The Quantum Quest | William Hurley from Strangeworks

William Hurley had a vision—begin an open source space for people to collaborate in quantum computing. It didn’t work out. So he decided to start his own company. And just as the quantum world is a little strange, so is his startup, Strangeworks.

They’re not selling a product—at least, not yet. Instead, they’re building community and offering free resources, which includes tools you can use on their website to begin working in quantum computing right now.

In this episode of UpTech Report, William talks about why he believes quantum computing is important, when we can expect this new technology to have a real impact in the marketplace, and ways you can get involved today. “I don’t care what company you use,” he says, “I do care that you get involved.”

More information:

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
You want to take your power of quantum, you know, make it accessible to everyone just as easily and efficiently as possible.

Alexander Ferguson 0:14
Welcome, everyone to UpTech Report. our episode today is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at I’m super psyched to be able to chat with William Hurley, also known as whirly, based in Austin, Texas, author of the upcoming book data drama, but also quantum computing for babies. Let’s see that okay, look at it clubs. There we go quantum computing. are babies, the one and only and CEO of Strangeworks. Welcome, Williams. Great to have you, man.

William Hurley 0:43
Hey, thanks for having me.

Alexander Ferguson 0:45
So strange works is a platform for quantum computing. on your site, you say brings the power of multiple quantum computers into a single platform accessible to everyone.

William Hurley 0:57
Yeah, so we, so we, so a lot of people don’t know. But the history of strange works, we actually started out trying to get a bunch of people to work together in quantum computing, as an open source project, and it didn’t work, we’d already put so much effort into it, we’re like, Well, screw it, we’ll just start a company do that ourselves. And so basically, what we want to do is we want to take the power of quantum, you know, make it accessible to everyone just as easily and efficiently as possible. I believe that quantum computing will change, computing, as we know it more in the next 10 years than competing has changed in the last 100. And because of that, I think it needs to be, you know, evenly distributed and somewhat democratized, and etc, etc. And so what we’ve done is a weird thing for a startup, right? We got investment, instead of being like, here’s a product we charge people for, we’re like, here’s all the free community stuff we do and all the other stuff, which you know, raises some eyebrows for sure. But we have other plans for the money stuff, too. But that’s not where we’re at the evolution of the technology. So like, right, now’s the time to be collaborating, building community working together. So that’s really kind of our our bailiwick and our current position in the market.

Alexander Ferguson 2:09
So basically, anyone wanting to be involved in quantum computing, whether they are right now or wanting it this is kind of a platform that they could test and learn collaborate while they’re solving and sharing answers effectively.

William Hurley 2:21
Absolutely. I mean, we could we could begin even, you know, happy to show your audience at some point if you’d like to, to. But basically, so there’s multiple community efforts, we sponsored some of this or efforts in the EU or in Asia or wherever with communities, the two most notable would be our StackOverflow partnership, where we created quantum computing that, which is 4000 Questions strong now 85% of them answered relatively quick, with over almost 11,000 people. Now in the community, I think it’s like 10,600, or something like that. And then there’s quantum computing calm, which is powered by strange, or software, which is the platform you just described, which essentially, is every simulator, you could want already hosted as a scalable micro service, and then access to all the machines you could want, etc, etc. There’s paywalls, as you get closer and closer to the hardware, because we don’t own that. But you can do so much work without that hardware, you can come and take experiments from the library and clone them and mess with them and learn quantum computing, and you can build your own intellectual property, etc, etc. So, again, just trying to get people involved and for your audience, you know, it’d be for every audience I talk to you, which is, I don’t care whose tools you use, I don’t care what company you use, if you’re an enterprise, whatever. I do care that you get involved in this because it’s the first real shift from von Neumann architectures, the first real shift into a new era of computing for us as a species. So it’s pretty important, I think.

Alexander Ferguson 3:54
Now, taking a step back, I mean, quantum computing, one could say, okay, quantum computers don’t even really quite exist. Exactly. I mean, they do but in testing grounds, so why do you have an old platform when it’s not even out in public? Please?

William Hurley 4:07
That’s a great question. So think about it. So let’s go back to 19. You know, 20s, you have a bit Solvay Conference, quantum mechanics comes into being 55 years between them and five minute Benioff in 1982. Thinking about using the spin of a particle as a bet as a way to calculate, then, you know, you go another seven years, I think maybe it’s 12. Mit, it’s seven qubits. And then you go another six years, maybe there’s 12 qubits. So given that, what you just said, is a perfect statement makes sense. However, if you didn’t go to 2017, we went from 17 to 28 to 50, to 72 to 128, right? All over the period of 2017 to 2019. And then this year, IBM announced their roadmap, so they’re going to be by For over 100 qubits next year, over 400 qubits in 2022, and 1000 cubits in 2023. And so you know, and you’ve got other manufacturers, right? Some of the some of the photonics, people are, you know, I attract people, right? They’re saying they’ll have a million qubit machine in five years, right? So, so you look at the compression to the schedule, as an entrepreneur, you look at the investment that’s going into the area, you look at all of that stuff. I don’t think this is a 20 year away thing, I think it’s more like a two or three year away thing. And when you look at the complexity of it, go back to the beginning of computing, you had to be an electrical engineer, to program a computer, because you have to understand the actual flow of electricity between gates, right now you pretty much have to be a physicist, right? We’re getting away from that really fast. But so you’re not talking about something, you’re going to go live in three months and have a job and six, you’re probably going to be a spent a year of messing around with it. And then there’s opportunities, you know, that are going to start coming up in the next two or three years. So now’s the time to get involved. And I can’t make predictions. I’m not Nostradamus one discovery, noise control, one discovery and how we, you know, suspend these particles, be it by lasers or cooling down or whatever. And everything could be 4000 cubits overnight, right? Like we know how to add qubits is not the problem. It’s things like noise in the system, and other things like that, and so on. And so, right. And so I always tell people, when will quantum computing arrive, in effect, you’re like, some top Sunday between tomorrow and some tomorrow in the not too distant future. And nobody knows when. And I’m telling you, if you’re if you’re if you’re a software developer, and you’re not looking at it, you’ll be unprepared for data scientist, you’re not looking at it, you’ll be prepared. If you’re an enterprise. And you are you’re coming up with like, how you at least react to quantum if you’re not making this practical investments. You know, there’s gonna be some big shifts in multiple industries.

