|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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Shivaram Venkatesh Nellaiappan, Sr. Marketing Engineer at SiFive—November 14, 2019
Our SiFive Tech Symposiums in Pakistan Drew Over 2,500 Attendees!
SiFive’s Tech Symposiums in Pakistan were a huge success, with the participation of more than 2,500 people from across the country. One of the symposiums was held at the NED University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi, and the other took place at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore. We are grateful to both of these universities for co-hosting these events with us, and to Lampro Mellon for partnering with us. All three were instrumental in making these symposiums world-class events. Attendees included students and professors, as well as delegations from federal and state governments of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The policy-making officials from the IT and education ministry also participated very actively in the symposiums. Everyone was extremely motivated and enthusiastic to learn more about the RISC-V ISA and the latest innovations. There were informative and engaging presentations by Naveed Sherwani (President & CEO), Krste Asanovic (Co-Founder & Chief Architect), Yunsup Lee (Co-Founder & CTO), Thomas Xu (CEO, SiFive China), Shafy Eltoukhy (SVP, Silicon BU), Anand Bariya (VP, Engineering), Muhammad Ahmed (Architect) and many others.
The symposium witnessed the first and formal adoption of RISC-V as the architecture of choice for all public universities in Pakistan’s Punjab Province. An MOU was signed in the presence of HE Sardar Usman Buzdar (Chief Minister of Punjab), Mr. Raja Humayun (Minister of Higher Education, Punjab Province), Krste Asanovic (SiFive), Naveed Sherwani (SiFive), Sabahat Rafiq (CEO, Lampro Mellon), Thomas Xu (SiFive China), Dr. Shafy Elthouky (SiFive), Chairman of Punjab Planning Division, Chairman of Punjab Higher Education Commission, Vice Chancellor of UET Lahore, Mr. Farooq Arshad (PTI Information Secretary), among other distinguished guests in Lahore.
#Nvidia to buy ARM Holdings from #SoftBank for $40 billion. ARM embedded processor cores are widely used in custom SOCs. #SiliconValley chip giant projected about 46% growth in revenue for the third quarter in its last earnings report. #semiconductor
SoftBank will sell Arm to Nvidia in a $40 billion deal, the companies announced Sunday night
Arm designs the architecture for mobile chips used in almost every mobile device in the world, from the iPhone to just practically every Android device.
SoftBank bought Arm for $31.4 billion in 2016, and the sale is seen as a move to raise much-needed cash as it has recently lost a significant amount of money in its high-profile investments in companies like WeWork and Uber.
Chipmaker Nvidia has agreed to buy Arm Holdings, a designer of chips for mobile phones, from SoftBank in a deal worth $40 billion, the companies announced Sunday. The deal will include $21.5 billion in Nvidia stock and $12 billion in cash, including $2 billion payable at signing.
Softbank acquired Arm in 2016 for $31.4 billion in 2016 in one of its largest acquisitions ever. Arm is best known as the designer of an architecture used in chips in most mobile phones, including the Qualcomm chips used in most Android phones, as well as Apple’s iPhone. Apple is also planning to shift its Mac computers from Intel chips to an Arm-based design.
Nvidia, whose chips are widely used to support graphics and artificial intelligence applications, including for self-driving vehicles, pledged that it would “continue Arm’s open-licensing model and customer neutrality.”
SoftBank bought Arm as an investment in the so-called Internet of Things -- the idea that wireless connectivity among everyday items such as refrigerators, cars and other devices would lead to useful new scenarios.
At the time, Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son told reporters, “This is a company I always admired for the last 10 years...This is the company I wanted to make part of SofBbank. I am so happy.”
However, SoftBank’s finances have deteriorated this year as the company has lost money on investments in companies like WeWork and Uber. More recently, the company’s shares lost value as it was reported that it had taken some large stakes in tech giants, which have suffered a loss in stock market value in early September. It’s unclear how much money SoftBank will actually make on the sale, since it has likely invested a lot in Arm since the acquisition.
The company is also looking for cash to help start-ups it invested in through its Vision Fund, many of which have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Earlier this summer it announced it would sell up to $21 billion of its stake in T-Mobile.
Meanwhile, Nvidia is on an absolute tear, thanks in part to a boom in video games due to the pandemic. This week, it will launch a new graphics card for PCs that shows promising performance for PC gamers. The company projected about 46% growth in revenue for the third quarter in its last earnings report.
