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How this S’pore startup is streamlining coding so regular programmers can also quantum code

horizon quantum computing

You’ve probably heard of quantum mechanics somewhere before — on a television show, on the news, or anywhere really — though we mostly hear it in some abstract scientific context, that’s far removed from the everyday lives of common people.

However, one Singapore startup is bringing the quantum world much closer to the everyday lives of people, and probably sooner than you think. 

Called Horizon Quantum Computing, it is founded by Dr. Joe Fitzsimons. He has been an academic for over a decade, working as a professor and researcher in multiple universities.

In 2018, he saw that quantum computers had made significant progress, and yet, few were able to take advantage of this futuristic technology due to a lack of knowledge on quantum programming.

“What we’re trying to do is to bridge the gap between the user of the device and the device itself… We’re trying to take programmers that can program conventional computers and give them the tools that allow them to program quantum computers without having a steep learning curve,” said Joe, who also serves as the company’s CEO.

Therefore, what Fitzsimons wanted to address is what he calls as “the algorithm bottleneck”, so he left academia with a group of individuals to build Horizon Quantum Computing.

What exactly does Horizon do?

Horizon Quantum Computing
Image Credit: Horizon Quantum Computing

Horizon’s main idea is to build a compiler that streamlines code, allowing a unified language to be used for quantum and classical programs, without having the programmer necessarily know quantum programming.

Horizon will create a system that will “automatically construct a quantum algorithm from purely classical (code)”. While this may seem dry and far removed, it’s the approach that makes Horizon’s work valuable.

They aren’t just working on something incredibly specialised. Instead, Horizon is focusing on creating something general that anyone can use. 

There are a lot of companies that try to come up with particular solutions for particular industries, but we try to avoid that. … A lot of users of high performance computing are not relying on software that’s developed by others.

They have their own teams that are building special software for their particular industry. So what we’re trying to do is enable those teams to develop for quantum hardware without having to understand in great detail how quantum computing works.

– Dr. Joe Fitzsimons, founder and CEO of Horizon Quantum Computing
quantum computer
Part of a quantum computer / Image Credit: Singapore Business Review

The plan is for Horizon’s software to be used by other developers working at other firms for their own purposes, and Horizon will earn from the usage fees under a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.

It is planning to partner with quantum hardware and software companies who will use their software, as well as other MNCs for in-house developments to build programs for themselves.

Horizon is already part of Singapore’s National Quantum-Safe Network, an initiative that is focused on digital security and testing new technology for commercial purposes and for securing critical infrastructure.

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going

Horizon Quantum Computing
Image Credit: Horizon Quantum Computing

During the first few years, Horizon faced several challenges, including VC networking.

Coming from a purely academic background, the founders had very few contacts with venture capital firms, and the talent pool with which he had to recruit from was limited.

Fortunately, Joe had previously met Steve Leonard, CEO of SGInnovate, a venture capital firm backed by the Singapore government.

SGInnovate agreed to invest in the project, and as interest in the company began to increase, investments began to pour in as well, with Sequoia Capital leading its seed round, bringing the company’s total funding to S$4.5 million, enough that Horizon is not considering future seed rounds.

To sweeten things for Horizon, its partnerships also look promising. It is currently partnering with IBM for hardware access, and are busy building links in the community.

In the near future, the company expects to sell to early adopters of quantum technology in industries such as finance, pharmaceuticals, and energy.

Although Horizon’s tech is still in the development phase, they are focusing on getting their clients early access and tailoring their generalised tech solutions to specific industries.

Horizon is a growing company, not necessarily because they are the next Razer or Samsung. Instead, Horizon is focused on what adds value to and complements the hardware- the software that makes people use these technologies to their fullest extent.

“I’m not the kind of person that builds devices. We don’t have a lab at the moment. But what we’ve been trying to tackle is not how you build the hardware, but how do you make use of the hardware.”

Instead, Horizon wants to bring quantum computing to businesses and quantum industry customers, to let them have the future as soon as possible.

Featured Image Credit: Horizon Quantum Computing

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