The round, which ended in December, was led by Differential Ventures of New York and saw participation from Scout Ventures, Tensility Venture Partners, Boost VC and Green Egg Ventures.
For Differential and Boost, this was their second investment in the Toronto start-up, as they had previously provided the majority of Agnostiq’s pre-seed round of C $ 1 million (US $ 830,000). .
Agnostic currently serves financial services organizations in Canada and the United States.
In an interview, Elliot MacGowan, co-founder and COO of Agnostiq, told BetaKit that the company decided to ease off after gaining popularity on the product and identifying a market opportunity.
“We had a bit of product traction behind us and we saw that there was a clear opening in the market for the platform type solution that we had,” MacGowan told BetaKit. Now with new funding in hand, Agnostiq aims to help more corporate clients in the financial services industry easily and securely integrate quantum computing into their workflows.
Agnostiq was founded in 2018 by MacGowan, formerly of Bell Canada, and CEO Oktay Goktas, a physicist by training. The startup aims to make quantum computing “as abstract as possible” for end users. Agnostiq currently serves financial services organizations in Canada and the United States, including investment banks, commercial banks, hedge funds, and asset management companies.
MacGowan said Agnostiq became a full-time business in May 2019, launching quantum computer security software in August. But, after the startup heard from customers saying they needed apps to pair with its security product, Agnostiq started building those apps in early 2020, and last summer it pivoted for them. to propose.
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MacGowan said the startup’s increased demand was “likely indicative of a broader interest in quantum computing,” adding that “there is just a lot more interest [in the technology] financial services customers, in particular. “
“We’ve seen a lot of people hire for key positions in quantum research teams within banks, we’ve even seen fairly experienced people from quantum computing companies go to top-tier banks,” said MacGowan. “It’s a pretty profound change, even year over year for us.”
MacGowan called quantum computing a “very good optimization,” adding that “wherever you can find an optimization problem that is going really badly, like exponentially, it’s generally a good choice for an IT solution. quantum. “
“We understand that it’s unrealistic for a bank to hire all of these people and build all of these apps.”
-Elliot MacGowan, COO + co-founder of Agnostiq
For Agnostiq, finance was a good starting point. “We chose finance because I think it’s the right mix of complex issues that don’t fit well, and [it’s] also a high value, ”said the COO.
“Taking apps and then integrating them into quantum versions of those apps is incredibly demanding and difficult to research, so we thought it would make a lot of sense to start with just one industry,” he said. .
According to MacGowan, the biggest challenge facing most businesses today is: “You need a PhD to make it work. [quantum computing] machines… let alone create an application. “
“We understand that it’s unrealistic for a bank to recruit all of these people and build all of these apps,” MacGowan said. “So what we’re doing is basically providing these applications to them, almost in the form of ‘quantum computing as a service,’ so that they can easily connect and play in existing workflows and use them at this very abstract level. “
The startup plans to use the new capital to grow its team by hiring more expert talent, which MacGowan called “probably the most constrained resource in the quantum field right now, mainly doctoral students.”
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Agnostiq currently has 10 employees and the COO said the company will have 12 by the end of the month. Before the end of 2021, MacGowan said the startup plans to add three or four more doctoral students and two to three more software engineers.
The company believes it has developed a force on the security side and plans to focus more on the applications and workflow management of its platform.
Going forward, MacGowan said Agnostiq’s short-term goals are to get its product, with all the features and applications envisioned, up and running across multiple cloud services. In the long term, the startup plans to continue improving its platform by adding more apps and layers.
Regarding the current state of quantum computing, the COO said, “I would say that over the last couple of years I have seen massive evolution, both on the hardware side… but also on the hardware side. algorithmic. “
“It’s still early days, but it’s at the point where it’s becoming more commercially viable,” MacGowan added.
Photo of Agnostiq Co-Founders, COO Elliot MacGowan and CEO Oktay Goktas, courtesy of Agnostiq