Icosa Computing uses quantum computing and physics-based algorithms to develop software for difficult optimization problems, including applications in the financial sector such as portfolio development, currency arbitrage, and index tracking.
This concept developed out of founder and CEO Mert Esencan’s personal interest in annealing technology. “I was playing around with ideas and applied them to financial markets. I started trading with my personal account and made profits using these annealing-based techniques. That gave me the idea that this could be a scalable product company,” he explained.
Icosa Computing also draws on the expertise of CTO David Fellah, an industry leader in finance with years of experience in trading algorithm research. “I’ve been involved with the quantum computing industry for a while now. But I’m not a finance expert,” said Esencan. “David knows how to apply these methods in the real financial markets, whereas I come from the research side. We joined forces to make something that’s novel and emerging technology but also has applications in the real world.”
Annealing-based approaches are optimization methods similar to quantum annealing but with classical parameters. Most classical algorithms are designed for continuous optimization, but annealing targets combinatorial optimization problems, which tune an output from a large number of possible inputs. Many financial models require this subset of optimization, which is difficult to perform using traditional methods.
“Most optimizers in the financial industry use are built for continuous optimization. Right now, combinatorial optimization has mostly been studied in the research or lab area where quantum annealers can do it, but they’re not scalable,” Esencan explained. Here, he sees an opportunity for improvement. “We’re trying to build a system that can effectively do combinatorial optimization.”
Instead of focusing on experimental quantum applications, Icosa Computing uses accessible methods that are compatible with current technology. “My experiences with the industry showed me that gate-based quantum computing at the scalable and practical level is still a bit far away, but annealing-based methods are not,” explained Esencan. His goal is to provide clients with effective solutions in the immediate commercial climate. “Most companies out there are doing great things, they’re great scientists and engineers, but they are building for the future. We’re trying to build products that work now that can move with the industry as quantum hardware scales.”
The ability to adapt with scientific innovation is at the heart of Icosa Computing’s business model. Looking forward, Esencan expects to utilize truly quantum methods when they offer a practical advantage. “We’re very bullish on gate-based quantum,” he said. “I think in the future gate-based quantum will be the mainstream and they will change the game. So right now, we’re based on what works right now, and in ten years, we’ll be based on what works then.” As a result, the team prioritizes understanding the state-of-the-art in quantum research and maintaining a flexible, solution-oriented mindset.
In the rapidly developing quantum industry, Esencan sees a unique opportunity for new companies like Icosa Computing to flourish. “As a startup, we have the ability to pivot, change what hardware we’re using for our approach, on an early scale,” he noted. “The quantum computing industry can’t deal with slow movers. It’s moving too fast. And that’s why we see startups quickly scaling and quickly reaching the point where they can compete with the big players.”
Furthermore, he sees quantum as a space for unprecedented levels of partnership: “The boundaries between collaboration and competition are fuzzy because we’re at the forefront.”
Through its involvement with Duality, Icosa Computing is embracing the importance of growing and learning with other innovators. Esencan hopes the cohort will foster solidarity between founders at similar stages of company development. “I think that’s the most important, being shoulder to shoulder with other people going through the same challenges at the same time,” he said regarding his goals with Duality in the coming months.
To him, this mindset is critical in the broader scope of quantum innovation. “If everyone goes their own way, it’s not going to work,” he said. “People are moving toward the same vision. We see that across all sectors in quantum.”