Leading a Quantum Computing Company is far from easy. Unlike many companies with easily proven case studies, quantum computing has yet to hit maturity. Many businesses are exploring use cases, and we see the potential applications. Therefore, the environment makes it challenging to run a quantum tech business. It requires persistence in an ever-changing climate of different technologies and claims; navigating the business environment calls for something different. Here we introduce ten Quantum Tech Leaders and their companies. Each company has more than enough to write about, so please follow the references if you want to learn more about what they do.
This is not an exhaustive list nor a list of the top 10 quantum computing companies. Instead, it aims to pick out leading quantum computing companies and the people behind making that vision a success. For a list of over a hundred quantum computing companies, you can see a general list, and we have specified and introduced the Quantum 10 UK and the Quantum 20 UK, which list quantum computing companies in that territory.
CEO of Quantinuum: Ilyas Khan
The co-founder of Quantinuum and Cambridge Quantum Computing. before Quantinuum, Ilyas Khan founded the Cambridge (UK) based Quantum Computing Company: CQC for short. CQC was one of the largest dedicated pure-play quantum computing companies, founded relatively early. It was a fast mover in seeing the potential of quantum computing and putting quantum on the map for the UK. It reached a relatively massive headcount long before most of the world even heard about quantum computing. CQC joined forces with Honeywell to become a “full stack” quantum company named Quantinuum in 2021. A smart move which can see it has the vertical integration that very few companies have in the quantum space.
CQC was one of the most well-funded Quantum companies, focusing on software and QML (Quantum Machine Learning). The company acquires excellent talent, such as Professor Stephen Clark functions as head of Artificial Intelligence, and Bob Coecke, who is one of the notable talents in QNLP (Quantum Natural Language Processing). The company also created a Quantum Language called t | ket>, which improves the efficiency of quantum circuit optimization. This open-source language toolkit can be used in conjunction with the widely used programming language Python. Additionally, it is compatible with Qubit architectures from Honeywell (now Quantinuum), Microsoft, and IBM Q, providing developers with flexibility in their choice of hardware platform. Quantinuum has an aggressive push into the application layer, such as quantum security.
The origins of Quantuniuum are almost a decade old, which is a long time to be out in front, pushing the envelope of one of the largest quantum computing companies. Illyas is a true innovator and believer, and as a result, he has “pulled” along the rest of the UK Quantum Industry as they see that Britain can innovate, take risks and build something of actual value. Illyas Khan is an excellent speaker and talks at many quantum events and will expound greatly on his experience as both a business and technical leader.
CEO of Xanadu: Christian Weedbrook
Xanadu is a full stack Quantum Computing company that develops hardware and software to drive photonic-based quantum computing. Xanadu’s toolsets, such as Penny Lane are used by researchers and quantum developers to build quantum circuits that can run on various hardware. The company is known for its exemplary work on quantum machine learning or QML, which adopted some of the more well-known Quantum Machine Learning researchers, such as Maria Schuld. Xanadu has often been featured in Quantum Zeitgeist and is listed as one of our companies to watch in 2023.
We love the “Beatles” theme for their products and applaud their commitment to education and inspiring a future quantum generation. They are the hosts for QHack2023 and have run the event in previous years where they create competitions that allow participants to program quantum computers to perform certain tasks. There is help available, prizes, and of course, some call swag for those that enter. The culture of Xanadu comes from the top and is embedded right from the start. Therefore we salute Chris Weedbrook for his dedication to building a quantum computing company and a culture that allows innovation to percolate and spread with a fun theme (such as naming products in a “Beatles” theme).
Christian Weedbrook is the CEO of Xanadu, which has its headquarters in Toronto, Canada. Christian has plenty of industry, government and formal research experience in quantum computing and cryptography. His education includes, more recently, a postdoc held at MIT, and he obtained his PhD in Physics from the University of Queensland.
CEO of Strangeworks: William Hurley
Strangeworks might be an off-sounding company name, but we have always loved the “nod” to the Strangeness of Quantum physics and hence the Moniker. We also commented on the fun culture we can see from both the business and products. The Strangeworks Quantum Computing Platform is a hardware-agnostic, software-inclusive, collaborative development environment.
Strangeworks also sponsored stack exchange, making the collaboration of quantum ideas and circuits, and disseminating knowledge easier and faster. They integrated such features into their platform to give it a holistic or “one-stop shop” experience where solving the problem becomes the focus. Through the very clever design of their interface, they have made quantum computing concepts much more straightforward. We reported that their design elements for creating circuits are the most elegant we have ever seen.
