In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, quantum computing stands as a beacon of hope, promising to revolutionize industries and push the boundaries of computational power. Recognizing the transformative potential of quantum computing, the Duality accelerator program has taken a significant step in advancing this field. This year, the Duality accelerator has carefully selected four new quantum computing companies for its prestigious cohort, propelling them toward success and playing a pivotal role in shaping the future of this cutting-edge technology.
“This was a higher quality applicant pool than previous cohorts,” explained newly hired Duality Director, Ezunial “Eze” Burts. This year’s cohort includes Icarus Quantum from Boulder, Colorado; Ingenii, from New York, New York; Ki3 Photonics from Montreal, Canada; and reOrbital, from Hermosa Beach, California. “Through the yearlong Duality program, each startup will receive $50,000 in unrestricted funding and mentorship from some of the world’s top quantum experts,” Duality’s website explains. “The startups will receive invaluable networking opportunities, have the opportunity to explore partnerships, and access some of the region’s state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for advanced computing, nanofabrication, atomic-scale measurement, quantum testbeds, and other premier resources.”
While the four chosen companies vary in quantum computing applications and goals, they all met the same criteria the Duality judges had for accepting them into the program. “One of our key performance indicators is, how do we measure success for Duality?” Burts added. “How many of these companies can relocate to Chicago and have a permanent business presence? So, that was one of the questions that we asked, do these companies potentially have an interest in relocating to Chicago? And they all said yes.” Because the four companies are all focused on quantum computing hardware, Burts believes that this contributed to their decision to possibly relocate to Chicago. “Hardware companies, if we can provide the right resources, they are less likely to relocate, just because of the sheer cost and barriers of entry to uproot once you have lab presence established,” he said.
Beyond a possible move to Chicago, the Duality judges also looked into how useful the accelerator program could be for the quantum computing company. “Duality is an accelerator within this ecosystem,” elaborated Burts, “but we also offer many other resources. So, we look at if the company is ready to capture those resources, and can they capitalize on it.” To enhance this resource allocation, Burts and the other Duality leadership decided to pick a smaller cohort this year, compared to the two previous cohorts, which had five and six start-up companies, respectively. “We want to ensure that we’re focused on cultivating the startups and connecting them with the ecosystem,” Burts added. “I think that’s also based on some of the feedback we got in the past. At least one of the startups in Cohort Two mentioned to me that they wished that there were more office hours with the director of Duality, the person leading the charge, so to speak.” With a smaller cohort of four companies, Burts and his team believe these goals can be accomplished by giving more individualized attention to each start-up.
The Duality Impact on the Chicago Area
Though he’s only recently become the Duality Director, Burts is incredibly proud of the impact the accelerator program has already had on the Chicago quantum industry. “Just in the combined years between Cohort 1 and 2, we were already able to raise $12.1 million,” Burts stated. “That’s an astounding number. We also saw a significant uptick in jobs, so employment offers were going out, and people were being hired, including Ph.D. students, business professionals, and interns.”
With these successes, it’s no surprise that other quantum accelerator programs, like Duality, are popping up worldwide, from the UK to Japan. “It’s a great phenomenon that we started,” Burts said. “I’m proud to be a part of this next stage, elevating us to the next level and building upon the foundation that my predecessors have already laid.”
As this third cohort is underway, Burts hopes that next year’s cohort can be expanded to include companies from more underrepresented communities. “It would be great to cast a wider net to attract candidates from nontraditional backgrounds,” he added. Still, he’s excited to see what this new cohort brings to the Duality program, understanding that the program’s resources not only benefit these four start-ups, but the greater quantum ecosystem.
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, quantum computing, and AI. Her work has been featured in Scientific American, New Scientist, Discover Magazine, Ars Technica, and more.