From Quantum Supremacy to Quantum Entrepreneurship

Jonny Everett
7 min readDec 4, 2019


On October 23rd 2019, Google claimed it has finally reached quantum supremacy, a quantum computer that solved a problem that could not be solved by traditional computer science.

Why does this matter? Well, quantum computers have the potential to disrupt industries across a wide spectrum — from cybersecurity to drug discovery, thanks to their exponential advantage in when it comes to speed.

And private Investors are starting to pour money into the sector, having already funded a few startups with tens of millions of dollars in a number of quantum focused startups.

But, let’s not think that quantum computing is going to change the world just yet. It is still early days and there’s a lot to be done.

So what is all the fuss about and is now the right time to jump from quantum supremacy to quantum entrepreneurship?

Expert panel

On the 27th November 2019 our team at Entrepreneur First hosted 3 quantum experts at Station F to separate the truth from the hype in our “From Quantum Supremacy to Quantum Entrepreneurship” event, moderated by Majdoline Wahbi. It was composed of:

  • Fabien Niel: CTO of QuCloud, a quantum cloud startup incubated by Entrepreneur First
  • Iordanis Kerenidis : CNRS Senior Researcher at the Algorithms and Complexity Group at IRIF, University Paris Diderot
  • Olivier Tonneau: Partner at Quantonation, an early stage Venture Fund dedicated to Quantum Technologies and Deep Physics

And here’s what they had to say…

What is quantum anyway?

If you’re familiar with quantum, feel free to scroll to the next section. For simpletons like me, you’ll need to read this first.

Based on quantum mechanics, quantum computing “brings together two of the most important revolutions of the 21st century, quantum mechanics and… technology,’’ explained Iordanis

Key to quantum mechanics are 2 incredible things. Superposition and Quantum Parallelism.

  1. Superposition is essentially the idea that a particle exists across several states, at the same time. If you put a cat in a box with poison, the cat is both alive and dead until you open the box to check. When the cat is both alive and dead at the same time, this is superposition. Yes, mental, but true in the world of quantum.
  2. Quantum Parallelism is taking advantage of this superposition. It means that we can apply superposition to problems, allowing it to do many things at the same time, as it’s in several states all at once.

Why the hell did you need to know that? Well it’s these two things that give quantum it’s secret sauce. As superposition means it can be several states at once, and as parallelism means we can apply that, it means that certain things, like mind blowing calculations, get done much, much faster. Why? Because it’s running lots of computations at the same time. Unlike a normal computer that churns through them one after the other.

Does Quantum only lead to really fast computers?

No. “Quantum computing is a fundamentally different way of doing computation. It’s not a faster computer” said Iordanis. What’s more, it’s not just computing that quantum can be applied to.

Olivier broke down 3 core categories where we can expect quantum to dramatically change the game:

  1. Sensing — things like better microscopes
  2. Communications — things like hacking classical computers and encryption
  3. Computing — the that has the most hype

It all sounds great. But the truth, as Olivier pointed out, isn’t so simple. Current quantum computers have an error rate of 1/10,000, which is really high compared to what we’re used to and too high to rely on for a lot of things.

So is supremacy even the biggest thing we should watch for? And what are the use cases for these fast, error prone computers?

Does quantum supremacy even matter?

Quantum supremacy is where a quantum computer completes a computation that no classical computer could ever do” Iordanis outlined. It’s a marker of the success of quantum computing. And no surprise, the giants at Google say they’ve done it, completing a calculation in 3 minutes 20 seconds that would take a normal computer tens of thousands of years to complete.

Not everyone agrees. But supremacy reached or not, this is a real milestone in the development of quantum computing and opens the door to more advancements being realised from this technology.

“The fact they’ve done it at all in and of itself is exciting… I thought I’d be dead before a quantum computer even existed” said Iordanis. He was excited to see this and still be alive. We were too, not least as it meant we didn’t have to find another panelist.

So… what next for quantum?

Question is, where can this tech make the most headway in the near future? What are the areas that we should watch for quantum to create some game changing steps forward.

