Tenstorrent swaps CEOs as Apple, AMD, Intel alum takes helm of AI chip unicorn

Tenstorrent founder becomes CTO as company also hires ex-Google director as COO.

Renowned chip designer Jim Keller has become CEO of Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) hardware company Tenstorrent.

Keller, who first joined Tenstorrent as president and CTO two years ago, is shifting roles with CEO Ljubisa Bajic. As part of the leadership shuffle, which Keller and Bajic recently announced via LinkedIn, Bajic will now serve as president and CTO of the AI chip unicorn.

As Bajic wrote, the shift to CTO will allow him to dedicate his “full focus” to Tenstorrent’s tech.

Along with the CEO change, Tenstorrent also announced that it has appointed fellow ex-AMD and Tesla executive Keith Witek as COO. Witek comes to Tenstorrent from Google where he worked as a director of strategic alliances. At Tenstorrent, he has been tasked with helping scale the company’s operations and strategy.

Tenstorrent, which is headquartered in Toronto with operations in Austin, Texas, and Silicon Valley, develops computing hardware for AI applications. In 2021, Tenstorrent closed over $200 million USD in Series C funding led by Fidelity Management at a $1 billion valuation. The company has secured around $244 million in total to date, from a group that also includes Eclipse Ventures and Montréal-based Real Ventures.

Bajic, formerly an architect at chip giants AMD and Nvidia, founded Tenstorrent in 2016 and has led the firm since then. As Bajic wrote, the shift to CTO will allow him to dedicate his “full focus” to Tenstorrent’s tech, including its forthcoming open-source software stack, hardware, and machine learning (ML) solutions.

For his part, Keller is an experienced microprocessing engineer known for his work with Apple, AMD, Tesla, and Intel. Keller most recently served as senior VP of silicon engineering at Intel, and VP of autopilot hardware engineering at Tesla. He was an early angel investor in Tenstorrent prior to joining the Toronto company’s C-suite in 2021.

RELATED: Hardware startup Tenstorrent raises over $200 million in funding, claims $1 billion valuation

“I am both humbled and proud to be CEO of such an outstanding company and am confident we are going to turn quite a few heads this year with our accomplishments,” wrote Keller.

Tenstorrent has developed a computer processing chip called Grayskull that is designed for ML platforms. The Grayskull chip has 120 processors called “Tensix” cores that make the chips suitable for deep learning forms of AI. Tenstorrent initially planned to bring Grayskull to market in late 2021, but a company spokesperson confirmed to BetaKit that Tenstorrent delayed that to develop the software clients would use with these chips.

Over the past year, Tenstorrent has added David Bennett as chief customer officer, opened new offices in Belgrade and Bangalore, and added RISC-V as a priority to its product roadmap. To support its product development plans, Tenstorrent aims to add 100 engineers this year to its 280-person team.

Feature image courtesy Jim Keller via LinkedIn.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on breaking news and telling in-depth Canadian tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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