Alexander Ferguson 6:57
Wow. Now, on your website, you say your mission is to heute humanizing quantum, by setting standards fostering community improving continuously, and partnering for growth. So let’s what’s really like the roadmap, then?

William Hurley 7:10
Yeah, so. So we started. So we started when we started the company with the IEEE with the standards effort. So part 1730, and 1731. One is on nomenclature, because we think cubic and so easy to say kubity. See videos on YouTube, cubic, cubic cubic. Okay, well, Is it logical? Is it physical? Is it a topological qubit? Is it a kneeler? Maybe it’s an iron trap, or superconducting? And what does that mean? What are the differences mean? qubits aren’t like bits, they’re not all the same. Like we see a bit at this point. We’ve got enough standards and enough definition, we know what a bit is, across every competing device, we have qubits, not necessarily that that situation. The second one’s on performance benchmarking. So we started those, we’re also working with the ISO and several other standards bodies to just try to foster, we’re not trying to control we don’t ever just all get together and agree on things that we don’t have to rebuild on new times, it might speak the industry definitions that would make it easier to communicate outside of the industry, things like that. Those are important, that’s in combination with that community effort, right. are two major efforts there that we spend most of our time on. And that was that leads to what part? Well, now that we have this big of a platform, and we have 1000s, if not 10s of 1000s of developers around it, then the hardware manufacturers are much more likely to want to expose their hardware do it. And that’s what we say we say Partnering for growth, it’s like look, there’s gonna be software stuff that does very specific things that we may need to make available people. And the platform we built allows us to make any hardware or any software in quantum or exotic computing in general. So your morphic amorphic, DNA stuff like that, available to people to to experiment with and use and integrate into their their workflows in their daily job.

Alexander Ferguson 8:58
I love that the mindset now is the time to be testing, creating and developing the potential use cases stuff even on your own site. So for those that want to learn more, definitely go to quantum to be able to already sign up. easy one to remember, if you can spell quantum and qubit and teleport the qubit you actually have a couple of like test things you can try curious, like what do you click on the button, press teleport, teleport the qubit? Like what was the mindset with with grading those?

William Hurley 9:27
So that’s on that’s on. So that’s on strange words calm, and then the new website we just released. And what it is, is it’s a way for you to try to try to run a quantum experiment as easy as possible. And so how much easier can you get other than here’s a couple sentences about the experiment, the actual code for you to look at, you hit a button that we can run into the simulator, right. And so we’re going to actually be doing something really cool that I can’t say but the idea is to show how much you can reduce it right so you want to lower the barrier to entry Now, that doesn’t mean you’re, you know, we made a click on our website. Now you don’t need to be a physicist or you don’t need to have any programming. But the the idea is, we could do a lot better job as an industry as a community, in communicating how this works and why it’s important and what it is not making it scary physics, right? Like, oh, now if you don’t have a PhD in physics, you could never do it. And it’s like, look, a PhD in physics would be a tremendous advantage. But so was being an electrical engineer, you know, in the 20s, and 30s, you know, and now you can go to like full sail or wherever, and become a software developer, you know, a lot easier, right? Because there’s so many users, abstraction layers, and simplification and refactoring, and all of these things. And all of that I predict is exactly what will happen with quantum computing. And so therefore, taking a communal approach and getting everybody to focus on competing for dollars, because there aren’t a lot of dollars and are competing, but but work together to build an industry. And then somewhere in the future, they can all compete or join forces or do a roll up or whatever they want. But it’s funny, because you you summed it up, he said, it doesn’t really exist. Well, that’s not true. There are machines available today from Righetti and IBM and others that you can access online today. IQ I believe, has there’s only Amazon brackets. So if you have an Amazon AWS account, you can access you know, there’s via that you can access for games via that as well. And there’s a lot of things you can do. But these still aren’t computers, I still think we’re mainly in the world of simulation right now, for most the work you want to do. Because what these are, is they’re really, really good lab equipment for exploring the quantum. And that’s the way I tend to look at it. That’s the way I can.

Alexander Ferguson 11:45
I appreciate that frame of reference great lab equipment to explore and test the future of where quantum computing will go. I thank you so much for for sharing this, bringing the future to us when it comes to quantum computing. I definitely stick around for those that want to hear more about Williams history and his insights and learning of starting new companies and not your first one. I know that so there’s a lot of insight you can share. So stick around for part two of our interview with William. Thanks, everyone for joining us. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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