Building a Quantum Community | William Hurley from Strangeworks

Like the magical path of a quantum particle, William Hurley’s journey is a bit unusual. He started two companies that were both acquired quickly. Then his third company was acquired by Goldman Sachs on their one-year anniversary. And he discovered this rapid success was depriving him of the opportunity to grow.

So his fourth company, Strangeworks, is built for the long haul. Currently, they’re not even developing a product—they’re merely building community around a technology that’s not even yet available, quantum computing. But William insists it soon will be, and you’d best prepare.

In this edition of Founders Journey, Williams discusses some of his early successes and why they led him to explore this remarkable new technology. He also discusses the biggest mistakes people make when seeking funding.

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William Hurley is founder and CEO of Strangeworks, a quantum computing startup that makes the power of quantum computing easily accessible and available to all.

He is an Eisenhower Fellow, Innovator in Residence for the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. A Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Chairman of the Quantum Computing Standards Workgroup at the IEEE, the first Ambassador to CERN and Society, a regular contributor to TechCrunch on the topic of Quantum Computing, and the co-author of “Quantum Computing For Babies”.

Prior to starting Strangeworks he was a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs [NYSE: GS]. He came to Goldman Sachs via the acquisition of his second startup, Honest Dollar.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

William Hurley 0:00
Most of the time you hear people seeking funding they’re seeking to paycheck. Funding is not your page. Okay? Your pay as the founders, you’re going

Alexander Ferguson 0:08
to welcome everyone to UpTech Report. This is our Founders Journey and Leaders Insights. And we’re here joined with William Hurley or also goes by we’re really based in Austin, Texas, we were in our first part of interview hearing about Strangeworks as well as this, this quantum computing platform that you’re building. Fascinating bringing the future to now. But I’m curious, like, what got you going back a little bit excited in quantum computing computing in the first place? Tell me more about your story.

William Hurley 0:44
Well, so So as entrepreneur, I always like to know what my next companies will be. And so I found that very early on around 2010, we had started a mobile platform, and it was tremendously successful. I said, Well, rather than have a little extra cash and stuff, I should start thinking about where am I want to be making my bets later. And either investing the areas or buying domains or IP, you’re kind of structuring. And so I had a choice. When I was exiting the last company, I could do biohacking, I could do, you know, quantum, there were a couple of other areas. And quantum seemed like the one that was the closest to the market timing will be conducive for a good entrepreneurial journey, but also the one that had no longest timeframe. In other words, it’s a company I could start work at, you know, till I die. Right. And that was one of the things is, you know, our first company ran for about six years, we spun a company out of it, the main company was acquired by a center in 2015. The spin out was acquired in 2016, or may have just said those exactly opposite. And so then in March of 2015, we started our third company, global reset my second as a founder installer. And that was acquired by Goldman Sachs on our one year anniversary. And so having been through that most recent experience being such a short run to such great therapist one year, right, that we were we were taking the approach of like, we want something where we have the chance to really build something like that was great as entrepreneurs, it was like, amazing, like, slam dunk. Were the guys. That’s awesome. But but but as founders, it wasn’t because there was no real founder, Jay, it was like, Well, it started with me

Alexander Ferguson 2:29
resolve it, you know, so we didn’t get let down like, oh, no, what?

William Hurley 2:33
Right? Well, we didn’t get to go through some of the stuff that you that you talked about, etc. So I so

Alexander Ferguson 2:39
interesting. So that’s not a typical success story, we will talk about a bit suddenly grow and success and sold and, and now to have a mindset of something to go much longer. But from the the instead of the the first two ventures and now this one, when it comes to you have a great idea, but then you need the funding to make it happen. What What have you seen is that the biggest mistakes that one can make when seeking funding? Well, that’s

