Paulina Mazurek, CEO of Polish quantum startup BEIT, is the first nominee of the ‘Quantum Personality of the Year 2020’ and she definitely deserves that honour.
First, because she has co-founded her company in 2016, when a lot of so-called smart people were skeptic about quantum computing or even were unaware of this potential revolution.
It was a clever move by this ex-Google employee who used to supervise GoogleTV projects.
But she also managed with her co-founder, Wojtek Burkot, and her friend Witold Jarnicki, a well-known mathematician, to participate to the very selecting and challenging CDL Acceleration Program in Toronto. Kudos.
It was a pleasure to interview Paulina who replied to business and personal questions with a lot of spontaneousness and kindness.
Paulina, could you resume when/why you created BEIT?
BEIT was founded by myself and Wojtek Burkot. We have been working together, for, among others Motorola and Google for the past 20 years. One day, Wojtek, a physicist by heart and education shared his idea of solving hard problems with quantum computers and we decided that once we saw quantum hardware close enough, we would leave whatever corporation we would be working for at that moment and start a QC company. In the meantime Wojtek was formulating claims for the first patent application, while I was using my skills in Latin to make sure the claims, being complex, compound sentences, are properly formed – we had learned how to play to our strengths before.
The next step was to invite Witold Jarnicki, great mathematician and a friend of ours. Once he accepted, I had no doubts we have a dream team – respecting one another and with vast, diverse experience .
When you look at the rearview mirror of the last 5 years, what are your feelings about the quantum industry ?
I participated in the PC boom from the user perspective – I remember Atari and Commodore and bulky cellular phones with all their limitations. Several years later and I can use my phone interchangeably with my laptop.
2 years ago the biggest parallel TSP problem we were able to run on D-Wave or Rigetti was for 20 x 20 grid and 80 vehicles.
Today we are able to solve the problem twice bigger, mostly thanks to the IP we developed. It is still no match for classical HPC, but at least it is heading in the right direction 🙂
The most interesting part is the existence of various architectural possibilities for QC, no one knowing now which one will be the final one. This is fascinating to be a part of this industry-under-construction from the constructor’s perspective, not “just” the user.
How do you feel the competitive landscape in your quantum domain?
BEIT works on quantum software, this field is growing very fast. 3 years back, Prof Winfried Hensinger said: “There are about 50 people in the world, at most, writing quantum computer algorithms”. According to https://qisdata.com/ today there are over 100 startups operating worldwide in Quantum Algorithms & Simulation. Some of them work on the same layer of the software stack as BEIT (right above quantum “firmware” and below the application layer), protecting their IP as we do. At this stage we all are in the same boat, strongly depending on quantum hardware. If quantum computers at business relevant scale are built, we can all win, if not, everyone will lose.
What is your best quantum achievement during this year?
Definitely our world’s best results for quantum unstructured search on Honeywell Quantum System H0. Overnight success, many months in the making as it incorporates both theoretical and experimental work we conducted since the beginning of 2020.
The most important is the fact that our algorithms and implementations can be used on larger machines when available, as they provably scale optimally with growing numbers of qubits. We hope one day they will shorten time to market for the commercial QC computation, as they are more efficient than competing solutions.
Where do you see yourself and your company in 3 years?
I see BEIT running our algorithms on larger quantum computers and solving hard problems. I wonder if we will be able to do it better than with the best classical approaches within this timeframe, but I am sure it will eventually materialize. Then, we’ll be able to solve problems currently out of reach, such as protein folding, catalysis or computational approaches to neurobiology.
As our solutions reduce the requirements on quantum hardware to run certain calculations, we should witness the acceleration of the scale of problems possible to be solved with quantum computers. I hope to continue our partnerships with hardware vendors as well as to tighten cooperation with other quantum software companies to get the most out of this new paradigm.
I’d love to run BEIT through these exciting times!
Some people speak about a “quantum bubble”. From your point of view, is it real and does it impact your business?
