KAUST Startup UnitX in $2m deal with Wa’ed Ventures fund

Front left: Dr. Kevin Cullen, VP KAUST Innovation and Economic Development; Wassim Basrawi, managing director at Wa’ed Ventures; Kiran Narayanan, CEO UnitX. Back (from left) Salman Jaffrey, chief investment officer at Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures; Muhammad Zeeshan Hassan, investment director at Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures. — Courtesy photo

Saudi Gazette report

UnitX, an artificial intelligence (AI) and supercomputing startup spin-out company from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and a barrier-breaking cloud-based supercomputing provider that helps enterprises deploy AI at scale, has secured $2 million of co-investment from the KAUST Innovation Fund and Saudi Armco’s Wa’ed Ventures Fund.

This injection of joint funding will support UnitX in its quest to democratize supercomputing and help enterprises of all sizes leverage technologies such as high-performance data analytics to make data-driven decisions, reduce IT spending, innovate and become globally competitive.

Successful AI adoption requires scale: the infrastructure to perform both big compute (trillions of calculations per second), and big data (analysis of data in excess of 2 terabytes) tasks. Modern supercomputers are specialized machines that process both tasks efficiently, at much higher speeds compared to public clouds. However, they can cost tens of millions of dollars to own and operate and have been affordable by only large companies, universities and government. UnitX democratizes supercomputing via partnerships with institutions that have spare supercomputing capacity and by making it available in an easy-to-use cloud model to its clients in traditionally underserved industry verticals, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Tamer Osman, head of the KAUST Innovation Fund, said that,“UnitX is bridging a new frontier in advancing big compute power and making it more accessible to sectors that have previously been unable to access the benefits of supercomputing. At KAUST, we are actively investing in startups and technology that are shaping industry 4.0, and UnitX is deep tech startup at the forefront of this revolution.”

Salman T. Jaffrey, Chief Investment Officer at Wa’ed Ventures and incoming board member on UnitX, praised the efforts and ambition of UnitX’s cofounders — Kiran Narayanan, Ravi Samtaney, Ankita Shree, and Salman Kattan — and their inspiring journey. “We are thrilled to have led this investment with KAUST, which is testament to our fund’s inimitable approach on fueling the growth of Kingdom-based startups and shared vision of advancing the Saudi venture ecosystem” remarked Jaffrey.

Various key industry verticals, including governments, healthcare, manufacturing, banking, retail, and insurance, are currently neither adequately nor accessibly served by big compute, data analytics and AI. Those industries face the dual challenges of running big compute workloads while simultaneously integrating different IT resources. Currently, the standard solutions of on-premise servers, public cloud providers, and supercomputing centers have significant access barriers and security concerns. According to figures from IDC, the market for supercomputing demand is currently valued at $224 billion with a projected 25% year-on-year growth.