William Hurley 3:04
a great question. But I’ll say you may not need the funding, right? You live in the greatest time to be an entrepreneur in the history of the world. When I was young, I used to have to cut UPC codes out of cereal boxes and save them up over the course of months and months, only to take them to a thing called a post office, physical email, at which point 12 weeks later, the first 30 components I needed to show up in the mailbox, hopefully that crushed by the Postal Service. And you know, today, you know, you’re 18 you got an idea, and you get out of high school in New Java, you can get AWS can fire up literally an enterprise class infrastructure for you that you can turn off and on for pity’s, you can have them deliver stuff in two hours to your house, you can you know, like it’s like, man, you kids have an amazing place. So, so that’s the first mistake. Most of the time you hear people seeking funding, they’re seeking to paycheck fundings, not your paycheck. Okay, your pay as a founder is you’re going out to a competent company. And that sucks. And people don’t like it. But there’s a rule, you know, my investment partner and ecliptic capital, my Curwood came up with years ago that I always thought was a great advice, which is make it up, use it up, wear it out, make Do or do without. And when he when he came up with that I was like, that’s the entrepreneurs Peter right. That is, that is what it’s like, like, there’s no entrepreneur story that it’s like, had a great idea people getting millions of dollars, we went public and like to you it’s like, that’s not how any of this works, right? The second mistake, which is probably for people pay most attention to so you know, don’t be trying to get a paycheck. No investor wants to hear when you get $1,000,000.08 100,000 just to pay you guys and $200,000 because the building thing gives me more money back, right because that’s a good pitch. But the second thing and probably the most important things that people don’t right size that rounds, they don’t do cap table management, right? They don’t they don’t know that there’s a physics to the business. classic mistake, they do a bunch of friends and family rounds that are people that most likely get crushed out later, there’s always been talk about getting funding, right. So they don’t manage funding process, they don’t manage what the effects of the cap table, they don’t do enough model. But the third thing, which is like the absolute most important is know who the fuck you’re talking to? Right? Like, you’re gonna go to a person that writes $50 million checks and ask them for $500,000 They are not writing that check. You’re not even gonna move the needle, right? They’re not there’s no reason for them to even talk to you. Likewise, you can’t get to somebody does average $5,000 allocation and be like, I need you to $25 million $50 million check. That doesn’t make sense. So I think when people get entrepreneurs often give VCs a bad rap. Not that a lot of them deserve it. But entrepreneurs out there like, Well, I went to all these people, they all said, No, well, sure, you went to 20. People, they all said no, 20 asked, 20 knows. But if 10 of them don’t like checks for $5 million, and your rounds a million dollars, why didn’t you spend time talking to them anyway, right. And if finally the 10 that are left, okay, if they spent, you know, time where they don’t do deep tech, or they have a time horizon, they’re short on the fund. And you’re not in that so they don’t match. So already have 20 people, 15 of them never could have written the check, even if they loved you and wanted to just based on the physics of their fund in the way that they do business, right. And so now you have to look inside and say, Oh, three of those were people who I knew already made an investment in something adjacent to me that they might think, competitive. So now they’re defending the portfolio, they’re not doing this huge scale away with the capital to maybe share it. Okay. So out of 20 people, only two of them ever really could have given you funding, and you just wasted your time with this other 18 people. And that’s not to say, you know, you shouldn’t take every meeting or talk to everybody in life, you should in entrepreneurship, you should you can’t take everybody, there’s a million VCs ready to talk to you. There’s a million entrepreneurs that are talking to you, we need a better ways, mixing and matching, you know, what I’m looking for what you’re looking for, and say, okay, because the secret is, and this is for entrepreneurship, in general alignment with the needs of the business and the needs of the employees line. Magic happens when the needs of the business founders and the needs of the investors line. Magic happens, right? It’s all about finding alignment. And you don’t have to people’s it’s a numbers game not to go with 100 days to get one Yes. Don’t talk to 99 people who never could have said yes, in the first place, like spend some time researching for a couple weeks, maybe even a month or two, before you are looking for funding and understand who’s in your area and who’s not use competitive with people who invested in competitors and might need an investment in that place for their board. You know, like get some data, not the drama that we do. We just like, well, I talked to them all. And they said no. VCs, it’s like it can’t say that. Okay, like that may not be fair to either one of you in that situation.

Alexander Ferguson 8:02
You already gave us a footnote for your upcoming book data, not drama. Can I assume that you’re taking lessons learned and putting it into a book is that what

William Hurley 8:10
taking the system’s about that? I’ve run from making objective decisions, and putting everything I know into a book in the hopes that it’ll create five 10 million more entrepreneurs much better than I write like, I, my retirement job is going to be spreading entrepreneurship. So I’m working with the legato school, the MIT Sloan School, whichever incepted, the innovator in residence position, they’re working with a couple international groups, obviously, universities and schools and stuff locally. And I have some kids books coming out on entrepreneurship, too, which is my data, that drama keeps getting delayed. I’m like, these Kid books are not hot. This book and quantum computing. I got a rum and coke and I told my wife, Hey, leave me alone for two, three hours, and then knock out this kid’s book. And like nine months later, we are still working on that book. It was like entanglements longer and we only like three or four words per page. And so it turns out they’re harder than reading actual book. But I know that at the time, so I signed myself up for several months. I gotta get this off.

Alexander Ferguson 9:14
Oh, my gosh. Well, when you get to the entrepreneurship one or business growing a business one for babies, I’d love that.

William Hurley 9:23
I will make a copy for books in that series. I think I’ll make sure you want to eat.

Alexander Ferguson 9:28
Oh my gosh. So if you had to pick I imagine this will be going into the data drama but one lesson learned from from honest dollar takeaway. Just pick one what would that be?