Strangeworks founder “Whurley” (a moniker he has used since 2002) does a lot to put Quantum Computing on the map and is frequently found giving addresses to various audiences on Quantum Computing. Whurley is perhaps somewhat unusual in that he doesn’t come from the usual stable of academic innovators. Instead, he is a serial entrepreneur who has made his name in various former ventures before Starngeworks is without a PhD in physics, but is no deterrence. The Quantum Community needs people of all persuasions, especially those who understand critical business applications and how to add value in the field.
Whurley might be best described as a renaissance man with a repertoire even going across film and design. He received a Design award from Apple in 2004 (ADA), which goes to show that just as Steve Jobs focused on making products that were a delight to use, Whurley might have a different enough take that means that Strangeworks can carve itself out as a real contender for native quantum platforms.
CEO Riverlane: Steve Brierley
Having the vision to create an Operating System for quantum computing was never going to be a shy undertaking. Steve Brierley has taken the mission to build the Operating System for error-corrected quantum computers to heart. Hailing from Cambridge, Riverlane was founded in 2016 to accelerate the development of a “useful” quantum computer, a time horizon that was thought to be more than 20 years in the future.
Riverlane does the “tricky” stuff; perhaps it is not considered the sexiest of tasks compared to interfaces and design, but building that layer that governs hardware is a necessary and important one. We liken it to the fact that today we deal little with computer operating systems, and thankfully so. They are transparent as we go about our tasks and applications, not needing to worry about the hardware. But someone has to build this layer, just as Microsoft made MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) to allow innovation in the application layer. Just as Microsoft created the environment to enable computing to flourish, developments from Riverlane can potentially allow Quantum Computing to develop similarly.
Riverlane’s customers are the hardware companies, universities and governments building a new generation of large, error-corrected quantum computers and organisations. before Riverlane, Steve was a fellow at Cambridge University, of course, quantum science, but he has also been a fellow at Bristol University, which has a fantastic Quantum Research facility.
Director, IBM Research: Darío Gil
Big Blue is determined not to miss out on the next wave of innovation: Quantum Computing. It has thrown considerable resources behind its push into quantum, being the first to offer cloud-based quantum computing to just about anyone with its IBM Q series. In some ways, IBM was the pathfinder for quantum, which showed the world that it could be serious about Quantum, for here was one of the world’s technology giants getting on onboard with quantum computing. Many quantum computing companies were indeed watching and looking to imitate.
IBM has consistently proved it can do “full stack” quantum computing. Innovating at the hardware and software levels has shown how it can develop technological innovation but own the quantum agenda. It has consistently brought out processors with ever more significant numbers of qubits and the evermore powerful chip. It has even publicly set itself innovation targets in terms of its roadmaps for its processors. The latest chip delivery saw it bring to life a chip with 433 qubits (just like the bit, the qubit is the quantum equivalent). If the roadmap hold, IBM will deliver over one-thousand qubits this year in 2023. Moore’s law, anyone? IBM is setting the pace and showing the world its innovative days are not behind it. As the creator of the IBM PC, big blue saw company after company take a chunk out of its core business. We think IBM has learned some of those lessons and is almost analogous to Intel (bringing out more powerful chips like a metronome).
IBM is also behind the most popular quantum computing framework named qiskit. The bizarre-sounding programming language has become almost the standard of the quantum computing development community. A survey showed that it is the most popular, followed by Q# (from Microsoft).
Gil is no slick salesman. First and foremost, a scientist and innovator. On his watch, IBM was the first company in the world to build programmable quantum computers and make them universally available through the cloud. He will have spurred on generations of enthusiasts and scientists to experiment with quantum computing, and he most likely accelerated the field countless years.
Darío Gil was originally from Spain but spent his last high school year at Los Altos High near Palo Alto, where you might say he got the bug for innovation and never returned to Spain. A graduate of MIT, he did his PhD there and joined IBM twenty years ago. He leads over 3,000 scientists across more than 20 locations.
Almost everyone who has shown an interest in Quantum Computing has used IBM Q as it’s an easily accessible platform. It’s making IBM relevant again for the innovators of today and tomorrow, and Darío Gil should be applauded for that. But also, no doubt, amongst the quantum computing companies he has inspired, he may have created competition for IBM in the future.
CEO of PsiQuantum: Jeremy O’Brien
Very few companies have raised the sort of sums for quantum computing companies that PsiQuantum has. According to Crunchbase the company has raised $665 million since PsiQuantum’s inception in 2016, which makes it one of the most significant capital raises ever in the quantum space for a pure-play quantum company.
