by Geoff Ralston3/9/2022
When you take a classical computer and break it down to its most fundamental components, it’s actually rather simple. It is a whole lot of switches (transistors built into the fabric of a semiconductor) organized to execute boolean algebraic computations. And those computations couldn’t be simpler - ANDing and ORing ones and zeros together in order to add, subtract, multiply, move data, etc.
Quantum computing, on the other hand, is far more complex and harder to understand. It was proposed as an idea in the latter part of the 20th century and the first quantum computers have only recently begun to be built. According to Wikipedia, “Quantum computing is a type of computation that harnesses the collective properties of quantum states, such as superposition, interference, and entanglement, to perform calculations.” As easy as it is to describe how a classical computer works, a quantum computer is a whole different story.
Experts in quantum computing are not numerous. Such an expert who is also a product-focused entrepreneur is rarer still. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to run into Chad Rigetti.
Chad was a leading expert in quantum computing. By the time he applied to YC, he had a PhD in Applied Physics, he’d authored over 30 scientific papers, and had built multiple world-record-breaking quantum memory devices. But what made Chad stand out was that he not only wanted to write papers and do research, he wanted to play a more active role in making the promise of quantum computing come to fruition. Chad had a resilience, a toughness about him that all great founders must have, but is all the more critical for founders who want to build hard tech on the cutting edge of what is known.
Through the force of his intellect and his will, Chad has brought his company all the way to the creation of an extraordinary device and to the public markets. Congratulations to Chad and to all of the folks at Rigetti who have worked so hard to get to this point. There’s a ton of quantum distance still to go, but no company and no team is better positioned to make that journey.
Geoff Ralston is the former President of Y Combinator and has been with YC since 2011. Prior to YC, he built one of the first web mail services, RocketMail which became Yahoo Mail in 1997.