ARM to the global giant it is today as its first CEO) and he has been a constant source of inspiration.

Q: What can we expect from Graphcore in the next 12 months?

Our IPU (Intelligent Processing Unit) Appliance will be in the market and we’ll have customers using our systems for machine learning.

Q: Name three things that every tech founder out there should do to guarantee his/her company’s success.

Surround yourself with the best and most intelligent team of people you can.

With startups when you should think differently about your company’s SWOT analysis – you’ll have way too many weaknesses and threats so focus relentlessly on your strengths and opportunities.

Finally, don’t let your company run out of cash.

Enter your e-mail address to receive updates straight to your inbox

* indicates required
Send me news on...

Editor's picks

Big Ben Spring Budget 2017

Spring Budget 2017: The key takeaways for tech entrepreneurs
posted 12 hours ago

jobs automation top tech stats

Top tech stats: Job automation, driverless cars and much more
posted on March 25, 2017

Startup Weekly

Startup Weekly: Nesta’s £5m prize fund, Digital Catapult and Seedcamp’s VR cohort and much more
posted on March 24, 2017

London skyline

FinTech startup Quantexa lands $3.3m Series A led by Albion Ventures and HSBC
posted on March 24, 2017

The North of England

The top tech hubs in the North of England
posted on March 24, 2017

TWIT Emily 23.03.17

A $30.4m Series B, a £120m AI fund, a Mario Kart hack and more in The Week in Tech
posted on March 24, 2017