Sequoia invests in Singapore quantum computing startup Horizon

eustan ventures

All over the globe, there are tens of millions of conventional software developers, with 46 million registered on GitHub alone. However, fewer than 1,000 people globally are capable of developing new quantum applications, Singapore-based Horizon Quantum Computing observed.

The startup, which aims to make quantum computing accessible to every developer, has just raised an undisclosed amount of funding in a round led by Sequoia Capital India, bringing its total seed money to US$3.2 million.

Existing investors SGInnovate, Abies Ventures, Data Collective, Qubit Protocol, Summer Capital, and Posa CV also participated in the round.

Founded in 2018, Horizon is developing tools so that programs designed for conventional computers can be automatically adapted for quantum processors.

It will use the new funds to speed up product development, bolster its team, and engage with customers and early adopters.

What problem is it solving? “As hardware development continues to advance, learning to harness the power of quantum processors for business applications will become the main barrier to adoption,” Horizon CEO Joe Fitzsimons said. “We are tackling this problem head-on by developing methods to automatically accelerate conventional computer programs using quantum techniques.”

While the existing approach to quantum development relies on a domain expert to work on the problem or pre-written libraries that contain some common quantum algorithms, Horizon said its approach is different. It looks to enable developers to build programs with fewer lines of code and automatically optimize their programs for real processors.

“What makes our approach unique is that we construct quantum algorithms directly from conventional source code, automatically identifying places where it can be sped up,” Si-Hui Tan, chief science officer at Horizon, explained.

Some deep-tech players in Singapore are also looking at making quantum computing more accessible. One example is Entropica Labs, which is also backed by SGInnovate as well as Wavemaker Partners, among other investors. Another player is SpeQtral, which is developing space-based quantum communication systems.

But Horizon said it doesn’t see quantum companies as direct competitors. Instead, it sees potential partners and even customers.

“We see our real competition as being in the conventional high-performance computing space rather than other companies focused on quantum software,” the company said.

What’s the opportunity? A study from Boston Consulting Group reveals that the quantum applications market can reach over US$260 billion by 2050 as adoption picks up.

But instead of working to capture a large market share, the startup is focusing on “expanding” the market by making quantum computing a general-purpose computing tech.

According to Horizon, quantum computing can be applied to various industries, including logistics, finance, chemical, and pharmaceutics. In the future, it also looks to expand to newer domains such as computational fluid dynamics, electromagnetic simulations, and complex geophysical calculations.

What are its challenges? For the company, the focus will be on strengthening its team as it continues to develop its tools. But the startup recognizes that attracting top talent experienced in quantum computing, compiler design, and other areas of computer science will be challenging, as they are in short supply at a time when industry demand is starting to increase.

Quantum computing hardware also has to be sufficiently reliable to outperform conventional computers in some tasks, Horizon said, marking another challenge for the firm.

In October, Google seemed to have pushed the technology forward by claiming quantum supremacy. However, Horizon said there’s still more work to be done for the tech to reach its full potential.

“The ability to expand this market into areas currently dominated by conventional computing solutions will be the largest determining factor of success,” it said.

How much traction does it aim to get? While it has yet to launch its toolset, Horizon has begun working with some early adopters.

“As a business-to-business company, our focus is on the value that we create for our customers in the public and private sectors, rather than the number of users,” the company said, adding that it looks to work with key players in finance, aerospace, and energy sectors in the near term.

Who are the team members? Fitzsimons holds a doctorate in quantum computing architectures from the University of Oxford and has over 15 years of experience in quantum computing and computational complexity.

Tan, meanwhile, also holds a doctorate in physics from MIT and has been involved in quantum research for 15 years.

What is the startup’s funding history? In November 2018, Horizon secured an undisclosed amount of seed funding from SGInnovate, Abies Ventures, Data Collective, Qubit Protocol, Summer Capital, and Posa CV.

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