Startup for 10: KETS Quantum

Startup for 10 is showcasing all the great startups in the region. One startup, 10 questions - all you need to know.
10th July 2019

KETS Quantum Security is a quantum tech company, or an Information Security company depending on how you look at it, founded in July 2016. There are now 9 members of the team based in Bristol offices.

Answering 10 questions about the company is Director of Operations at KETS, Caroline Clark.

1. In your own words – what do you do?

We are pioneering quantum encryption on a chip – developing random number generation and key distribution technologies. This is incredibly important because there is a new and exciting technology on the horizon – Quantum Computing.

Quantum computing is computing done with quantum systems or quantum bits – i.e. qubits – that has the potential to do many types of computation faster and more efficiently than our current classical computers. For example; factoring, which underpins some of our current encryption algorithms; or simulation, which could allow us to find the next cancer drug.

While quantum computers will offer great advancements in many areas, they will also create a massive problem for encryption algorithms since they are tailormade to solve the mathematics that underlies the convenient ones we currently have in use.

To combat this, many people are hard at work building new and better software algorithms. At KETS, we believe that part of the solution will be new quantum-safe hardware like ours.

2. What’s the most exciting thing about what you’re doing?

The most exciting thing about what we’re doing is just how new this technology is. We’re really pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with quantum tech.

Being able to build on awesome research carried out here in Bristol and to be able to take this research out of the lab and create real world impact is both extremely exciting and very challenging.

3. What are you most proud of so far?

Too many to choose from, but I’ll pick a recent memory that made me very proud. I hadn’t been in the lab in a while and even though I get updates in meetings on how we’re doing, it’s not like seeing it in the flesh.

About a week or two ago we had a visitor, it was a quiet day, so we took them up to the lab at the end of the conversation to show them our kit and it was almost unrecognisable! Far from the physics project that it started out as (that literally was held together with some cellotape at various points), we were looking at a slick break-out board with one of our little Quantum Key Distribution chips packaged on its own little daughter board, similar to an SD card, and plugged into the main board.

Our technology almost looked like a product! I’m very proud of how far the team has come in the past year or so, turning a university research technology into something that is starting to look like a real commercial product.

4. What have you found most difficult about being a startup?

The most difficult thing is dealing with the unknown and especially the unknown unknowns!

The other thing, particularly with emerging deep technology such as this is the response from investors of ‘you’re a little early for us.’ This was a pretty typical response when we were looking for seed funding. As it happened, we were lucky to find the right investors who understood and supported our vision.

5. What would you do differently if you started now?

Not sure we’d do anything differently – every hurdle has been a lesson learned!

6. Where do you think you’ll be in 12 months?

Just closing our Series A funding round, expanding the team and embarking on another ambitious period of growth and development for both the team and the tech.

7 – What tools/people/services/organisations from the cluster have helped you most?

We’re a University of Bristol start-up and alumni of the QTEC programmeand have massively benefitted from this in terms of support and mentoring. We’ve also benefitted from continued paid access to the University’s Quantum labs which has been invaluable in terms of our tech development.

We’ve had a great deal of help from SETSquared and the ‘in residence’ professionals and EIRs in particular – they’re probably tired of Chris block booking their calendar every week!

Towards the end of last year, we had some timely and valuable support from Natalie at the Enterprise Europe Network through the Innovate 2 Succeed programme. We were able to move a long way forward with our IP and Export strategies as a result.

Finally, and very importantly, one of our NEDs, Claudio Marinelli has been with us since the very early days, well before we incorporated. He has been a key mentor and advisor to the whole of the founding team.

8. What’s the best thing about the Bristol & Bath tech cluster?

The cities, the people, the increasing number of exciting companies setting up here. In particular, we’re excited to see more and more quantum companies really getting going.

The deep tech community Bristol is building also gives us a lot of energy. Seeing all these hungry, energetic new start-ups change the world is infectious! And the perfect antidote when you’re having a rough day.

9. Who will you be nominating for a SPARKie next year?

So many great companies and people out there, I think it would be unfair to choose just one but perhaps some of our fellow QTEC alumni like Flouretic and QLM. They’re both doing some really cool stuff with quantum!

10. Where can we find out more about you?

From the KETS Quantum website, follow them on Twitter: @kets_quantum, on the KETS LinkedIn page or send them an email: [email protected].

Thanks to Caroline for taking the time to talk to us.