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Welcome to another episode of Category Visionaries — the show that explores GTM stories from tech’s most innovative B2B founders. In today’s episode, we’re speaking with Ashley Montanaro, CEO & Co-Founder of Phasecraft, a quantum software company that has raised over $22 Million in funding. 

Here are the most interesting points from our conversation:

  • Transition from Academia to Quantum Computing: Ashley shares his journey from writing software for pre-smartphone era devices to being captivated by the potential of quantum computing, leading to a PhD and eventually co-founding Phasecraft.
  • Quantum Computing Simplified: He provides a simplified explanation of quantum computing, highlighting its fundamental differences from classical computing and its potential to solve complex problems that are currently beyond our reach.
  • Early Days at Phasecraft: The initial focus was on determining whether to pursue quantum computing advancements within academia or through a startup. Choosing the latter, Phasecraft was founded to accelerate development and commercialization.
  • The Challenge of Transitioning to Industry: Ashley discusses the learning curve of moving from academia to starting a business, emphasizing the unexpected relevance of academic skills in entrepreneurship and the importance of understanding venture funding.
  • Partnerships for Quantum Advancement: He highlights the importance of partnerships with companies like Johnson Matthey to achieve quantum advantage by solving real-world problems, emphasizing hands-on collaboration with experts in the field.
  • Advice for Aspiring Quantum Entrepreneurs: Ashley advises on the importance of careful investor selection, realistic promises about the technology’s capabilities, and the crucial early hiring to ensure alignment with the company’s ethos.



Embrace Interdisciplinary Learning for Innovation:

Ashley's transition from software engineering to quantum computing underscores the value of exploring new fields and technologies, even those that seem counterintuitive or beyond one’s initial expertise. For founders, remaining open to learning about and integrating concepts from different disciplines can uncover unique opportunities for innovation.

Validate the Transition from Academia to Industry Carefully:

Deciding to transform academic research into a commercial venture is a significant step. Founders should weigh the advantages of speed, funding, and practical application that a startup can offer against the depth and freedom of academic research. This consideration is crucial for technologies like quantum computing, where the path to commercialization is complex and long-term.

Leverage Academic Skills in Entrepreneurship:

The skills acquired in academia—such as leading teams, conducting research, and public speaking—are invaluable in the startup world. Founders should not underestimate the transferability of these competencies to business leadership and team management.

Build Strategic Partnerships for Mutual Advancement:

Engaging with industry partners who have a deep understanding of the problems they face can significantly accelerate technology development and application. These partnerships should be hands-on and involve direct collaboration with technical experts to ensure the technology developed meets practical needs.

Prioritize Alignment in Early Hiring:

In fields with limited expertise, such as quantum computing, hiring individuals who not only possess the necessary technical skills but also share the company's vision and ethos is paramount. This alignment is crucial for navigating the challenges of pioneering new technologies and can make a significant difference in a company's trajectory.

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