With new CEO, $26.5M capital raise, New Haven startup in race for quantum computing supremacy

Hartford Business Journal
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Scientists at Quantum Circuits Inc. are working to develop and bring to market the first practical quantum computers.

The New Haven-based, nearly decade-old startup, which is rooted in collaborations with Yale University, has taken multiple important steps forward in recent months, as it competes with tech giants like IBM, Google and Amazon to become an industry leader in developing novel quantum computing technology for complex problem-solving.

The technology, which uses quantum physics to address issues that are too difficult for traditional computers to solve, is expected to give birth to a $58 billion global market by 2028, according to one estimate, and have a wide range of applications, from improving cybersecurity and designing new pharmaceuticals, to artificial intelligence, weather prediction and defense, industry experts said.

The work by Quantum Circuits and its team of 50 mostly Ph.D.s has caught the attention of investors. The company recently raised $26 million in an extended Series B funding round led by top Silicon Valley firm Sequoia Capital Partners (an early investor in Apple and Cisco) and others. Quantum Circuits has raised $84 million since its 2015 inception.


The company in February also named a new president and CEO, tech executive Ray Smets, 60, who was hired to bring years of research and development to fruition.

Quantum Circuits is transitioning to the engineering stage of testing its latest technology with lead customers, Smets said.

He anticipates the company this year will begin selling its quantum computing capabilities in the cloud as a service.

Quantum Circuits’ 50-employee staff includes mostly Ph.D.s.

Longer-term, meaning at least several years down the road, the company is developing quantum computers to sell to clients — most likely high-tech-industry companies that have the capabilities to purchase and store such technology, which is not similar to the average desktop computer.

“Quantum computing is going to have a major impact on how we exist as a human race,” Smets said. “We’re going to solve problems that we’ve never been able to solve before. We might build new medicines, we might build new battery technology (for electric vehicles to go 1,000 times farther), we might solve cybersecurity problems that have just evaded us.”


Quantum Circuits’ efforts aren’t happening in a vacuum. Connecticut is making a major push to establish a quantum technology corridor.

In fact, state, local, industry and university leaders gathered in New Haven earlier this month to launch QuantumCT, a new public-private collaboration aimed at “accelerating the adoption of quantum technologies in Connecticut and beyond,” and positioning the state “as a leading hub for quantum-related research, technologies and jobs.”

Correcting errors

Quantum Circuits was founded by Yale scientists Michel Devoret, Luigi Frunzio and Robert Schoelkopf, whose work over the years has gained international attention, including coverage by the New York Times. Schoelkopf, Quantum’s chief scientist, has previously spoken at the World Economic Forum and other major industry conferences.

Quantum computing utilizes “qubits” or quantum bits, which are the basic units of information in quantum computing. They operate differently than traditional computer bits, allowing quantum computers to solve certain problems at exponential measures and speeds.

Quantum Circuits is developing its technology based on a proprietary approach to error correction, which is a key ingredient for effective quantum computers, Smets said.


A quantum computer is susceptible to interference from various outside sources, known as “noise,” including things like the earth’s magnetic field and Wi-Fi signals.

When qubits are exposed to that noise, it impacts their quality and “leads to errors that result in incorrect answers” in computing, Smets said.

“Qubits like to interact with anything in their vicinity without our knowledge,” he said.

Quantum computers are stored in sub-zero environments, nearly 450 degrees below freezing Fahrenheit, to keep qubits under better control, which helps generate more accurate calculations, Smets said.

However, even in the coldest environments possible, Smets said, “some level of error correction will always be needed.”


Error correction, he added, “is what will make up the difference and get us that extra step from good qubits that give us good results, to a truly unprecedented quantum computer that revolutionizes the industry.”

More than one winner

Smets joined Quantum Circuits in February and brought with him a diverse tech-industry background, having led large-scale cloud operations, sales, marketing and product execution for public and privately-backed ventures.

He said he has helped bring new technology to market at companies including Cisco, A10 Networks, Motorola and AT&T, and has been involved with tech startups that led to multiple acquisitions and an IPO.

He has been awarded more than 10 international patents that improved the way people communicate, he said.

As CEO of Quantum Circuits, Smets said his priority “is ensuring scientists and engineers have everything needed to deliver on our goal to bring our innovative quantum computing technology to the market as soon as possible.”


That means adding new talent and building new partnerships, efforts that will be aided by the recent fundraise. The company plans to grow its employee base by 50% by the end of this year, Smets said.

It will likely also expand its footprint in New Haven.

Quantum Circuits’ lab space is in Yale’s Science Park where scientists and engineers build, test, verify and deploy quantum computer systems, from nanofabrication and quantum processor assembly to what’s needed for cloud deployment.

“As the company and footprint in the industry grow, we’ll definitely be expanding our space in New Haven,” Smets said.

Quantum Circuits faces intense competition in trying to bring its technology to market, but Smets said there will be room for various players because “there are no two companies that are alike. In this space, everybody’s approaching it differently. How you build your quantum qubit is slightly different.”


He added: “The question is, will there be one winner? Is there only enough room in this market space for one to win? Is it going to be Google? IBM? Amazon? The answer is no. There’s going to be multiple winners. Different quantum computers may solve different kinds of problems. We intend to be one of the winners.”

Smets said the company’s aim is to eventually go public, but it will consider all options as opportunities arise.

‘Leading hub’

Quantum Circuits is one of the faces of Connecticut’s broader attempts to create a quantum technology business corridor.

The effort — dubbed QuantumCT — includes the participation of various partners, including Yale, UConn, the state Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Business & Industry Association, among others. Leaders from those organizations met in New Haven earlier this month to discuss the potential for quantum technology to bolster many of Connecticut’s key industries, including research and development, bioscience, health care and insurance.

Justin Elicker

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said it’s hard to predict the impact companies like Quantum Circuits will have, but the potential is nearly limitless.

Michael Crair

Michael Crair, Yale University vice provost for research and professor of neuroscience and ophthalmology and visual science, said quantum mechanics and computing can: create alternatives for GPS capabilities if and when satellites are disabled or interrupted; measure the efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs without screening; mimic human proteins for developing medicines and treatments; and predict future events in the financial or insurance industries.

Josh Geballe

Josh Geballe, senior associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation at Yale University and managing director of Yale Ventures, said Quantum Circuits is one of the most innovative companies in its field and has been successful attracting capital and talent to New Haven.

“This type of university collaboration with startups and industry is at the core of the QuantumCT initiative to continue to establish Connecticut as a leading hub for quantum innovation and impact,” Geballe said.

Hartford Business Journal -  Hanna Snyder Gambini