The White House released a report on Tuesday that offers a solemn assessment of American companies prioritizing profits over national security and long-term sustainability. “A focus on maximizing short-term capital returns has led to the private sector’s underinvestment in long-term resilience,” the 250-page report states. The United States has a competitive advantage over China in the production of semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME), which provides a chokepoint that can limit “advanced semiconductor capabilities in countries of concern.”
The report details the findings and recommendations of the Administration’s 100-day supply chain review required by President Biden’s executive order from February that directed the review of four key industries: semiconductors, large capacity batteries, critical minerals and pharmaceuticals. The report states that the Chinese government’s “massive subsidy campaign [as much as $200 billion over the past eight years] to develop its domestic semiconductor capability” has exploited “gray areas” in international trade rules and avoided World Trade Organization (WTO) oversight. The Chinese government has propped up key tech industries, including semiconductors manufacturing and SME production, through a “novel subsidy strategy” meant to avoid “transparency requirements of the WTO subsidy regime.” Essentially, government subsidies are booked as “investments” to avoid WTO disclosure rules.
This one of many “innovation mercantilist” tactics that Chinese state has practiced for years, according to a recent report and event by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation which details China’s deleterious impact on competitive international ecosystems for semiconductors, telecommunications equipment, biopharmaceuticals, solar photovoltaics, and high-speed rail. Co-author Stephen Ezell estimates that the US loses out on some 5000 semiconductors patents annually because of this predation.
The Chinese Communist Party has made a concerted effort to dominate the semiconductor market. The Made in China 2025 plan aims to produce 70 percent of China’s chip demand indigenously and pledges as much as $1.4 trillion of investment into China’s semiconductor industries.
Memory chips are the “most mature” of these efforts. Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), which has received $24 billion in state subsidies, has emerged as a “national champion memory chip producer.” A report by James Mulvenon this year identifies ties between YMTC and the People’s Liberation Army.
“It’s not just YMTC,” cautioned Emily de La Bruyère, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, during a China Tech Threat roundtable forum this week. “Changxin Memory Technologies [CXMT] is equally propped up and potentially equally connected to the [People’s Liberation Army].” The roundtable titled "Let the Chips Fall?" explored the theme of how the next Undersecretary for the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) should address semiconductor policy.
The White House report appears to be a de facto roadmap for the next BIS chief and is notable for naming leading Chinese fabs with military connections which have yet to be designated as Military End Users or on the Entity List. In no uncertain words, the bipartisan United State China Commission issued a report earlier this month, Unfinished Business: Export Control and Foreign Investment Reforms which critiqued BIS for failing to issue the lists of foundational and emerging technologies as required by the 2018 Export Reform and Control Act. Such a publication would likely trigger action against the Chinese fabs.
“While the United States no longer leads the world in semiconductor manufacturing capabilities,” it has a competitive advantage over China in semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME), the White House report adds.
How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.
Of course the East plays a central role in the global economy. As recent market turmoil illustrates, Russia is a key supplier of not just oil and gas but metals such as palladium, used in catalytic converters, and nickel. China dominates manufacturing of countless goods whose value became abundantly clear during the pandemic, when demand for some, such as protective personal equipment, skyrocketed.
To a great extent these strengths reflect Russia’s comparative advantage in geology and China’s in factory labor. The West’s comparative advantage is in knowledge. That’s why Russia and China court Western investment. For example, to develop a complex liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Arctic, Russia relied on Norwegian, French and Italian contractors for essential expertise, research firm Rystad Energy notes.
Catching up with the West is no easy task, as semiconductors illustrate. Western companies dominate all the key steps in this critical and highly complex industry, from chip design (led by U.S.-based Nvidia, Intel, Qualcomm and AMD and Britain’s ARM) to the fabrication of advanced chips (led by Intel, Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung ) and the sophisticated machines that etch chip designs onto wafers (produced by Applied Materials and Lam Research in the U.S., the Netherlands’ ASML Holding and Japan’s Tokyo Electron ).
Russia and China have made efforts to reduce this dependence. Russia developed locally designed microprocessors called Elbrus and Baikal to run data centers, cybersecurity operations and other applications. Though neither has achieved significant market share, they “represent the pinnacle of local design capability,” said Kostas Tigkos, principal at Jane’s, a defense intelligence provider. Russia hoped that they would eventually displace chips made by Intel and AMD, he said. “This would not only have been the foundation for diversifying their installed base, but a stepping stone for exports of those processors to other friendly nations.” But without manufacturers like TSMC to make the chips, Russia is facing “the complete disintegration of their aspirations to develop their own industry.”
