Alphabet spins out quantum tech start-up SandboxAQ

SandboxAQ has launched as an enterprise SaaS company working in quantum and AI technologies.

Founded by serial entrepreneur and quantum computing researcher Jack Hidary, the business started out at Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in 2016.

Hidary is now CEO of the new Silicon Valley spin-out which is developing commercial quantum and AI products for the telecom, financial services, healthcare, infosec and government sectors, with a focus on cybersecurity.

Unlike many burgeoning quantum computing companies, SandboxAQ is not focused on delivering the hardware for this next stage of computing, but on the applications that will make use of this technology. Investor Marc Benioff compared it to the way his company Salesforce grasped the opportunities for software presented by cloud computing at the turn of the century.

While SandboxAQ’s software currently runs on everyday computers, it is already working on security tools that will prevent quantum computing from breaking through encryption and other protections in future.

It claims to be commercialising technologies currently the preserve of scientific papers and advanced research facilities, with products including post-quantum cryptography modules for securing cyber architecture.

“The gravity of the geopolitical climate necessitates that we develop stronger cybersecurity platforms for companies and governments,” said Hidary.

“In addition to cybersecurity, quantum tech and AI working together have a powerful compound effect we call AQ, which can impact areas such as drug development, clean energy and data security.”

Towards commercial quantum technology

SandboxAQ launches today (22 March) with 55 engineers, scientists and technologists on the team, their experience spanning physics, chemistry, neuroscience, mathematics, cryptography and more.

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Hidary claims the company has already “built an ecosystem of partners, customers, government agencies and university relationships” and its early customers include Vodafone Business, SoftBank Mobile, website building platform Wix and New York hospital network Mount Sinai Health System.

Alphabet will not be a shareholder in the new business, which has instead launched with substantial outside investment. Reuters reports a nine-figure sum from a funding round the company said was oversubscribed.

As well as Benioff, the long list of investors includes Breyer Capital, Guggenheim Investments and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

This investment will be used to hire more artificial intelligence experts, physicists and engineers to develop AI and quantum technologies. The company will also work closely with university partners to invest in PhD students and host postdocs.

“The convergence of quantum and AI technologies is already transforming entire industries, accelerating scientific discovery and reimagining what we thought was possible,” said Schmidt, who has been named chair of the SandboxAQ board.

“By developing commercially viable, quantum technologies using a combination of today’s high-performance computing power and emerging quantum platforms, SandboxAQ is uniquely positioned to lead this transformation at scale for global impact.”

Jim Breyer, founder and CEO of Breyer Capital, noted that his recent investments in AI have seen “profound positive impact” in areas such as healthcare. “The impact that quantum technology will have on communications, healthcare, finance and other sectors will be as large if not larger,” he added.

Back in 2019, Google’s own quantum computing research team claimed to have achieved ‘quantum supremacy’. In a paper published in Nature, they claimed the company’s experimental quantum processor completed a calculation that would take a traditional supercomputer more than 10,000 years in just three minutes and 20 seconds.

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Eric Schmidt at Davos 2015. Image: Valeriano DiDomenico/swiss-image.ch/World Economic Forum (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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