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Breaking Quantum Frontiers: Phasecraft's Pioneering Journey in Quantum Computing

with Ashley Montanaro, CEO & Co-founder Phasecraft

Deeptech UCL Tech Fund


Founder Stories University Edition is a collection of fireside chats with the leading academic founders backed by the AlbionVC team. Having invested in over 30 university spinouts from the leading UK universities including UCL, Imperial College London, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge, the series highlights personal stories of those who made the leap from academia to entrepreneurship.  

In this episode, Professor Ashley Montanaro, co-founder of Phasecraft, chats to David Grimm, AlbionVC partner, about the world of quantum science and Phasecraft’s leading role in that space. 

Phasecraft was founded by Ashely along with Professor Toby Cubitt and Professor Joe Morton, each of whom have been at the cutting edge of quantum research for decades. The UCL Technology Fund, which is managed by AlbionVC, in collaboration with UCL Business, have been investors since the start of Phasecraft’s formation.

Ashley gives context by explaining that quantum computing is a new paradigm that goes beyond the traditional laws of physics, capable of solving some incredibly important challenges currently beyond the capacity of even the world’s top systems. 

To make this a reality in the near-term, it is critical to develop incredibly efficient quantum algorithms and Phasecraft have built up a team of 25 people over the last five years to tackle that.

With all the co-founders being seasoned academics, Ashley found it a learning process, trying to understand the differences and similarities associated with running a company versus an academic group. Something he had not initially appreciated was that there are many skills developed in academia which are very relevant to being a startup CEO.

Another focal point of their discussion was around Phasecraft’s culture. Ashley highlighted the importance of a supportive environment, which he described as the easiest way to get the best people, especially in a field like quantum computing where the competition for talent is immense. Phascraft has just expanded to the US and managed to persuade Steve Flammia, a top quant researcher, to lead operations there. Steva was quoted to have left Amazon to join the risky world of startups in order to have a bigger strategic impact.

Morally, the founders wanted to build a company where people are happy so many policies and practices were deliberately engineered to achieve this. One example is their extended parental leave policy, which offers six months full pay regardless of gender. 

Returning to developments in quantum computing, Ashley thinks that there is now a transition from a brief period of extreme hype to a higher level of realism. Phasecraft have reduced the complexity of certain key problems in materials modeling by millions of factors, and are becoming more excited that they will be able to do something with these machines in the near-term.

We are incredibly grateful for the support that Albion has shown us over the years and obviously the support that you personally have shown for the company as well. For us one thing that was very valuable in the very early stages of Phasecraft was working with investors that really understood what it was like to have an academically based UK startup. Investors who understood the ecosystem, who were really embedded within it and also were able to interface with the university directly, which I think can be incredibly helpful – just to have this line of communication that you don’t necessarily have with an external VC fund.

Ashley Montanaro, CEO & Co-founder Phasecraft

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