Anaqor: Shaping the Future of Community-Built Quantum Solutions

Quantum computing requires not only very specialized hardware but also software that accounts for the principles of quantum physics and computer science. Thus, classical software developers must become familiar with quantum physics and physicists with programming—and for the foreseeable future, the talent pool at this intersection will be very limited.

But what if there were a platform where quantum developers could easily share their quantum code and be rewarded for it while helping companies across industries solve their specific computational problems?

Anaqor was founded by Andreas LiebingMathias PetriDavid Niehaus, and Michael Falkenthal as a new venture within StoneOne, a Berlin software development company—and eventually spun out in 2023. It is creating an open platform and ecosystem for quantum applications: PlanQK. With 36M Euros in grant funding from the German government and its own financial resources, PlanQK is based on one of the single largest quantum application research projects. Anaqor has partnered with various industry players and is part of the QAI Ventures Startup Accelerator.

Learn more about the future of community-built quantum solutions from our interview with the co-founder and COO, David Niehaus: 

Why Did You Start Anaqor?

I started my career in the aerospace industry at Boeing and subsequently dove into various other tech industries as a consultant, from semiconductor manufacturing to autonomous driving. After five years in consulting, I had this urge to build a product that excited me as much as airplanes, and the opportunity came up with Anaqor.

The company has quite a unique founding history. In 2007, Andreas Liebing and Mathias Petri founded StoneOne as a software company offering Platforms as a Service in Berlin. Anaqor evolved from this—first, as an internal venture. In 2020, Michael Falkenthal and I both joined StoneOne, he from the tech side and I from the commercial side. Our goal was to develop Anaqor and go all in on quantum computing. 

We looked into the quantum value chain and saw that vision on the horizon that everyone could use quantum computing to solve their specific industry problems. What if we could enable entire industries to benefit from quantum computing? It was clear that the number of people capable of developing quantum applications in the foreseeable future would be few; however, we could enable those quantum developers to make the most of their applications and make them available to the widest community possible. 

This culminated in Anaqor, first as a group within StepOne and eventually spinning out as a startup in the spring of 2023. We had complete process autonomy with StoneOne to develop our own team, own processes, and a new business model from scratch. So we got the best of both worlds: an amazing and driven team of 25 people and an existing business line that brings us annual recurring revenue.

How Do You Build a Platform for Quantum Applications?

We extend the capabilities of quantum developers with automated software engineering capabilities. Just like the API economy enabled developers to provide code snippets in whatever programming language to make them easily useable across software products, we’ll do the same for quantum software by developing PlanQK, a platform and ecosystem for quantum applications.

Users can supercharge their processes without having to know how to deploy quantum code on a quantum computer. They can consume it through an API, and we’ll do the hard work in the background. It relies on a transaction-based business model that thrives from a big community, and we’ve grown the PlanQK to over 100 partner organizations, mostly through word of mouth.

Thanks to this platform approach, we don’t get caught up with very industry-specific problems: that’s on our customers. We don’t need to know the details of every industry but instead empower people to solve their industry problems by leveraging quantum computing. That way, we cover a broad range of industries. We partner with companies such as Axiovision in the financial industry, Quantistry or HQS in quantum chemistry, Quantagonia for optimization problems, and QMWare for quantum-classical computations. 

It’s early since quantum computers don’t deliver commercial value just yet. But companies are willing to give it a try, do pilot projects, and get a sense of what they can do and what potential savings to expect from quantum computers once they are more advanced. Anaqor supports this exploration phase while also integrating high-performance classical computers and GPU clusters to, among other things, run quantum-inspired classical algorithms or hybrid quantum-classical algorithms. Benchmarking of different algorithms is also on our roadmap, while our current focus is on further development of our prototype with our partners.

How Did You Evaluate Your Startup Idea?

We spoke with many market participants to get a thorough overview of available technologies and understand from a commercial and technical point-of-view where new quantum approaches could fit in. Then in 2020, we started a research project with the consortium of partners we formed with the University of Stuttgart around PlanQK and collected all the personas that might interact with our platform.

We then conducted in-depth interviews with people representing these personas from all kinds of organizations, from small quant startups to large corporations to research institutions. We learned a lot this way, and our understanding of personas is still evolving. So far, we’ve been able to narrow them down from the original eight to four. Some personas may not even exist today—just like the recent AI hype created the new role of a prompt engineer. 

It may take a few more years before quantum applications become widespread. However, what I like about our industry is that everyone knows this, and that’s okay. It makes the industry very cooperative. And even when quantum computing becomes widely used in industry, I think it will continue to be collaborative because it originated in academia.

What Advice Would You Give Fellow Deep Tech Founders?

You can read all the books and blog posts and watch all the TED talks you want, but you can’t fathom what it is like being a founder, lying awake at night and thinking about how to prioritize different product features that are mutually exclusive. It’s okay to read stuff but don’t mistake it for experiencing it yourself. The reality is different, and the best way to become a founder is by founding a company.

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