CARY – Quantum computing company Atom Computing will base the company’s executive office in Cary and hire former Lenovo executive Rob Hays to lead the company as CEO after the company closed a $15 million Series A fundraising round.

The company, which previously raised $5 million in seed money and received multiple National Science Foundation grants for its technology development, also announced that it has completed Phoenix, the company’s first-generation quantum computer.

The Phoenix, said Hays in an interview with WRAL TechWire, “is our proving ground where we are showing off all operations necessary for a useful quantum computer, and allowing a select external pilot users on the system to test out our software stack.”

A primer on quantum computing with Rob Hays, CEO of Atom Computing

The Phoenix is a 100-atom quantum computer.  Atom Computing is the first company to build nuclear-spin qubits out of an alkaline earth element, said Hays.  The company’s quantum computer utilizes qubit states that are purely nuclear in nature.

“We use Strontium-87 to accomplish this, but our hardware, software, and methods are easily transferable across a range of elements,” said Hays.

The innovative technology, which the company describes as a breakthrough in a statement, allows for stability in quantum computing, and will also allow for scale, said Hays.

“After working with 50 qubits for quite some time on daily operations, it only took one day to ‘upgrade’ to 100 atoms by changing some inputs to a python function and rerunning calibrations,” said Hays.  “This is why we’re excited about atoms, imagine the time and effort that would have had to go into even classical computing technology to make a change like this.”

The company will use the $15 million investment to hire people and procure equipment, said Hays.  The company opened its corporate office, which Hays called the “executive office,” in Cary, where it will house the executive team, marketing, business development, and other functions.

The company chose Cary due to the Triangle’s proximity to research universities and for its deep technical talent pool, noted Hays.  North Carolina State University was chosen by IBM to house the Quantum Computing Hub in May 2018, and Duke University is opening a quantum computing facility as well.

IonQ, a quantum computing startup with ties to Duke University, recently filed for an IPO, and one of its cofounders testified before a subcommittee of the United States Congress in May, noting that quantum computers are “as revolutionary as they are challenging to grasp and build.”


Duke professors’ quantum computing startup going public in $2B offering

Companies like IBM, Honeywell, Lenovo, and Amazon are making investments in quantum computing, and Honeywell recently made a $300 million investment in a joint venture with a U.K. firm.

Attracting specialized talent is critical for success in the industry, and Hays described how Atom Computing is thinking ahead for its next stage of growth.

“We are having strong success in attracting and hiring top physics, engineering, and business talent to help us deliver our quantum computing roadmap,” said Hays.  “Our strategy is to attract the best talent in multiple locations where it is most concentrated across the continent.”

Those locations: Berkley, CA; Boulder, CO; Austin, TX; and now Cary.

“While some roles in the company require hands-on access to our quantum computing systems, the vast majority interact with the systems remotely,” said Hays.  “Most of the technical accomplishments were, in fact, achieved by remote employees during the pandemic.”

The company built its first generation-quantum computing system, Phoenix, and funds from the $15 million round will be used to improve the system to prepare the company to make it commercially available as soon as 2022, said Hays.

At the same time, the company will begin developing its second-generation system, with the goal of scaling the number of qubits to increase performance and improve reliability.


Quantum computing wars: IBM, Honeywell make major moves as competition intensifies