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Quantum in Context: Rigetti Q4 2023 Earnings and Other Numbers

Quantum in Context: Rigetti Q4 2023 Earnings and Other Numbers

The News: On March 14, Rigetti Computing, a public quantum computing company based in Berkeley, California, announced its financial results for the 2023 fourth quarter (Q4) and full year 2023. The company highlighted its 9- and 84-qubit quantum computing systems and contracts with the UK’s National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) and the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL). The full earnings press release is available on the Rigetti Computing website. A transcript of the earnings call is also available on Yahoo Finance.

By the numbers:

  • Revenue: $3.376 million in Q4 2023 versus $6.060 million in Q4 2022, $12.008 million in 2023 versus $13.102 million in 2022
  • Operating expenses: $19.723 million in Q4 2023 versus $31.976 million in Q4 2022, $81.503 million in 2023 versus $119.309 million in 2022
  • Net loss: $75.107 million in 2023 versus $71.521 million in 2022
  • Total current assets: $107.667 million on December 31, 2023, versus $154.467 on December 31, 2022

Quantum in Context: Rigetti Q4 2023 Earnings and Other Numbers

Analyst Take: In an era when quantum computing does not yet provide Practical Quantum Advantage for commercial in-production applications, hardware startups such as Rigetti must work hard to close deals to cover expenses. Part of the company’s strategy is to provide a 9-qubit quantum processing unit (QPU) to research organizations wanting to take a DIY approach to building a complete quantum computing system. Rigetti’s year-over-year (YoY) net loss number speaks for itself, but analyzing the competitive industry context in which the company operates is worthwhile.

Rigetti’s Quantum Computing Hardware

A qubit (quantum bit) is the basic unit of information in quantum computing. There are many ways, or modalities, of physically implementing qubits, including neutral atoms, ions, photons, and semiconductors. Rigetti uses a superconducting semiconductor approach, where its QPU operates in a cryostat. The QPU must be kept in a dark vacuum at a temperature close to absolute zero, much colder than outer space. These conditions help minimize noise from the immediate environment that can cause computational errors.

Quantum in Context: Rigetti Q4 2023 Earnings and Other Numbers
The Rigetti Novera 9-qubit QPU (Image Source: Rigetti)

Rigetti has many competitors in the superconducting quantum computing space. These include AWS, IBM, Google, and startups such as Alice & Bob, Anyon Technologies, Atlantic Quantum, IQM, Nord Quantique, Quantum Circuits, and Oxford Quantum Circuits. It is a crowded field.

The companies distinguish themselves by creating variations of superconducting QPUs that they believe can scale well to many qubits or perform with so few errors that they will eventually be able to implement fault tolerance. That is, if something goes wrong, a fault, they want to detect and fix it.
Rigetti’s latest products include the 84-qubit Ankaa-2 quantum computer and the Novera 9-qubit QPU. Novera is not a system but a chip and packaging that a user can install in their own cryostat. This makes the Novera suitable for academic and industrial labs. It lists for $900,000.

Moving Toward Fault Tolerance and Error Correction

If you look at almost any quantum computing book, you will see quantum circuits that perform tasks and implement algorithms.

WARNING: A brief geeky quantum computing example ahead.

Given two qubits, the following circuit swaps the values (quantum states) of two qubits q0 and q1:

Quantum in Context: Rigetti Q4 2023 Earnings and Other Numbers
Diagram from section 9.3.3 (Image Source: Dancing with Qubits, Second Edition by Dr. Bob Sutor)

You do not need to know what all the symbols, boxes, and lines mean, but the idea is that you take information in one qubit and interchange it with the information in another qubit. This process is non-trivial in quantum computing because you cannot copy quantum-encoded data.

That quantum computing book probably assumes everything is perfect. The qubits maintain their values forever and do precisely what we tell them to do. In the real world of physical qubits such as Rigetti’s, noise from the environment, control system glitches, and manufacturing defects perturb the qubits and the operations. Moreover, these physical qubits do not keep their values forever. Through decoherence, chaos sets in, and the values creep toward 0 and away from their original states.

We will fix this by implementing quantum error correction (QEC). What do we need to do this? We need many qubits and operations with sufficiently low error rates. Another way of saying the second requirement is that we have high-fidelity 1- and 2-qubit operations. (In the diagram above, the H operations operate on one qubit while the others operate on two.) Some math: the fidelity is 1 minus the error rate. If you have 1 error every time you do 1000 operations, your error rate is 1/1000 = 0.001 = 0.1%. The fidelity is 1 – 0.001 = 0.999 = 99.9%.

This is why the company said in its press release that it “plans to develop and deploy its anticipated 84-qubit Ankaa-3 system with the goal of achieving a 99% median 2-qubit gate fidelity by the end of 2024 and to develop the 336-qubit Lyra system thereafter.” One needs hundreds of qubits with an error rate at worst 1% to implement error correction.

More information about the company and its technology is available in its investor presentation.

Government Contracts

Rigetti stated that it had two sales of its Novera 9-qubit QPU. The second was to the Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center, a US Department of Energy National Quantum Information Science Research Center. The second was to AFRL. In the UK, Innovate UK awarded Rigetti a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) grant funded by the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC). Under this grant, the company will build a 24-qubit quantum computer.

Kudos to Rigetti for these accomplishments, though they raise some questions:

  • Will the 24-qubit machine pull resources away from developing the 336-qubit system?
  • Will the government funding fully cover all costs associated with the projects?

Key Takeaway: Rigetti Has Quantum Products and Is Closing Deals, But When Will Revenue on Bigger Systems Cover Expenses?

Like any other quantum computing company, Rigetti must focus on creating the large systems needed to solve problems related to significant commercial and societal use cases. The many superconducting quantum computing companies are all after the same deals, as are those implementing other qubit modalities.

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.

Other Insights from The Futurum Group:

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Author Information

Dr. Bob Sutor has been a technical leader and executive in the IT industry for over 40 years.Bob’s industry role is to advance quantum and AI technologies by building strong business, partner, technical, and educational ecosystems. The singular goal is to evolve quantum and AI to help solve some of the critical computational problems facing society today. Bob is widely quoted in the press, delivers conference keynotes, and works with industry analysts and investors to accelerate understanding and adoption of quantum technologies.Bob is the Vice President and Practice Lead for Emerging Technologies at The Futurum Group. He helps clients understand sophisticated technologies in order to make the best use of them for success in their organizations and industries. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo, New York, USA.More than two decades of Bob’s career were spent in IBM Research in New York. During his time there, he worked on or led efforts in symbolic mathematical computation, optimization, AI, blockchain, and quantum computing. He was also an executive on the software side of the IBM business in areas including middleware, software on Linux, mobile, open source, and emerging industry standards. He was the Vice President of Corporate Development and, later, Chief Quantum Advocate, at Infleqtion, a quantum computing and quantum sensing company based in Boulder, Colorado USA.Bob is a theoretical mathematician by training, has a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and an undergraduate degree from Harvard College.

He’s the author of a book about quantum computing called Dancing with Qubits which was published in 2019, with the Second Edition scheduled for release in April, 2024. He is also the author of the 2021 book Dancing with Python, an introduction to Python coding for classical and quantum computing.Areas in which he’s worked: quantum computing, AI, blockchain, mathematics and mathematical software, Linux, open source, standards management, product management and marketing, computer algebra, and web standards.

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