OpenAI in talks to back Zeloof and chip legend Keller’s startup at $100 million valuation

Sam Zeloof is a popular name on YouTube and Twitter. For years he has been documenting his impressive journey of building silicon chips in his garage. What most people don’t know is that Zeloof has been working to take this expertise to its next logical step.

Zeloof has partnered with engineering veteran Jim Keller to found Atomic Semi, a startup that seeks to manufacture chips, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The startup is using “radically” simplified and miniaturized semiconductor fabs and prototyping integrated circuits to produce “much more affordable” chips in hours, instead of the typical months-long time frame, the sources said.

The duo’s startup has received attention from investors, too. OpenAI Startup Fund is in advanced stages of deliberations to invest in Atomic Semi, participating in a seed round of about $15 million in size at a valuation of $100 million, the people said, requesting anonymity sharing non-public information.

Crypto fund Paradigm founder Fred Ehrsam, former GitHub chief executive Nat Friedman and prolific angel investor Naval Ravikant have also engaged with Atomic Semi for investment opportunity, the sources said.

The deliberations have not been finalized and the terms of the deal may change, they said. OpenAI declined a request of comment. Zeloof did not respond to a request for comment. Keller could not be reached.

The startup’s existence, the duo’s partnership and their fundraising efforts have not been previously reported.