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From hobby to business
Can you imagine missing studying dense papers on advanced quantum algorithms? Benno did. It started as a hobby, it turned into an idea, and we are now at a stage far beyond that. Today we speak with Benno, CEO of Qu&Co. The Amsterdam-based quantum startup is specialised in designing quantum algorithms and software.
Only 4 years ago, Benno was still fully involved in the consulting industry as he had his own consulting agency. Things went quite well; however, it lacked the excitement that Benno felt in his time as a student studying quantum physics. So he decided to act.
“In the first stage of around six months, it was more of a hobby. Every Friday afternoon I would be working on a bunch of scientific papers in my study room with a book of Nielsen and Chuang. That was like a reward at the end of the week, after which I started my weekends fully energised.” As sometimes is the case with hobbies, they get out of hand. This was also the case for Benno.
As he explains, “After ¾ years I thought, I now have a hobby. I had the idea that, because quantum technology developments were in an extremely early stage, there would be a lot of fun opportunities for entrepreneurs. I considered starting in hardware, but the costs of it were too high because hardware development is quite expensive. I decided that we should start in software and algorithm development because that was less capital demanding.”
In the phase of becoming a startup, Benno met Vincent. Vincent just finished his Ph.D. in theoretical quantum physics and algorithm design, exactly the field in which Qu&Co would become active. Benno and Vincent had complementary skills. Vincent had a lot of specialised knowledge in the field of quantum software and algorithm design whereas Benno had a lot of experience in running a business. The project was off the ground. “It started as a hobby which got a bit out of hand, but at the point that we were gaining momentum, we felt the responsibility to really make something out of it.”
Qu&Co is thus specialised in designing quantum algorithms, but what is the job of a quantum algorithm developer? It turns out that these algorithms come in general forms. “On the one hand we develop building-block algorithms which can be used to solve a certain class of mathematical problem, for example, we recently released an algorithm which can solve differential equations. Based on these building-block algorithms, we develop applied algorithms, which are tailored towards a more specific problem which is closer to the specific use-case of a customer.”
Ranging from big corporates who want to know how quantum software can help them, to academic groups involved in more fundamental research, Qu&Co has a very diverse group of customers and partners. This diversity introduces exactly what Benno missed in his first job, the technical aspect.
What I find the most exciting is that it is always very technical. We sell our products to people who have been doing chemical research for 20 years. In a very short time, we have to learn their language in order to understand their challenges. We understand the quantum technology, and they bring their domain expertise. And together we come-up with a solution to solve the issues that we are dealing with.
-Benno Broer, CEO at Qu&Co
Qu&Co is also involved in several projects in the Dutch quantum ecosystem, such as the ImpaQT project with companies from Delft, and a collaboration with Twente-based company QuiX. It is this ecosystem in which Qu&Co really feels at home. In fact, it is one of the things that made Qu&Co a business specialised in quantum technology.
What I like the most about being active in quantum technology is that we are here at an early stage, but it is still understandable enough to think about where we are heading. The choices we make, have an impact on the direction that this sector is going. We are a fish in a really small pond where we can make big waves. And that would not have been possible if we had been, for example, created an internet startup.
-Benno Broer, CEO at Qu&CO
So, are you a bit bored? There is a cure, start a business in quantum software. Involving yourself in quantum physics makes sure you will start your weekends with fresh energy.