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CoreWeave: The Underdog Powering Generative AI's Explosion

How their niche focus, tech stack, and partnerships disrupt the market

Welcome to our new series! AI Infrastructure Unicorns. They provide the hardware, software, and services necessary for Generative AI companies but even if GenAI will someday become extinct, these infrastructure builders won’t stay without the job as they serve a much bigger industry of AI/ML models in general.

From its humble beginnings as a cryptocurrency mining operation, CoreWeave has emerged as a leading player in the world of cloud computing for AI. Last December, their valuation climbed from $2 billion to $7 billion after a minority investment of $642 million led by Fidelity Management and Research Co.

Their strategic pivot and early access to NVIDIA's cutting-edge GPUs made this happen. CoreWeave's ability to provide powerful and cost-effective GPU resources is fueling the current generative AI revolution. But they don’t forget their roots and previous partners: on March 7, 2024, CoreWeave has entered into a multi-year contract worth up to $100 million to lease 16MW of data center space from Core Scientific, a Bitcoin mining and digital infrastructure provider.

Let's explore CoreWeave's pivotal history, their strategies, its claims of being picks and shovels for all AI applications, its vast technical infrastructure offerings, dependencies challenges, and what it means to be dancing between the feet of elephants. 

  1. Burning that skyscraper: how they started

  2. It’s getting cold – a turning point to AI

  3. The Generative AI explosion (and a frantic search for GPUs)

  4. Symbiotic partnership: say CoreWeave, hear NVIDIA

  5. Why does CoreWeave get early access to GPUs?

  6. Competition with ‘Big 3’

  7. Financial situation and partnerships

  8. Dancing between the feet of elephants

  9. Tech specs: What does the company offer?

  10. How CoreWeave achieve efficiency in working with compute-intensive workloads on an enterprise scale?

  11. Conclusion

Burning that skyscraper: how they started

In 2016, three commodity traders – Michael Intrator, Brian Venturo, and Brannin McBee – in a Manhattan office started a little hobby: they purchased one humble GPU to mine some Ethereum, hoping to “make an extra $1,000” here and there. Bitcoin was the leader in mining, but in 2015 a new cryptocurrency caught the miners' attention: Ethereum. According to the NYT, in March 2016, “Ethereum has soared in value, climbing 1,000 percent over the last three months.” It was worth giving it a shot. Many miners understood that teaming up in these entities called "pools" offered a better chance of success. But there was another novel concept: cloud mining. Cloud mining involves renting computational power from a provider to mine cryptocurrencies remotely, without managing physical hardware. In the world of AI and for those hungry for GPU power, that sounds familiar, right?

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