Energy efficiency

What about other things? Energy for one. Fabien said this isn’t talked about enough: “It’s amazing to think a tiny chip did a task that would take a football field of classical computers to do”.

As demands on computing power continue to rise, energy will become more and more of a conversation we need to have. The fact that Google can achieve such a radically demanding calculation using such a comparatively tiny amount of energy may well be the real story we should focus on.

Faster calculations at scale for areas like chemistry

Even though quantum isn’t faster for everything, there are some things it excels at. And it happens that these things are really useful when it comes to chemistry and pharma, making them a prime target for quantum advancements according to Fabien.

According to Fabien, chemistry is a prime target. Chemistry and pharma need to understand concepts that are at their core routed in nature. Molecules and drug discovery are fundamentally a search for stuff in the natural world. As quantum is how nature works, quantum computing has a great advantage vs. normal computers when it comes to these problems.

Quantum as a processor — the QPU

For computing, Fabien also suggested that we think about a hybrid approach. We can use a quantum processor to augment a normal computer — batching out jobs to the quantum computer it’s suited at, and keeping the rest running as you would normally. It’s a very promising configuration, especially in chemistry, where one of the most promising algorithm uses this configuration.

Examples of this exist. Gaming uses Graphical Processing Units (GPU’s), specifically batching out jobs related to graphics to these units which they’re really good at, but keeping other bits they suck at in other areas.

Breakthroughs in Machine Learning and AI

For Iordanis, Machine Learning and quantum are natural friends. ML isn’t an exact science, it learns as it goes, so has noise baked in. That means it’s less hampered by the high error rate currently seen in quantum computing. The power of AI is outpacing the capability of computing capacity, so watch this space to see how the massive speeds quantum offers may well be the best friend of power hungry AI.

Is now the time to start your journey as a quantum entrepreneur?

To some extent you’re already late, says Iordanis. If you want to win the hardware game in quantum, you need to find some of the (very) rare people that can build this stuff and who aren’t already working within the existing quantum hardware companies that have been running for years.

Talent overall will be a big issue for the development of quantum as a sector. How many quantum physicists are in your phone book? Yeh, thought so. That lack of talent will be a limiting factor when it comes to the development of the field and needs to be addressed to ensure the long term potential quantum presents are unlocked.

Olivier offered a more bullish view of the development of the field. Large corporates like Airbus didn’t even know what quantum was last year. Now they’ve got a whole team dedicated to it. Like AI, we may see a ‘winter of quantum’ where our lofty expectations get brought down to reality with a bump, before a real breakthrough comes.

Collaboration is a sticky issue. Whether it’s the tech arms race in quantum between the US and China as Iordanis pointed out, or a lack of willingness for companies in the space to share openly as Fabien mentioned, it’s clear that open development of quantum isn’t on the agenda right now. The US and China both want to win this race, and they don’t plan on sharing.

What’s key though is that the timing of the quantum revolution won’t be on the same scale we’re used to. Unlike the 40 years it’s taken from the advent of computing to where we are today, the same revolution may take just 5–10 years in quantum.

Fabien and Olivier agreed, jump now or risk missing the wave. You might be early, but otherwise you’re going to miss the revolution. And this revolution is set to be big.

About EF

Entrepreneur First (EF) is a talent investor, founded in London in 2011 to support the world’s most ambitious individuals build globally important companies. EF’s bespoke programme, the first of its kind, invests time and money in outstanding individuals, helping them to find a co-founder, develop an idea and create a high-growth technology company from scratch. To date, EF has helped over 1,200 individuals build more than 200 companies, with a total valuation of more than $1.5 billion. EF’s companies have been funded by many of the leading venture investors in Europe, Asia and Silicon Valley.

EF is backed by some of the world’s best investors, including the founders of LinkedIn, DeepMind and PayPal and runs cohorts in London, Paris, Berlin, Singapore, Hong Kong, Berlin and Bangalore. Major exits to date include Avocarrot, Represent,, and Magic Pony Technology, which sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million just 18 months after the founders met on EF.

If you would like to know more about Entrepreneur First, visit



Jonny Everett

Founding Partner @ Marble, the climate tech venture builder. Formerly Entrepreneur First + Founder. Brit in France.