The First Quantum Computing Company Makes Wall Street Debut

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
October 5, 2021 Updated: October 5, 2021

IonQ made its debut on Wall Street with a stock market listing on Friday, making history by becoming the first quantum computing hardware company to go public.

The listing of IonQ was done through merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The merger injected IonQ with $636 million capital which the company hopes to deploy towards bringing quantum computing out from experimental research into the hands of the end-user.

IonQ is a pure-play quantum computing company. With a $2 billion valuation, the company has the backing of notable investors like Amazon Web Services, Google Ventures, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy.

IonQ was founded in 2015 by Chris Monroe and Jungsang Kim with $2 million in seed funding from New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Since then, the company has raised $20 million from Amazon Web Services, GV (formerly Google Ventures), and NEA. Another round of funding in 2019 earned $55 million from Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala and Samsung. The same year, they made quantum computing ability available via the cloud.

Currently, the company’s primary product is a 32 qubit system that provides 22 Algorithmic Qubits made available to a select number of partners. Their cloud offerings can be found on Amazon Braket, Microsoft Azure Quantum, and Google Cloud.

A qubit is a basic unit of information in a quantum computer, like bits in a normal computer.

“IonQ’s qubits are ionized ytterbium atoms, a silvery rare-earth metal,” reads IonQ’s homepage. “Moreover, once prepared in a particular stable quantum state, [ytterbium atoms] can remain in that state for very long periods of time—they’re so consistent they’re used in one of the most accurate atomic clocks ever built.”

Maintaining the stability of atoms is a fundamental barrier to achieving progress in quantum computing.

Quantum enthusiasts have long propagated the benefits of the tech when compared to silicon-based classical computer chips. It has become increasingly harder to add more transistors on silicon. Based on current technology, the etching on silicon chips has become incredibly small, down to 10 nanometers. If it goes beyond that, to seven nanometers, the laws of conventional computing break down, and quantum physics comes into play. Quantum is widely considered to be the next stage in computing.

Proponents claim that adding a single qubit doubles the power of a quantum machine. These advanced machines need to grow to approximately 1,000 qubits before competing with supercomputers, which is expected to take another half-decade or so.

“There’s a very high probability that quantum is going to be an industry that’s worth hundreds of billions of dollars in market cap because it’s going to power the future of the cloud,” said Niccolo de Masi, CEO of the dMY Technology Group SPAC that took IonQ public, in a Sept. 24 MIS Insider interview. “IonQ wouldn’t have Amazon as a shareholder and Google as a shareholder if it weren’t important to the trillions of dollars of market cap each of these companies have.”

Peter Chapman, the former Amazon executive who heads IonQ, predicts revenue of about $522 million in 2026, when companies could start using quantum tech in daily applications, according to an FT report.

The sector is dynamically interesting with new players offering varied technologies. PsiQuantum, based out of Palo Alto, is building quantum computers based on photons, and has raised $450 million in private financing in 2021.

IonQ ended the day 13.21 percent lower than the starting price of $10.41.