China has a much bigger semiconductor industry than Russia, and its partly state-owned national champion, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC), could in theory make Russia’s chips, but that would take at least a year, Mr. Tigkos said. Moreover, its efforts to catch up to its Taiwanese competitor have been set back by sanctions. In 2020 the U.S. required companies using American technology to obtain a license to sell to SMIC. This effectively limited its ability to acquire advanced equipment from Netherlands’ ASML, which is critical for “any country that wants to have a competitive semiconductor industry,” Mr. Tigkos said.
Why does all this matter to the outcome of the geopolitical contest? Over time economic weight, strength and vitality are what allow countries to sustain military capability, achieve and maintain technological superiority, and remain attractive partners for other countries.
Yet GDP does not automatically equate to strategic influence. To win a Cold War, it’s not enough for the West to hold the best economic cards, it has to know how to play them. Economic statecraft, as this is called, does not come naturally to the West: Its institutions are built on the assumption that companies are private enterprises, not instruments of the state. They do business wherever it’s profitable, regardless of their home countries’ strategic interests.
The rocky road ahead for Pakistan’s start-up ecosystem | fDi Intelligence – Your source for foreign direct investment information - fDiIntelligence.com
February 22, 2023
Based out of the NED University of Engineering and Technology, NIC Karachi is funded by Pakistan’s national technology fund, Ignite, and operated by LMKT, a private tech company which runs two other NICs in the cities of Hyderabad and Peshawar.
Atif Khan, the chairman and CEO of LMKT, says the philosophy behind the incubation centres “was not to create unicorns”, but to act as digital skills development centres: “We are training and grooming a lot of talent in the country.”
NIC Karachi has already incubated more than 250 start-ups, such as ride-hailing app Bykea and London-based proptech platform Gridizen. Kamran Mahmood, the CEO of Gridizen, who recently returned to Pakistan to join NIC Karachi, says he has found it even easier to meet decision makers at large companies in Pakistan than the UK.
“[NIC Karachi] is doing an excellent job of internationalising and progressing the start-up scene in the country,” he says. Data Darbar figures show that Karachi-based start-ups attracted $236.7m of funding in 2022, equivalent to two-thirds of Pakistan's total and almost double the previous year. The financial capital is followed by Lahore ($69.2m) and Islamabad ($41.6m).
In July 2022, Pakistan’s fledgling start-up scene was dealt a major blow. Airlift, a fast delivery start-up that had raised $85m barely a year earlier, said it would permanently close operations due to the “devastating impact” of worsening economic conditions.
“This has been an extremely taxing decision that impacts a large set of stakeholders and an emerging technology ecosystem,” Airlift wrote in a statement. Start-up failures are common in more mature markets, and seen as an integral part of the innovation and disruption process. But the collapse of a company hoped to be Pakistan’s first ‘unicorn’, or start-up valued at above $1bn, rattled the country’s nascent tech scene.
Several advisors, investors and entrepreneurs tell fDi that Airlift’s failure has caused Pakistani start-up founders and investors to shift their focus away from pursuing “hyper-growth” to building more “sustainable” business models.
Similar to the caution permeating the global tech and venture capital (VC) industry, start-up funding in Pakistan has dropped considerably. Start-ups in Pakistan raised just over $15m in the final quarter of 2022, the worst volumes since the first quarter of 2020 and 79% lower than the same period a year earlier, according to Data Darbar, which tracks the Pakistani start-up scene.
“Given the global slowdown and Pakistan’s macroeconomic and political challenges, things are tough right now and will likely remain so in 2023,” says Aatif Awan, the founder of early stage venture fund Indus Valley Capital, which is focused on Pakistan and had invested in Airlift.
Several acute challenges currently facing the country — including dwindling foreign exchange reserves, security issues, blackouts and severe flood risks — are causing many young Pakistanis to leave. Despite significant obstacles, those involved in Pakistan’s ecosystem believe that the country’s demographics and rapidly digitalising economy make it an untapped opportunity with potential for long-term growth.
When Shamim Rajani co-founded her software development business Genetech Solutions in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi back in 2004, she remembers a “lot of stubbornness” from the government and local corporates towards the IT sector.
“Pakistan wasn’t [even] ready for women CEOs in the tech sector then,” remarks Ms Rajani, adding that she had to look for global clients in countries like the US. “Saying these words today, I don’t even believe it myself.”
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