Quantum Computing Company Rigetti Informatique Inc. announced today that it will lay off 28% of its staff after replacing its technical and financial directors.
The publicly traded company faces the possibility of delisting from the Nasdaq stock exchange due to its stock’s poor performance, and to avoid having to maintain a stock price above $1 for 10 consecutive days before the July 24 deadline.
Rigetti received a notice by Nasdaq Stock Market LLC which warned it of the possible delisting on January 27, and which appears to have prompted a reshuffle. Today, the company announced that Jeffrey Bertelsen is taking over as its new chief financial officer, replacing former incumbent Brian Sereda. Bertelsen previously worked at CyberOptics Inc., which is a developer of highly accurate sensors and inspection systems for the semiconductor manufacturing industry.
Meanwhile, David Rivas has been named Rigetti’s new CTO, replacing Mike Harburn. Rivas was previously responsible for performing engineering and operations for Rigetti’s Quantum Cloud services.
Rigetti’s managing director, Subodh Kulkarni, did not take the reins of the company himself until December, when he replaced its founding CEO Chad Rigetti. Today he said the executive reshuffle and job cuts would be implemented alongside a new technology roadmap.
The revised roadmap calls for Rigetti to deliver its next 84-qubit Ankaa-1 quantum computing system by the first quarter of 2023. The new system will feature denser qubit spacing and tunable couplers, making it more better than the company’s existing 80-qubit Aspen. -M system.
Other goals include improving the performance of the Ankaa-1 system upon launch and doubling efforts to achieve a “quantum advantage”. This is when quantum computers are able to solve a practical, operationally relevant problem better, faster, or more cheaply than existing classical computers.
“Specifically, during the planned launch of the Ankaa-1 84-qubit system, Rigetti plans to focus its efforts on improving system performance with the goal of achieving at least 99% two-qubit gate fidelity on the Ankaa-2 is a planned 84-qubit system, and if that goal is achieved, Rigetti plans to focus on scaling up to develop the planned 336-qubit Lyra system,” Kulkarni said in a statement.
Like all quantum computing companies, Rigetti faces challenges in maintaining long sequences of calculations due to the natural instability of qubits, which are their fundamental data processing elements. To overcome this challenge, Rigetti is pursuing a multi-chip approach to building quantum processors, combining the power of multiple smaller chips to create a more powerful machine. Its existing Aspen-M system, for example, is an 80-qubit machine powered by two separate 40-qubit processors.
At Rigetti’s long term roadmap still calls for delivery of a 1,000-qubit multi-chip system by 2025 and a 4,000-qubit multi-chip system by 2027.
Quantum computing could one day revolutionize the technology industry, solving problems that cannot be solved by existing classical computers. They could lead to the development of new materials that improve electric car batteries and solar panels, the discovery of a new generation of pharmaceutical drugs, and more. However, such machines are probably still a few years away.
Releases went public in March 2022 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company called Supernova Partners Acquisition Company II Ltd. Its stock hit an all-time high of $8.81 in May 2022, but has been falling ever since.
Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller said the prospect of a global recession and higher interest rates means investors are often setting the bar higher and demanding better performance from their investments. He said that is clearly the case for Rigetti, who now faces multiple challenges.
“It’s not just the prospect of delisting and layoffs, but also a lack of funding as he struggles to follow his ambitious roadmap, which aims to make his 84-qubit machine work later. this year,” Mueller said. “The common struggles of quantum startups that took the SPAC vehicle public, despite low revenues and high losses, could kill an echelon of quantum startups. That said, adversity often makes people stronger, and it’s possible that Rigetti will emerge from this as a more cohesive and focused company.