IonQ, a quantum computing startup born in College Park, announced Monday that it would likely soon become the first publicly traded company to specialize in commercialized quantum computing.
The company plans to file paperwork with the Securities Exchange Commission in the next week, which will allow it to go public on the New York Stock Exchange through an acquisition deal that would set the valuation of the combined entity to nearly $2 billion.
“The ability to become a public company gives us access to a huge capital base, and that will allow us to spend more time building our system, deploying them for useful application,” said Chris Monroe, IonQ’s founder and a physics professor at the University of Maryland. “We can start to do our own research and development … We can do more risky things.”
Monroe and co-founder Junsang Kim formed IonQ with the goal of taking quantum computing into the market. They initially received $2 million in seed funding from New Enterprise Associates, giving them a license to lab technology from the University of Maryland and Duke University. From there, they were able to raise tens of millions of dollars in funding from companies like Samsung and Mubadala, and partnered with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.
The company going public was made possible by a planned merger with a blank-check firm, dMY Technology Group Inc. III.
If it goes through, the merger will result in over $650 million in gross proceeds, including $350 million from private investors, according to a press release from IonQ. Combined with the $84 million the company has raised in venture capital funding, the deal would place IonQ’s total earnings at about $734 million.
The transition to quantum computing is unprecedented, Monroe said, and it will allow people to solve problems that a regular computer often can’t.
Some problems — like optimizing a fleet of trucks or discovering medicines — have too many variables to solve with regular computing. But at the quantum level, more information can be handled, Monroe said, making it radically different from today’s computing.
University President Darryll Pines, formerly the dean of the engineering school, explained that classical computing uses a stream of electrical pulses called bits, which represent 1s and 0s, to store information. However, on the quantum scale, subatomic particles — known as qubits — are used to store information, greatly increasing the speed of computing.
IonQ’s approach to researching quantum computing has been rooted in university-led research. Quantum physics has strange rules that aren’t always accepted in the engineering world, Monroe said, so many of these laws have become the domain of research at universities and national laboratories.
And this university especially, with its proximity to Washington, D.C., has one of the biggest communities of quantum scientists, Monroe said.
“We have students and postdocs and all kinds of researchers on Maryland’s campus studying the field, and at IonQ, we’ve hired many of them,” Monroe said. “And that’s a huge advantage for us.”
As a company with about 60 employees, some of whom attended this university, IonQ has become a pioneer in quantum computing. In October, Peter Chapman, IonQ’s CEO and president, announced the company’s newest 32-qubit computer, the most powerful quantum computer on the market.
And in November, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan named IonQ one of the state’s top 20 startup companies in the state.
The biggest advantage for IonQ has been its technology, Monroe said. Companies like IBM, Google or Microsoft use silicon to build their computers — but IonQ uses individual atoms, which, unlike silicon, float over a chip in a vacuum chamber.
That technology has been perfected at this university, Monroe said, and IonQ has a concrete plan over the next five years to manufacture quantum computer modules and wire them together.
By 2030, 20 percent of global organizations — whether in the public or private sector — are expected to budget for quantum-computing projects, according to Gartner Inc., a global research and advisory firm. That number is up from less than 1 percent in 2018, according to Gartner.
Niccolo de Masi, CEO of dMY, said in IonQ’s press release that he expects the quantum computing industry to grow immensely in the next ten years, with a market opportunity of approximately $65 billion by 2030.
Pines expressed his excitement at seeing a university startup make strides in computing.
“We’re happy for building the ecosystem from science, to translation, to startup, to possibly developing a product and adding value to society and growing jobs in the state of Maryland,” Pines said.
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