Why we invested in Kipu Quantum and its founders

December 19, 2023
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Quantum Computing (QC) is a deep tech field that has the potential to revolutionize computing and have an immense impact across all industries. Our portfolio company, Kipu Quantum, is pushing for progress on the software side to make QC accessible today vs. in 10+ years and has just closed its €10.5m Seed Round led by HV Capital. They will use the funding to continue building their team of the world's leading quantum scientists, researchers, and engineers to further reduce the time to industrially applicable quantum computers by years and demonstrate quantum supremacy in real-world use cases.

What is Kipu Quantum all about?

Kipu has developed a Quantum Computing platform that can create immense value for customers today using massively compressed algorithms and existing quantum hardware - that is not yet where it needs to be if used with existing algorithms (the best benchmarks assume a need for 10M+ qubits, today we've just cracked the first 1k qubit system). Kipu develops algorithms tailored towards specific, contemporary hardware, as well as the given specs of an application. With this approach, the Kipu team set a new performance world record for protein folding, beating the previous record by IBM, who, along with PASQAL and QuEra, is one of Kipu's hardware partners. The team aims to become the de facto standard for highly demanding quantum computing workloads and the gateway for customers to access Quantum Computing resources.

Why is Quantum Computing so exciting?

Quantum Computing has the potential to remove cost barriers to current computing capacities and solve complex, impenetrable problems with classical computing methods. A large set of business problems exists that you can only feasibly move to the next level of precision or "solve" with QC (e.g., development of novel materials, optimizing logistics networks, unlocking highly granular weather simulations, etc.). Companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, financial, and automotive sectors are particularly interested in QC applications. Kipu is well-positioned to tap into this market, as it offers a solution that addresses the current limitations of QC hardware.

There generally exist two types of startups in the high-performance modeling space: those focused on quantum-based solutions (hardware and software) and those focused on machine learning (ML)-based solutions. Kipu's primary competition comes from ML-based solutions that bet on the rapid improvement of machine learning algorithms. These solutions are excellent for exploring solutions but quickly run into scaling problems (i.e., limited computing power, especially since Moore's Law is starting to show signs of slowing down) and typically are bound by the fidelity of the results they can achieve (e.g., by the enormous amounts of training data they require). Physics-based models, on the other hand, are highly complex and usually compute-intensive, but they can provide a lot more detail in their results. Kipu's unique approach of tailoring algorithms to hardware and vice versa, plus its domain knowledge, scientific backbone, and strong network in the industry, allows it to break through the compute barrier and unlock highly granular simulations for a whole suite of use cases. That they enable companies to use quantum algorithms in production today and not wait for quantum hardware to catch up opens up the opportunity to establish themselves early as a leader in the QC space.

What impressed us?

When speaking to Kipu's team in the summer of 2022, we instantly knew that this was a real, unique startup in the QC space. First, Kipu's ability to tailor algorithms to hardware and use cases creates a strong performance and efficiency advantage. This is especially relevant as complex problems require high computing intensity and are time- and cost-intense. We hadn't seen this technology advantage with any other company.

Second, enabling QC today will also be a solid signal to quantum hardware providers: Design your system to run well with Kipu's algorithms and get your hardware into actual use today vs. waiting for years until you have a powerful enough system to run less efficient algorithms.

Third, we were particularly impressed by the founding team of Kipu Quantum - which one can only describe as a "deep tech dream team." Daniel (CEO) and Tobias (CSO) are both Chemistry PhDs. Tobias spun out Cynora (KIT spinout and early OLED pioneer, exited to Samsung), and Daniel joined as one of the first employees. He then built up McKinsey's global quantum computing practice and led the quantum strategy development at BASF. Enrique, the scientific driver behind Kipu's innovation, adds scientific vigor and network to the team with his Ph.D. in Quantum Physics and previous leadership positions at multiple quantum research centers and quantum computing hardware companies. The whole team has an extreme depth of technical expertise while also bringing a swath of operational business expertise.

The Future of Quantum Computing

The unlocking of industrially usable quantum computing, as done by Kipu, marks the beginning of a groundbreaking race to solve some of our most pressing global challenges. In particular, the realm of healthcare benefits immensely; the elusive cure for cancer, often touted as being a decade away, may finally be within reach thanks to QC's ability to enhance protein simulations and pharmaceutical development. In this field, Kipu is already making significant strides, with its world record in protein folding being just one highlight. The integration of quantum computing within AI-driven drug discovery promises a surge in computational capacity and precision, enabling more complex and accurate physics-based simulations.

Unlocking quantum computing as a compute platform is akin to the seismic shift from on-premise to cloud computing, heralding changes so profound that their full scope is yet to be understood entirely. Kipu's journey and the evolution of quantum computing indicate a new age of technological advancement and open a world of possibilities that could redefine our approach to some of humanity's most intricate and longstanding problems.

If you are interested in discussing the Quantum Computing space, reach out to our Partner, Andreas Fischer.

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Lena Späth
Head of Platform