QuantrolOx, a new startup that left the University of Oxford last year, wants to use machine learning to control qubits inside quantum computers. The company, which was co-founded by Oxford professor André Briggstech entrepreneur Vishal Chatraththe company’s chief scientist Natalia Ares and head of quantum technologies Dominic Lennon, announced today that it has raised a £1.4m (or roughly $1.9m) seed funding round led by Nielsen Ventures and Hoxton Ventures. Voima Ventures, Remus Capital, Dr. Hermann Hauser and Laurent Caraffa also invested in the round.
The company’s technology is technology-agnostic and can be applied to all standard quantum computing technologies. The idea here is that instead of going through a slow manual tuning process, QuantrolOx’s system will be able to tune, stabilize and optimize the qubits significantly faster. Current methods, argues QuantrolOx CEO Chatrath, are not scalable, especially as these machines continue to improve.
“I was talking to an American investor. He said we’re like the picks and shovels of the quantum industry in that we don’t have to wait for recipes for a quantum computer to be useful,” Chatrath said. “As you go from five qubits to – hopefully – millions of qubits, you need our software every day to be able to do device characterization and fine-tune the qubits.”
For now, though, the company’s focus is on solid-state qubits. In part, because these are systems that the company has access to, including through a close partnership with a laboratory in Finland that the company was not yet ready to disclose. As with all machine learning problems, QuantrolOx needs to collect enough data to build effective machine learning models.
As Chatrath also noted, we are still in the early stages of quantum computing, but if tools like QuantrolOx can help researchers speed up the process of testing their devices, it will be a boon for the entire industry. He noted that many companies in the industry are already approaching the company to use their control software.
The company currently has seven full-time employees and plans to hire about 10 more people in the near future. But, as Chatrath noted, he doesn’t expect that number to grow much more in the next couple of years. “We don’t need a huge team, because we’re focusing on our specific niche,” he said. “We don’t want full-stack. We don’t want to go up the stack — and we can’t go down the stack because that’s the hardware. So we are very focused.”
Currently, QuantrolOx is focused on building more partnerships with the builders of quantum computers. These are pretty deep partnerships because the team essentially needs access to the physical machines, but also the source code that controls them so they can integrate with those systems.
One problem in the industry right now, of course, is that there are too few standards, something Chatrash is aware of. “For the quantum industry to succeed, we need a lot of startups like us that are hyper-specialized in a specific area, because without hyper-specialized companies, we will not achieve economies of scale,” he said. “I think this whole full-stack story has to stop sooner or later. People need to start building an ecosystem of companies.”