Unfortunately it is real. Back in 2018 at the CDL Accelerator Program we were saying there are no quantum computers able to offer more than your calculator and that we work on the solutions possible to be introduced on larger quantum systems. In fact we were not taken very seriously. There is a bunch of companies claiming quantum advantage in various areas. Many of those took millions of dollars in financing rounds, offering solutions that have never materialized. So the quantum bubble pumped by such marketing is growing, and if we don’t see real deliveries in quantum space, the bubble will burst.
Depending on the timing, it may hinder our coming financing round, as VCs get more sceptical about quantum. However, designing the company, we are solving for the post-buble times. I plan on BEIT emerging from the bubble uscathed, to be among the first ones to provide QC commercial value, when the demand peaks.
To you, what will be the next ‘quantum big thing’ in 2021?
I’d say we should witness many announcements related to the progress of photonic quantum HW, which seems to be promising (among others eliminating the problem of keeping the hardware in milliKelvin temperatures). We hope for error correction schemes being implemented – for them, many vendors will need to provide Mid-Circuit-Measurement, which we focused on a couple of years back, so we will be able to use our know-how for efficient programming using this feature.
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
If you think in terms of a business carrier and where I am now, it’s definitely my co-founder, Wojtek Burkot. We have just the opposite personalities and should have killed one another a long time ago. Instead we managed to learn how to withstand each other and play to our strengths. This quickly reflected in our effectiveness of working together, both when we worked for Fortune500 corporations and for our own businesses (besides BEIT we run an early stage, deep tech VC).
If you could rewind your professional life 10 years back, what would you like to change?
I would not change a thing. These 10 years were very intensive, challenging, stressful, but also rewarding. I run many different projects in various areas from setting up Google for Entrepreneurs Campus to Program Management of deep tech projects to building a recognizable tech brand for large e-commerce company to setting up BEIT.
And now a new adventure is starting!
What are your strengths and weaknesses? Both pro and personal.
Let’s start with weaknesses. I’m terrible at building relations – it doesn’t matter if you think of potential customers, users or co-workers. According to the True Colors Personality Assessment I’m blue (empathetic, people friendly interface), while I often find myself more like a green (no people interface, kind of a nerd!). I am also feet on the ground person, which often kills any creativity. Personally I’m difficult to cope with, I require a lot from myself, but also from my closest ones.
Thinking about strengths – I work and live according to my ethical codex and I don’t give up under pressure. No matter what.
Your most hard learned lesson in business ?
Explosive mixture of business and politics, when you work on something of real value, deliver, show results, but fail when politics (both intra-company and national politics) come to the fore. This way several of my corporate projects got killed but thanks to ensuing frustration, I decided to start my own company with no politics at all 🙂
Your bedtime book currently?
Now you got me. I’ve just finished the second volume of Mindhunter by John E. Douglas and started A Road Back from Schizophrenia by Arnhild Lauveng…
Tell us about your hobbies
I used to train archery when I was teen and it is still close to my heart (plan to get back to it at the retirement age!). I love spending time with my family including our animals (3 cats, 2 dogs and a horse), training agility tricks with our border collie, learning horse riding and spending incredible time during horse rallys. This is my way to relax, clear the mind and charge my batteries 🙂 I’m interested in psychology, too, especially in what sits in the minds of serial killers, so this should somehow explain my bedtime books above 😉
Say out any of your favorite quotes
“Reason over hype”.
It’s taken from our Bitspiration Booster VC, but perfectly fits to “quantum bubble” as well!
Which are your three magic lamp genie wishes?
As a kid I thought it would be smart to ask for more wishes in the first place. But getting back to reality 😉
- Please give us a fault tolerant quantum computer able to solve NP-complete problems (which will allow humanity to create new drugs, eliminate most of serious diseases, introduce economic equality and more).
- Please erase stupidity and lack of empathy everywhere, forever.
- I would like to donate this one to someone who needs it more than I do.