Haley Crawford contributed to this story.
Aurélie Hélouis, former senior officer and CTO in the French Navy, is the definition of a leader who can perform under pressure. In charge of over 80 jet engine technicians when she was just 24, she has been developing the ability to guide others through complex projects since the beginning of her career, and always manages to do so with a cool head.
Her engineering background paired with an MBA from McGill University allowed her to make strides at Mila, the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute, where she met Professor Jean Michel Sellier. This encounter became the jumping-off point for eventually founding her quantum analog computing start-up, infinityQ.
“I think I caught the entrepreneurial bug when I was attending the entrepreneurship evening during Karl’s CEO Insights class at McGill,” Hélouis shared. “Helge Seetzen from TandemLaunch [start-up incubator] was there, and he pitched entrepreneurship the whole evening. I was fascinated and felt that it was something I wanted to do. He finished the class and said, ‘If you want half a million dollars, a Ph.D. as a co-founder, and have a great and cool tech idea, send me an email.’ And I sent him an email, quit my job, and became an entrepreneur.”
Following her encounter with Seetzen and a few entrepreneurial stints, Hélouis found her pace with infinityQ. The quantum analog computing firm is dedicated to revolutionizing the technology space through ultra-high-speed, green computational capabilities that greatly outpace those created by longstanding leaders in the field.
“There are problems that classical computing can’t easily tackle such as very complex optimization problems and Monte Carlo simulations,” Hélouis explained. “They can tackle them, but it takes hours. The IBMs and Googles of the world promise quantum computing, but need five to ten years. So really, there is a need to speed up now. And we are already one hundred to one thousand times faster than classical computing for these types of problems.”
In business terms, infinityQ is set to become the must-have for financial and pharmaceutical players alike, which need to solve extremely complex problems in short periods of time. infinityQ computers can assess risk and create simulations at lightning speed, empowering mainstream market players with the strength of quantum-analog computing.
“We have a lot of interest from the financial world for portfolio optimization, arbitrage – problems that require a lot of computational time,” Hélouis said. “The big interest is also in pharma with molecular dynamics, drug side effects, and protein docking software. We can tackle these kinds of problems now.”
The firm’s primary goal is to bring civilization to the next level and solve the world’s major issues thanks to quantum computing’s supercharged capabilities. To provide value today, rather than ten years down the line, infinityQ’s largely female team is bringing its high-calibre engineering expertise, investor-friendly business savvy, and empathetic perception of problem-solving to the table.
“We are founded, led, and engineered by women,” Hélouis said. “Most people think what we achieve is impossible with today’s technology. But, hey, women handle the impossible every day. And I would say that female founders see things differently and have more empathy. We are also highly focused on delivering results. And maybe because we are women, we feel the need to prove that we have the skills to do so.”
When advising young women on the precipice of beginning their careers, particularly in the tech space, Hélouis has many wise words. In particular, she preaches sticking to one’s guns and charging ahead towards what one believes in, no matter what others may say about it.
“Focus on your dream, and don’t listen to people who say it’s not possible,” she said. “If you want to pursue a technical career, don’t listen to people who say you would be better off elsewhere. When I was the CTO of my squadron in the Navy, my commanding officer said, ‘Aurélie, you are very good at HR,’ and I replied, ‘Thank you, but I’m the CTO.’ Women are completely able to have this type of job.”
From having the support to make multiple entrepreneurial attempts without getting discouraged, to being fearless in entering male-dominated spaces, she highlights the importance of having allies in the tech community who can uphold the continuous development of young women making their entrée into the space.
“Every woman deserves these moments [of success] and I’ll forever continue to promote and encourage women’s entrepreneurial journeys in the tech industry, and I hope my story does just that,” Hélouis said. “I don’t see myself as an exception, but the beginning of the new standard.”
And when the going gets tough? “If there is not a seat at the table available, it’s time to build your own house.”
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