Jeremy O’Brien is the CEO of PsiQuantum, and was a professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bristol. His specialisms included optical or photonic quantum computing, and he is credited with the invention of the first optical quantum controlled-NOT gate or CNOT. O’Brien completed his PhD at the University of New South Wales in Australia in 2001. His experience goes back to 1995 when he first got interested in Quantum Computing, and since then, he has decided himself to the field.
The ambition is to deliver a million qubits, and PsiQuantum believes the only way to do it is via photonic systems. Of course, there are alternatives in the market, such as superconducting qubits sported by the likes of IBM. Still, the photonic technology behind PsiQuantum and Xanadu has some benefits of scale, although there is no clear winner as to what will scale fastest. We applaud the ambition because whilst companies have a roadmap, a million qubits are quite an achievement if it happens, although there are no timelines.
CEO Q-CTRL: Michael J. Biercuk
Q-CTRL can perhaps best be described as middle-ware. Like Riverlane and their quest for an operating system, Q-CTRL works on the control systems behind the hardware.
Like all excellent quantum computing companies, Q-Ctrl does more than build stuff. The company also is building an ecosystem. It has one of the best online learning tutorials we have seen, Black Opal, which makes learning the fundamentals of quantum computing a breeze. Q-CTRL is doing the difficult stuff, the bread and butter of the quantum world – so-called enabling technologies. Control theory was crucial in the early days of flight, and it is vital in the quantum sector to solve some of the most complex problems.
Like many technology leaders, Michael J. Biercuk has many academic credentials, including a Professorship in Quantum Physics and Quantum Technology at the University of Sydney. With a doctorate from Harvard University, Michael has worked on a variety of topics, such as Ion Storage and has worked with DARPA. As an academic, he has published over 65 papers and has eight patents. 2017 saw Biercuk found Q-CTRL based on his research from the Quantum Control Lab.
CEO Turing: Seth Lloyd
Seth Lloyd practically created the technology behind commercial operations enabling quantum computing companies such as D-wave, which utilises Quantum Annealing. No surprise that he was going to start his very own quantum computing company. The original quantum mechanic is a professor of mechanical engineering, but through his work, books and research, he is reaching into the fundamentals of physics and the universe. Seth is also famous for the HHL algorithm, which shows that a quantum computer can factorize a matrix faster than a classical one.
Turing is a quantum startup founded by Prof. Seth Lloyd and Dr Michele Reilly. According to the latest news, it is focused on some key areas: QKD, essentially entanglement. They see themselves as the enablers of the age of the quantum transistor.
CEO Horizon Quantum Computing: Joe Fitzsimons
The team at Horizon want to go one step beyond simply programming quantum computers and make it simple for users to program what they want and run it seamlessly on classical and quantum hardware. The innovation at the core of Horizon’s technology is a process that automatically creates quantum algorithms based on programs written in classical languages. Like today, we might not explicitly need to write for a GPU (Graphical Processing Unit). Perhaps we’ll see the same in the quantum space, where users can get back to focusing on the applications.
Very few, even professional programmers, could identify the assembly commands required to, say, execute a python conditional statement. That doesn’t stop millions of users from benefitting from a high-level language such as python.
Dr Joe Fitzsimons gave up his tenured faculty position to found Horizon Quantum Computing in 2018. With over 15 years of experience in quantum computing and computational complexity theory, he is now focused full-time on Horizon. Fitzsimons has spent time in Dublin, Oxford and Singapore. Joe led the Quantum Information and Theory group at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, where he was a tenured associate professor and principal investigator at the Centre for Quantum Technologies.
We love the mission to make Quantum Computing a general-purpose quantum technology. Making quantum computing truly accessible to everyone could be a world-leading quest, and we like it!
Manager Amazon Braket: Richard Moulds
Amazon is perhaps the world’s leader in computing services accessible on the cloud. Since very few people are building quantum computers, it makes sense that the cloud will enable access. It was only time before Amazon and AWS got in on the quantum scene.
Amazon Braket is just like their other AWS services in being a fully managed quantum computing service. Amazon Braket claims to provide everything you need to build, test, and run quantum algorithms on AWS. It includes access to different types of quantum computers so it should be hardware agnostic but offers a unified development environment.
Richard Moulds started life as an Electrical Engineer but has moved into management roles. Moulds has an engineering background and an MBA from Warwick. With his commercial background, Richard will be critical in ensuring that AWS brings new quantum companies into their cloud service in the competition against IBM, for example.