After successful seed, Qunnect set for ludicrous speed

Keep out: "Unhackable," cyber-secure long-distance communications -- at comfy room temperatures -- are in play at Qunnect.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Marking another quantum leap for cybersecure long-distance communications, a high-tech Stony Brook University spinoff has completed a key financing round.

Qunnect LLC, a 2017 startup launched by a Stony Brook PhD and the head of the university’s Quantum Information Technology Group, has closed its $800,000 seed round, an oversubscribed financing cycle backed by the Accelerate NY Seed Fund, French venture-capital fund Quantonation – the first VC fund dedicated to quantum technologies – and private investors.

The high interest in the seed round bodes well for Qunnect, which leverages technology created by scientists in SBU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy to facilitate quantum-memory applications at room temperatures – a potentially ginormous advance for quantum tech, including “unhackable” long-distance communications.

Qunnect licensed the tech – all about spinning electrons at ludicrous speeds, without burning the place down or freezing the room first – from the Research Foundation for the State University of New York.

Mehdi Namazi: Going the distance.

The technology itself has already attracted plenty of outside attention, including $1 million in combined National Science Foundation grants, a $50,000 NSF Innovation Corps prize earmarked for commercialization and a $50,000 SBU Discovery Prize for the Quantum Information Technology Group, under the guiding hand of Qunnect cofounder and Chief Science Officer Eden Figueroa.

But the support of private investors, exemplified by the oversubscribed seed round, is particularly promising, according to Qunnect cofounder and CEO Mehdi Namazi, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University who earned his PhD in physics from SBU in 2018.

“We are very grateful to our investors for supporting our vision,” Namazi said. “Qunnect is committed to building field-stable devices that enable long-distance, quantum-secure communication.”

With a full suite of quantum-communications devices in various stages of development, Qunnect – a resident of SBU’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology and client of the university’s Clean Energy Business Incubation Program – is focusing first on a “quantum memory device” that can store, coherently manipulate, temporally synchronize and retrieve quantum-states on-demand, useful as both a standalone product and “an integral component in the company’s future products,” Qunnect said in a statement.

With that first product ready to fly, field testing of new advances underway at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the evolving quantum-communications field ripe for progress, the time was right to get behind Qunnect, according to Quantonation Managing Director Christophe Jurczak.

“The team at Qunnect has a very strong technical and business vision that is a key factor of success for Deep Tech startups,” Jurczak said in a statement. “We see countries and corporations ramping up their efforts worldwide to speed up the development of quantum-secure communications.

“Qunnect’s technology will be a key building block for this quantum future.”

The fledgling startup’s success is a testament to both SBU science and the university’s world-class collaborative networking, according to Peter Donnelly, managing director of the Accelerate NY Seed Fund.

“Qunnect’s quantum memories are an important step towards demonstrating quantum-secure communications in the field,” Donnelly added. “We are pleased to support the commercialization of this groundbreaking innovation from Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Labs.”