Home Business framework Atom Computing lands $60M Series B, closes in on 2nd-gen computer

Atom Computing lands $60M Series B, closes in on 2nd-gen computer

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Atom Computing, a quantum computing startup, is opening an office in Cary.

Atom Computing, a quantum computing startup, is opening an office in Cary.

Atomic Computing

Atom Computing, a quantum computing startup in Cary, has raised $60 million from investors in a Series B funding round as it completes work on its second-generation quantum computer.

Last year, Atom unveiled a 100-qubit quantum computer with a coherence time of 40 seconds. These are important measurements in the world of quantum computing, which determine how powerful the computer is and how long it can stay stable enough to solve a computing task.

While classical computers work by performing calculations consisting of 1s and 0s, a quantum computer approaches the calculation from a different framework. Instead, they take advantage of how particles work at the subatomic level, and instead of using 1s and 0s, computers process information in quantum bits, or qubits, a combination of 1s and 0s.

The more qubits a computer can process, the faster and more powerful it is. An equation that could take years for a classical computer could be solved in minutes by a quantum computer.

“With 100 qubits, you can’t do much of commercial value,” said Cary-based company CEO Rob Hays. “You can test some theories about them and get some answers, but there’s not much commercial value you can do with 100 cubits. You really need thousands and possibly millions of qubits to do this.

Hays said Atom’s first-generation computer was intended to prove that the company’s particular approach to quantum computers – using lasers to manipulate qubits – was stable enough to be reliable.

Now that it has a working concept, the company is aiming for something more powerful, Hays said, although he didn’t reveal how many qubits his second-generation machine would have.

“We will announce it as a public cloud service in the coming months,” he said in a video interview, adding that it will be available for select business customers.

It could take years to bring quantum computers to the point where they have wide commercial applications, but there are already a host of software companies developing programs to work with the hardware created by Atom and its competitors.

The domain has attracted billions of dollars in investment, and some of the world’s biggest tech companies, like Google and IBM, are also working in the domain.

Many companies are starting to meet with Atom and other companies, expressing interest in how to use quantum energy to solve problems in their respective fields, whether it’s optimizing air routes and logistics or to help discover new molecules for pharmaceutical companies.

“The meetings I’ve had lately have been with large Fortune 500-type companies,” he said. “They’ve hired a handful of people who are getting into quantum computing today and trying to learn and figure out what they want to do with it.”

Originally founded in Berkeley, Calif., the company began transferring some operations to Cary after hiring Hays, a former Lenovo executive based in the computer company’s Morrisville office. Most of the company’s engineering work is done in California and Texas, while its management team operates in Cary.

Atom’s latest fundraising was led by Third Point Ventures and included Venrock, Innovation Endeavors, Prime Movers Lab and Prelude Ventures.

Atom grew from 20 to 40 employees last year, according to Hays, and is likely to double its workforce again with the new capital. Atom says Cary makes up around 10% of its workforce, a rate that is expected to continue as it grows.

Hays said the Triangle’s quantum computing ecosystem is expected to mature rapidly in the coming years, with hardware companies like Atom and IonQ, co-founded by a Duke professor, expanding here as well as the center’s presence. Quantum Computing from NC State University.

“I think we have the potential to build a workforce of people who are the future of computing,” Hays said. “IT jobs are constantly evolving and quantum computing is really the next wave of that. If we can train people here locally, then I think we have the opportunity to be a sort of center of excellence in the region.

This story was produced with the financial support of a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh through an independent journalism grant program. The N&O retains full editorial control of the work. Learn more; go to bit.ly/newsinnovate

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Zachery Eanes is Innovate Raleigh’s reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. It covers technology, startups and high street companies, biotech, and education issues related to these fields.