William Hurley 9:41
Check it out. So let me tell you the story. So you Okay, so Matt on a story. And the lesson is this. Unintended consequences. Everything we do everything we create every piece of code, right, has some unintended consequence in the future that we can FRC tell you about one of my all star. So the IEEE called me, great organization. I’ve been a member for 14 years of being for 15 years. So for a long time, and they said, Look, we’re gonna be doing this charity auction, we got this amazing guy, Steve deck. He Tim Becker, he’s a speaking. And he’s gonna come he’s gonna paint a picture of what was it was Einstein, Steve Jobs, the Statue of Liberty. And we’re going to auction and we thought you could use your network to help us auction these off. And I said, Oh, 100%, I could. And I said, so I’m going to bid $500 on each painting, and then I’ll tweet out and then you know, that don’t get you’re doubling the starting price or whatever. So I did on my credit card know, something about for weeks in relation? Okay, because I know we’re short on time. So I’ll wrap it up the story. So we’d say that Goldman Sachs often says there’s a package, giant crate, nobody has the beers I’m not expecting it. And the lesson is this. Even in that action, there was an unintended consequence, which was Einstein sold Pfizer statuary clock. And then the total number of bids for the painting of Steve Jobs was one $5 million bid from me, which made me the proud owner of this absolutely, incredibly easy working, Steve Jobs. It looks like, it looks like Ghostbusters. You know, that painting, it looks like it died. If he’s looking at me, like his eyes are gonna go off or something like Steve Jobs. Let me tell you, what do you think my wife said when I said, Hey, so this came to the office today. She said dig it back. What do you think when I said, Hey, guys, we have this giant building. Maybe we can hang this? And they’re like, no. So yes, in my closet, where I do my private calls, as a constant reminder of the long unintended consequences.

Alexander Ferguson 12:15
Unintended consequence. That is quite a problem. Those who are listening, the audio podcast, that was a giant painting of Steve Jobs,

William Hurley 12:23
maybe we’ll take a picture and send it to you’d

Unknown Speaker 12:26
love to put it on

William Hurley 12:28
large. People looking like you

Alexander Ferguson 12:33
just got so intense. Okay, well, it’s a law of unintended consequences, something to definitely consider as as, as anyone moves forward in their business and growth. One last question I have for you, what kind of tech innovations do you predict? We’ll see, I know, this is kind of a leading question, especially based on what you’re doing in the near term and long term. And just like, what would you want people to be thinking about?

William Hurley 13:01
Well, I think there’s a lot of things near term, you’re closer than we think autonomous driving, you know, more customized drugs and healthcare stuff. You know, those are all very interesting, long term. I have no idea. I mean, the way I like to position this, this, quantum computing, both near and long term is gonna be a major impact quantum technology. So not just computing, but quantum sensors, maybe a quantum internet, things like that. Those are the really big world changing things and why I’ve chosen that path, right. But the way I would maybe think of business, like, think of 19, you know, 56, or eight, or whatever race Hopper invented, what would be known as cobalt. And then a few years later, like 63, this guy Jack’s like, Hey, check it out, microchip. When that came into being nobody thought about the internet, nobody thought about the iPhone, we thought about autonomous cars, going to Mars, any of this stuff, right? And so we think about that, alright, then you think, Okay, now we have this new form of quantum computing. So when people wonder, why am I investing time and all the community and helping everybody, and I don’t, I’m not like, here’s where my capitalistic entrepreneurial nature will score. It’s because I’m not interested in the opportunities of the problems of today. I’m interested in the 1000s, the trillions of dollars of opportunities in things like quantum computing, with these new technologies that are a platform on which a whole new set of internet side phones and communication things will be built, where it’s opportunity rich environment where there’s room for success for 1000s of entrepreneurs, not just me. And so it’s like, that’s really the, the focus and when I look at it, it’s, you know, again, it’s not a prediction, it’s a prediction of prediction of almost nothing, which is to say, there’s not a specific thing, but there’s a whole new set of problems and solutions and drones and materials and financials and all of this that are gonna come out of this. And who knows what an Eagles would be used for and who knows what the lead to. And that, to me is the most exciting thing. And I predict we’ll start seeing those in the next 36 months in the area of computing.

Alexander Ferguson 15:16
But thank you so much for sharing your insight and a little bit of the story that you’ve been on, and the law of unintended consequences. Definitely, for those who want to learn more about strange works, go to Or go to quantum computing, and be able to already get involved in this movement of the future that is happening. Now. Thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate having me. Appreciate it. Thanks, everyone for joining us again, this was our founders journey part of our tech episode. Our sponsor for today is TeraLeap. If you want to learn how to better leverage the power of video to increase your sales and market results, head over to and learn about the new product customer stories. Thanks everyone, and we’ll see you next time.

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