#9 Classiq: Ahead of the quantum software game

Classiq founders Yehuda Naveh, Amir Naveh, and Nir Minerbi  credit: Eyal Toueg
Classiq founders Yehuda Naveh, Amir Naveh, and Nir Minerbi credit: Eyal Toueg

CEO Amir Minerbi: Organizations that don't work on software now and wait until the efficient quantum computer arrives will lose the race.

Founders: Nir Minerbi, Amir Naveh, and Yehuda Naveh
Investors: Entrée Capital, Team8, HSBC
Year founded: 2020
Employees: 60
Capital raised: $63 million

Towards the end of their regular army service, Nir Minerbi and Amir Naveh, who both served in the prestigious Talpiot technology unit, began making plans for the future. It was clear to both that they were going to found a startup together, but which field was an open question - maybe neuroscience, or maybe some machine vision application. "I dealt with cyber in the army, and precisely because of that I didn't want to continue on that path," admits Minerbi .

Very quickly the two realized the answer was right in front of them: Amir's father, Dr. Yehuda Naveh, is an expert in quantum computing, with years of research experience at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and at IBM. "Quantum computing has been talked about for 40 years, but there’s been a real revolution in the last five years," says Minerbi. "Unlike in the past, now we don't ask if quantum computing will happen or not, but when exactly will it happen, and the answer is probably soon. So, we realized that we could build something big in this field."

Not only did the duo take inspiration from Naveh the father, they also brought him in as a co-founder of the quantum computing startup they founded in 2020: Classiq. Yehuda Naveh is CTO of the company, which has raised $63 million to date and employs about 60 people. "You could say he took the biggest risk out of the three of us when he left IBM after 20 years," says Minerbi. Amir Naveh serves as Chief Product Officer and Minerbi is CEO.

A quantum computer utilizes the principles of quantum mechanics to create a more powerful and efficient computing machine than a normal computer. While a normal computer works serially, a quantum computer runs a series of operations simultaneously, which can increase its power immeasurably.

Classiq is building a platform that facilitates the development of software for quantum computers. Instead of developers having to work manually on writing specific commands for each qubit, a computational task that only a few experts know how to perform and that takes a great deal of time, they can formulate the functionality they want and Classiq's system will convert it into commands for the various qubits.

Although quantum computers are not yet powerful enough, Classiq already has dozens of paying customers: corporations and universities. These customers buy an annual license for the platform for tens of thousands of dollars to start development of the software they will use when quantum computing makes the necessary leap. Rolls Royce, for example, uses Classiq to run complex simulations of fluids and gas movement with a view to making aircraft more efficient. "Organizations that don't start working on software development now and wait until the efficient quantum computer arrives, will lose the race," says Minerbi.

Minerbi identifies two main types of competitors to Classiq. The first consists of companies like Zapata Computing, which has raised $67 million. According to Minerbi, Zapata operates more as a service provider that builds quantum applications manually for customers. "We give the customers the fishing rod and they give them the fish," Minerbi says. "This type of company bothers us today because we could lose customers to them, but in the long run it’s clear that the future is technological."

A second kind of competition comes from startups like Horizon Quantum Computing of Singapore which, like Classiq, is developing a software writing platform. Horizon Quantum Computing has raised $16 million to date. "Because this field is in its infancy, we’re already considered the world’s leading player in quantum computer software development, even though we’re still young," Minerbi says. "We ran ahead and already have 30 patents in this area. Classiq's product works on all existing types of quantum computers, while the technology giants have no interest in building a software development platform that will also run on their competitors' computers."

Minerbi also addresses the idea that an efficient quantum computer may never happen, and that all the work the company has done will go down the drain: "Right now, it will be a bigger story if we don’t achieve quantum computing than if we do. But, as a startup we are of course, sensitive to the question of when. If it takes another four to five years, that’s fine, but if it takes eight or more years and we go into a quantum winter, then we're screwed."

The Most Promising Startups rankings are part of the annual Enterprise Technology Summit held by "Globes" and JP Morgan.   

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 14, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

Classiq founders Yehuda Naveh, Amir Naveh, and Nir Minerbi  credit: Eyal Toueg
Classiq founders Yehuda Naveh, Amir Naveh, and Nir Minerbi credit: Eyal Toueg
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