SambaNova Systems was co-founded in 2017 in Palo Alto, Calif., by three industry luminaries in the field of artificial intelligence: Kunle Olukotun, Rodrigo Liang and Christopher Ré. While technically a semiconductor company at its core, SambaNova’s mission is much broader. They seek to enable the future of AI today by providing purpose-built deep learning solutions, delivered as a service, and deployable in weeks rather than years to accelerate AI adoption and value creation.
At first, the biggest communications challenge with SambaNova was creating buzz for the brand, its founders, top-tier investors and pedigree. They wanted to aid recruiting and attract trial customers despite the actual product not being available for roughly 18 months. Moreover, SambaNova was insistent the product details remain in stealth and a closely guarded secret — a necessity in the hyper-competitive AI chip market where other companies are quick to copy IP from newer players to maintain competitive advantage.
SambaNova’s executives were disappointed with the little media attention their $150M Series B round received in April 2019. After signing on, we were confident we could do better for their $250M Series C round in February 2020, provided SambaNova disclosed more about their business fundamentals. The results improved, with coverage of the round appearing in VentureBeat, FinSMEs, and Silicon Valley Business Journal, among others. Better still, the Series C allowed us to give the media a peek inside the super stealthy company. Tiernan Ray at ZDNet became an advocate with his profile in February 2020: “‘It’s not just AI, this is a change in the entire computing industry,’ says SambaNova CEO". This was followed by Nicole Hemsoth at TheNextPlatform piece: "Software has to lead hardware in the AI Dance", perfectly capturing SambaNova's software-driven approach to building silicon. The industry buzz had begun.
To maintain momentum until the GA launch, we leaned heavily into SambaNova’s sponsored content channels. We wrote articles for VentureBeat, like “The cutting-edge computer architecture that’s changing the AI game”; and for Forbes Tech Council such as “The Multicore Era Is Over — We Need A New Architecture For AI''. Both underscored the need for a new chip architecture built from the ground up to handle the enormous data flows AI-enabled apps would generate. This was a direct strike to NVIDIA's competing AI chip. SambaNova felt certain NVIDIA’s offering would not perform as the company claimed because it was built on top of their pre-existing CPUs as opposed to purpose-built for AI.
For the GA launch in December 2020, Bateman suggested setting the stage with a thoughtful contribution in an outlet that guaranteed mass readership. We created a compelling content piece entitled: “AI’s next act: Genius chips, programmable silicon and the future of computing”, and pitched it to notoriously selective TechCrunch. The editors agreed to publish it without a single edit on Dec. 3, 2020, one week before the GA launch.
The gamble paid off in spades. Bateman secured more coverage on the GA launch of SambaNova’s long-awaited AI chip set, and market-changing “AI-as-a-Service” offering than any company announcement to date. Positive product news pieces appeared in AnandTech, EE Times, HPCwire, SiliconANGLE, and ZDNet, among others. Our submission to the AIconics Awards resulted in SambaNova winning the “Best Innovation in AI Hardware” category for 2020 at the AI Summit.
We topped the GA launch off with a sponsored piece in VentureBeat entitled: “How AI and ML innovations are driving the need for hardware transformation”. In the following months, we kept a drumbeat of media placements, including “What Netflix’s Recommendation Systems Can Teach Us About The Computing Challenges Of The Near Future” in Forbes, Tiernan Ray’s “‘Weird new things are happening in software,’ says Stanford AI professor Chris Ré” in ZDNet, and Nicole Hemsoth’s sneak peek into Argonne National Laboratories in TheNextPlatform, “AI Systems Startup Scales Argonne’s Cosmic Cleanup”.
Finally, our submission for FAST COMPANY’s “Next Big Things in Tech” awards resulted in a win for SambaNova, published in Nov. 2021. SambaNova was officially on the map as the AI company attracting both attention and investment. On April 3, 2021, the company announced their record-breaking Series D financing round for $676M at a valuation of more than $5B, becoming far and away the world’s most valued AI startup.