This Australian ‘quantum security’ company just raised $25 million. Now its attention has turned to the UK.

This Australian ‘quantum security’ company just raised $25 million. Now its attention has turned to the UK.
QuintessenceLabs founder Dr Vikram Sharma. Photo: Supplied
  • Australian quantum security group, QuintessenceLabs, will take the $25 million it just raised to compete in the UK.
  • The firm has seen a major increase in demand as enterprise and government agencies reckon with new cyber threats.
  • Q Labs meets that demand with the world’s fastest random number generator — an essential part of the encyption process — powered by quantum tech.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australian quantum security firm QuintessenceLabs, or “Q Labs”, will move to take a share of the UK’s cybersecurity market after it raised $25 million from a gaggle of investors in a Series B funding round led by the CSIRO’s venture capital outfit, Main Sequence.

The firm, which was founded in 2005, works with enterprise companies and government agencies to encrypt documents and databases at scale. Westpac offered the firm some of its earliest support, first in the form of an initial 2015 investment, and later with the opportunity to trial its quantum tech across the bank’s infrastructure. 

QuintessenceLabs’ founder, Dr Vikram Sharma, said the opportunity to trial the technology at scale has been critical to the firm’s growth over the last few years, and has empowered them to lure clients like JPMorgan Chase and the US Department of Homeland Security among other enterprises and government agencies.

While the pandemic has underscored the importance of tightening cybersecurity infrastructure, it’s an area that chief information officers around the world have long been watching with a keen eye. 

Dr Sharma said that in the face of technological advancements – and the new capabilities for hackers that come with them – organisations are facing a “data apocalypse”, which can only be challenged with extra layers of data control.

“It’s moved up the priority list, you know — most chief information security officers are grappling with so much coming their way, that they really had to prioritise and focus on the top few,” Dr Sharma said. 

“So I think that access control has certainly found its way into that list of key priorities, which in turn is being evidenced by us in terms of increased customer and inbound inquiry.”

Dr Sharma said what sets the firm apart from competitors is its quantum computing capabilities, which generate strings of random numbers — essential to the encryption of any digital file or asset — more reliably than other software has been capable of in the past.

“In the end, anything that comes out of the sausage machine of a software algorithm, it will have some patterns,” Dr Sharma said. 

“To generate true random numbers, you have to measure something physical, and a very good way to do that is to measure quantum effects,” he said. 

“So, Q Labs does that through measuring an effect called ‘quantum tunnelling’, and we have the world’s fastest true random number generator, which originally was in a big optics table, you know, a metre by two metres, and lasers and lenses and electronics on it.”

Dr Sharma said the true number generator they’re working with now is small enough to be held with one hand, and can generate about 1 billion true random numbers per second. 

With the new round of funding, he said, the firm is looking to replicate the success it’s had in the US — home to the highest demand for cybersecurity services in the world — in the UK, and even India and Japan. 

But the UK is a market the firm has been looking to crack for the last 18 months. Dr Sharma said the recent AUKUS deal brokered by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, aligns well with the firm’s strategy.

“Of course, the access to nuclear submarines [has taken] the headlines, but a very important element of the AUKUS partnership is the technology collaboration [between] these three nations,” he said. 

“In particular, they identified four areas for collaboration that were to be prioritised,” he said. “And they were cybersecurity, AI, quantum and supply chain. Q Labs ticks the boxes on three of those categories other than AI.”

With the funding, the firm will first look to pin down a chief revenue officer, who Dr Sharma expects will be based in the US, and have a world-leading pedigree. Next on the to-do list will be a substantial marketing investment and, of course, setup costs for their UK operation.