Oct 13, 2021
When Thomas Kramer recalls his decision to leave his job with a prestigious consulting firm to start up a tech firm in the final hours of the dotcom boom, he doesn’t hesitate to underscore his decision’s questionable timing.
“This was when I realized that I would be getting out of consulting at what potentially would have been the worst possible point in time. Everyone could see that the Internet boom was closing, and smart people do what smart people do: They run in the other direction,” recalls Kramer, now some 20 years later.
Whether it’s quantum bits, IPOs, or even SPACs, the exciting developments surrounding IonQ are no match for CFO Kramer’s insightful personal advice and often biting self-reflection.
“Travel is something that you do when you can,” explains Kramer, who tells us that during those times when his career has dispatched him to different parts of the world, he has frequently combined work and leisure trips.
At one point back in the early 2000s, when he discovered that he was not required to be in Delhi, India, for another 48 hours, the avid traveler made a pit stop in the United Arab Emirates.
“I stopped off in Dubai and then I drove to Oman,” he reports, “because, hey, when else are you going to get to go to Oman?” –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about IonQ … what type of company is this?
Kramer: This is one that I love to get at cocktail parties because we actually shoot lasers at individual atoms and use these as building blocks to create the computer of the future. And I’m not kidding about the lasers or the atoms—this is what we do. We literally manipulate the smallest entities in the universe to create the largest-capacity supercomputers in the world.
Why is this important, because who cares about computers? You can go to Best Buy and buy another one every day. But the problem with computing is that “more slow” hasn’t been working for a while now. There are just physical limits to how many transistors you can put into a chip, and transistors are the basic building blocks of traditional computers. Transistors or bits are pretty limited in their function, though. They’ll assume the value of only zero or one, and to paraphrase Katy Perry, they’re off or they’re on.
Famously, quantum bits can be both zero and one at the same time—and also any value in between. This means that they can hold much richer information and therefore be used to compute much, much more complicated problem sets.
I’ll give you an example. Most UPS drivers can make about 120 deliveries per day. The potential combination of stops is expressed as a mathematical function by multiplying 120 by 119 by 118, and so on. The result far exceeds the age of Earth in nanoseconds. The practical implication of this is that if UPS or FedEx tried to calculate the optimal world for each of their more than 100,000 drivers every morning, all packages would’ve been delivered weeks ago, before the fastest supercomputer could ever give you the answer.
This is where quantum computers come in. They can handle a much larger data set simultaneously than your traditional computer can. When you go public, it’s a moment of profound commitment because now you’re really stuck, now you have to make it work. And that’s what I want to see happen here. We can go public. We will be trading. But what’s important is that we can bring out the best computers in the market for decades to come. And we as a finance function can help to make this happen.