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Quantum computing startup bags USD 3.23 million in a Sequoia-led seed-plus round

Horizon aims to bridge the gap between quantum computers and conventional software development.

The Singapore-based program developer Horizon Quantum Computing on Tuesday announced that it has raised USD 3.23 million in a seed-plus round led by Sequoia Capital India.

This new investment follows a previously undisclosed amount of seed funding from government-linked SGInnovate, Abies Ventures, DCVC, and others back in 2018. The investors also participated in the current round.

The company’s CEO, Joe Fitzsimons, will use the new investment to strengthen Horizon’s team and accelerate the development of program-writing tools for quantum processors. “Our tools will greatly increase the applicability of quantum computing to industry-relevant problems, opening up new use cases and enabling easier adoption of the technology,” he said.

Founded in 2018, Horizon aims to bridge the gap between quantum computers and conventional software development. Right now, there are tens of millions of conventional software developers globally, with 46 million registered on the software development host website GitHub. However, their expertise doesn’t carry across to programming quantum computers, which requires a different set of skills. The number of programmers capable of developing new quantum applications, according to Horizon, is estimated to be under one thousand worldwide.

Horizon claims to provide tools that automatically turn conventional source code for normal computer software into quantum algorithms, thus helping software developers without prior knowledge about quantum computing.

“Everything that relates to quantum mechanics happens under-the-hood and on-the-fly in our compiler. This automation is what alleviates the need for any quantum knowledge,” said Si-Hui Tan, the company’s chief of science. “All our users have to do is to provide their program in a conventional programming language.”

New domains

For now, quantum computing’s utilization is limited to particular industries such as finance, logistics, chemistry, and pharmacy. According to Fitzsimons, it is due to the “existing algorithms having limited domains of applicability.”

The company expects that its tools will uncover new domains where quantum computing can provide advantages, such in aerospace, automotive, electronics, telecommunication, and the energy sectors.

Even though the tools are still in the development stage, the company said it “begun working with early customers in the public sector.”  Horizon didn’t disclose any names.

The long-term perspective

In recent years, the interest in applying quantum tech to commercial uses has been steadily growing.  Singapore’s government-owned venture arm, SGInnovate, considers the sector as a long-term investment it is willing to put money in.

“We view quantum computing as an emerging technology that will become inevitable in the future,” said SGInnovate CEO Lim Jui. “We are certain that quantum technology will be a game-changer and will have a tremendous impact on the world—from how governments and organisations work, right down to our everyday lives.”

In 2019, the organization partnered with Centre for Quantum Technologies, a research institute hosted by the National University of Singapore, to connect local quantum-tech researchers with the commercial industry. Besides Horizon, SGInnovate has also invested in other quantum tech startups such as SpeQtral, which develops tools for secure communication, and Atomionics, which works on using atomic waves for navigation and exploration in areas without GPS systems.