Karachi's NED University Alum's Startup Has Raised $190 Million to Challenge ARM's Dominance
|Dr. Naveed Sherwani|
ARM architecture is owned and controlled by ARM Holdings which charges license fees for its use. RISC V architecture, on the other hand, is available as open-source and royalty-free. While the use of RISC V specifications and instruction set architecture (ISA) can be used by companies for in-house designs royalty-free, SiFive sells is its core design and IP (intellectual property) based on this architecture. The company's IP Cores are the most widely deployed RISC-V cores in the world. SiFive Core IP is verified and delivered in Verilog for custom SoC (System on Chip) designs.
Availability of open-source processor architecture has gained significance because of the ongoing US-China technology war. RISC-V can be used freely by anyone in the world, and Chinese companies are particularly interested in it because it is a potential alternative to Intel and ARM. Kevin Wolf, former assistant secretary of the US Department of Commerce, said that technology that has been published for anyone to use is not regulated by the US Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and is not subject to the entity list, according to a report in SemiMedia.
In the midst of the US-China trade war, Dr. Naveed Sherwani sees a huge opportunity for SiFive business in China. He has been quoted in the media as saying: “We plan to expand the Chinese market significantly. The trade war has convinced China to build more chips inside China, and we have helped and benefited a lot. About 3-4 years ago, we realized that the trade war will be inevitable, so we decided to set up a completely independent company in China."
To seize this opportunity, Dr. Sherwani has set up Shanghai SaiFang Technology Company as an independent company in China. SiFive holds less than 20% of this company's shares. If SiFive is completely blocked by US government in the future, SiFive China can still serve Chinese customers. SiFive will release a 5G chip based on RISC-V architecture in the near future. Although these chips cannot be directly exported to China, the design can be transferred to SiFive China, and the local team is responsible for building chips in China, according to SemiMedia.
Dr. Naveed Sherwani is a serial entrepreneur with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Karachi's NED Engineering University in 1983. He has a Ph.D. in computer engineering from University of Nebraska. He has taught at Western Michigan University and authored four books and over 100 papers. Sherwani headed Intel's ASIC division before starting Open Silicon, a fabless semiconductor company that offered turn-key custom ASIC solutions. He was the CEO of Peernova before joining SiFive as its chief executive officer.
NED University alumni Idris Kothari and Saeed Kazmi are among the early pioneering duo in the world of technology startups in Silicon Valley. Since 1980s, they have started, built and sold several technology companies, including VPNet, Silicon Design and VIA Technology. They are currently running Vertical Systems Inc. which has a development center in Pakistan.
Dr. Naveed Sherwani is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of Pakistani origin in Silicon Valley. His startups have solved real pain points faced by buyers of computer and communication chips. Naveed and his wife Sabahat Rafiq also volunteer time for and contribute to Silicon Valley community and support education in Pakistan. Other successful NED alumni in Silicon Valley include Raghib Husain (Cavium/Marvel), Safwan Shah (PayActiv), Ashraf Habibullah (CSI), Rehan Jalil (Securiti.ai) and Khalid Raza (Viptela). They all serve to inspire NEDians and Pakistanis everywhere.
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