On Quantum Market Entry - Witold Kowalczyk

March 28, 2020

Contributors: Witold Kowalczyk, Bogdan Nedelcu, Dragos Nedelcu


On Monday the 9th of March, I attended the 39th edition of the London Quantum Meetup. This event was the icing on the cake and first professional happening of a four-day expedition to the financial capital of Europe. The city is rich in viewpoints and stands on life, and their touristic tradition makes it feel almost welcoming.

The Standard Chartered bank hosted the event on their headquarters. Despite having been around for long, they are well aware of the importance of technology to keep leading the sector. Their innovation teams have accumulated expertise in topics like deep learning, blockchain and quantum.

Witold Kowalczyk is the European Director of Business Development at Zapata Computing, one of the leading companies in Quantum Software. He made himself a name in the quantum domain by founding BOHR∞, one of the first startups in Microsoft’s Quantum program. He has built several high technology ventures and combines his background in law with a natural feel for business, and a deep passion for technology.

After an insightful talk on applications of Quantum Computing in finance, he was patient enough to address the concerns of the public on market entry strategy for quantum companies. You will find the key takeaways in the coming paragraphs.

If you disagree with any of these ideas, I’ll be happy to hear your opinions. Enjoy and happy Quantum Biz Dev!

Q&A on Quantum Market Entry

What’s the estimated timeline for real-world quantum advantage*?

The first computational advantages of the technology will be visible over the next 2-3 years.

The timeline to quantum advantage is highly domain-specific. Superconducting architectures could give an edge in Chemistry within five years. Achieving an advantage in Artificial Intelligence problems within two years is a realistic estimate.

*: With quantum advantage, we refer to the event that quantum computers outperform classical ones in a specific application by creating additional business value.

Is Quantum Computing superior to High-Performance Computing?

Quantum Computing should be viewed as the next step in HPC - a technology that can offer computational acceleration in specific areas in which HPCs are deployed today. The potential speed-ups depend on the problem at hand. Certainly, for applications in chemistry, optimization and machine learning quantum computing will offer relevant speed-ups. From a business perspective, it all boils down to which tool you get the computation results cheaper, in time, and more accurately.

How do you estimate market sizes in Quantum?

One way to assess market opportunity is to take the market size of HPC as a starting point and apply a factor to it, taking into account the potential for quantum computing to boost the solving of a given business use case. Another approach is cost-based, considering what would be the expected cost of executing the same calculations in classical machines.

What are the main challenges when sizing the markets for Quantum Computing applications?

Some applications of quantum computing have to be viewed as a potential “blue ocean”. Quantum computers have the potential to solve problems deemed today as impossible: factoring, new fertilizers, large scale optimizations. Making accurate projections as to the financial value of tackling such problems is challenging since today they can’t be solved with traditional computing. This is either because they are intrinsically not possible (Factoring) or because the time it would take to solve the problem would deem the solutions useless.

What kinds of customers are already paying for Quantum Computing Solutions?

The rule of thumb is to find the customers that have the most profound pain and find the tools to solve it cost-effectively. In the case of Quantum, think about companies that have costly simulations at the core of their business, like aerospace and auto manufacturers. Quantum has the potential to solve faster and more accurately problems like computational fluid dynamics or the domain decomposition optimization in classical High-performance computing problems.

What specific customer segments are you addressing at Zapata Computing?

We sell to Fortune 100-500 companies. Today about only 10% of those companies that could benefit from using QC decide to make an explorative move into the technology. Again, you should go to industries in which compute times or resources are a bottleneck or can be a source of competitive advantage. Also, it’s frequent that when a Fortune company invests in a given technology, its competitors will follow up.

How does offering consultancy services affect your research in quantum technologies?

In general, our focus is on solving business use cases and engaging with customers. Working with the industry is an opportunity to test our concepts on real-world use cases. Think of solutions that, once the necessary hardware is available, could be put into production. Offering consultancy accelerates the research activities inside of the company and gives them an industry-like pace.

If you were to start a quantum startup tomorrow, what part of the value chain would you address?

There are a lot of opportunities to launch startups in specific areas - like fertilizers or automotive - that would leverage quantum computing as a big part of their product. One could leverage the concept of a “Full Stack Startup” presented by Chris Dixon from A&H: “The goal is to build a complete, end-to-end product or service that bypasses incumbents and other competitors.” This means that instead of focusing on a specific piece of the value chain, quantum could be leveraged to address a user problem end-to-end. An example could be the production of fertilizers: where quantum will be a key enabler, but all in all, your customers care about their garden looking greener.

Question to the reader

What do you think will be the leading business models in quantum computing? What kind of entities will seize the opportunity? Will the technology make a difference in the governance of world computing resources?

I look forward to hearing your opinions. Keep pushing Quantum and have a great week,


Written by Raúl Berganza, Researcher in Quantum Computing at TU Munich.
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