nVidia launches venture fund for GPU software

Chipmaker nVidia is to try to encourage startups to develop software for graphics processors (GPUs) by forming a venture-financing operation.

Jeff Herbst, vice president of business development for nVidia, said the creation of the GPU Ventures Programme formalises some of the investment efforts that the company has underway. Herbst said that, although nVidia is currently in talks to help finance several startups, the company does not want to miss possible deals with firms it does not have contact with already.

“We want to capture the largest group of companies that we can. I know that there are companies all over the world working on GPU and visual computing, in countries such as India and China. We want to make sure that they have access to us,” said Herbst.

The GPU supplier has already invested in a number of US and European firms that write software for GPUs or visual applications, including video codec supplier Elemental Technologies and Keyhole, which wrote the software that formed the basis for Google Earth.

Herbst outlined the targets for funding: “Anything that leverages GPUs, especially anything that leverages CUDA,” referring to the programming environment through which nVidia provides access to the multiple processors that sit on its GPUs.

The company will invest in companies that write software for other chipmakers’ GPUs. “We want the companies to be successful in their own right,” claimed Herbst. “We don’t want to exclude things”

The programme will be publicised through a part of the nVidia website called the GPU Venturezone, which launches today (10 March).

Herbst said the investments could go higher but will typically range from $500,000 to $5m. “We add the most value at the seed and Series A stages and we prefer to invest in rounds where there is a VC lead investor. We would like to use this money as a catalyst to help them raise more money.”

“It is not just about the money: it is all the other stuff we can provide, such as the GPU Venturezone,” Herbst said. “We can help them become leaner and meaner. We will let them use our website to promote their products and have access to our sales team, so we can help them achieve profitability faster. Once they are profitable, they can do more of their own sales and marketing.”

nVidia will not set up a separate fund in the way that other companies, such as Intel, have done. “The money will come directly from nVidia and the operation will be run by my team,” Herbst explained. “We don’t feel that we have to set up a separate entity. We don’t have limited partners involved.”

Access to the Venturezone website will not be limited to companies that receive money from nVidia. “Most of the companies there don’t get funding from us. But we want to include as many of the companies working in this area as possible,” Herbst claimed.

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