Zapata Computing’s initial team.
Zapata Computing, a quantum computing software startup that spun out of Harvard, announced Wednesday that it has raised $21 million in a Series A round. The round was led by Prelude Ventures and Comcast Ventures, and included participation from Pillar VC, The Engine, BASF Venture Capital, Pitango Ventures and Robert Bosch Venture Capital. The raise will bring the companys total funding to about $26.45 million.
Unique among quantum computing startups, Zapata Computing isnt interested in building quantum computers. Instead, its building software applications for those systems, as well as helping large enterprises find solutions where quantum computing makes sense, no matter what hardware that customer is using.
Were creating an enterprise-hardened software platform that allows the domain experts to go as deep as they want, as well as abstract to a certain level, Zapata CEO Chris Savoie explained to me. This is not for the faint of heart. Were not out there trying to teach an undergraduate computer science major how to program a quantum computer. Were years away from that.
Zapatas focus right now is on applications where quantum computing can offer some advantages over traditional supercomputing, particularly in three key areas: simulation of chemical reactions, machine learning and optimization problems, which are of particular interest in areas like logistics and planning.
The startup was founded in 2017 and spins out of the work of Aln Aspuru-Guzik, who has been working to apply quantum computing to chemical simulations. In his lab were four postdocs, physicists Peter Johnson and Jonny Olson; computer scientist Yudong Cao; and chemist Jhonathan Romero Fontalvo. All of them were working on different applications of quantum computing, and it was their work in Aspuru-Guziks lab that grew into the basis for the company.
To run Zapata, the cofounders tapped Savoie as CEO. A serial entrepreneur and tech company executive whose PhD research had focused on molecular simulations. Apart from the companies hed previously founded, hed also worked at Verizon and Nissan. His previous startup, OLED materials company Kyulux, had licensed AI technology developed in Aspuru-Guziks lab, which began the relationship between the two.
After expressing frustration to Aspuru-Guzik over his twice-monthly commute from Boston to Japan (Which my wife said was not a tenable business plan, Savoie joked), Aspuru-Guzik invited Savoie to meet with the Zapata founding team.
They convinced me by lunchtime that there was a there there, Savoie said. And after lunch he introduced me to IBMs quantum group and a couple of other quantum groups as the CEO of Zapata Computing.
Infographic explaining Zapata’s model.
With the current round of funding, Savoie intends to position Zapata as the primary quantum software solution for large enterprises. To that end, he intends to use this infusion of capital to hire talent on both the quantum physics side and the computer science side. It will also be seeking out international talent by expanding its existing footprint in Toronto and establishing an office in Barcelona in order to attract European talent.
We want to be global, and we want to have enough gasoline in the tank to do this right and hire the right people, Savoie said.
As it works to expand its position in the market, Savoie said that hes inspired by the way Oracle initially worked with large enterprises in its early days. Zapatas revenues will be largely driven initially by consulting fees as it helps to develop unique software solutions for enterprises and trains people to use them. Its long-term goals are also inspired by OracleSavoie notes that the company wants to build out the SQL of quantum software.
Not only the language, he said. But all of the stuff that makes that work in an efficient, enterprise-hardened situation.
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