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Quantum photonics startup Nu Quantum raises £2.1M from Amadeus Capital Partners

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For Quantum cryptography and simulation to become real, the technology requires high-performance light-emitting and light-detecting components that operate at the single-photon level and at ambient temperature. One of the few companies operating in this rarified arena is Nu Quantum, the quantum photonics company, is a spin-out from the University of Cambridge.

It’s now raised a £2.1 million in Seed funding in a round led by Amadeus Capital Partners . Ahren Innovation Capital, IQ Capital, Cambridge Enterprise and Martlet Capital also followed-on from the company’s pre-Seed investment round last September, with Seraphim Capital joining as a new investor. Last year it raised a £650,000 pre-seed investment round, also led by Amadeus.

The funding will go towards a state-of-the-art photonics lab in Cambridge and a major recruitment drive for scientists, product team members and business functions as the company approaches the launch of its first commercial technology demonstration.

Nu Quantum brings together a portfolio of intellectual property combining quantum optics, semiconductor photonics, and information theory, spun out of the University of Cambridge after eight years of research at the Cavendish Laboratory. Nu Quantum is one of a handful of companies in the world developing this photonics technology.

The company’s first commercial deliverable will use quantum photonic technology and proprietary algorithms to generate random numbers extracted from quantum-level effects, giving the highest confidence in the quality of these numbers which are ubiquitously used as cryptographic keys to secure data. Nu Quantum is a partner in the consortium led by the National Physical Laboratory, developing the UK standard for quantum random number generation, a project which was awarded £2.8m from the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. 

Dr Carmen Palacios-Berraquero, CEO, Nu Quantum, said in a statement: “Our aim is to enable the potential of quantum mechanics using quantum photonics hardware. This funding will allow us to do just that – a world-class multidisciplinary team and our new laboratories will give Nu Quantum the ability to deliver meaningful demonstrations of our technology into the hands of customers and partners for the first time.”

Alex van Someren, Managing Partner, Amadeus Capital Partners, said: 
“Quantum photonics has the potential to transform cybersecurity through digital cryptography. We’re making another investment in Nu Quantum because we believe in the team and its ability to take its solutions to market. Cambridge is leading the world on developing and commercializing quantum computing hardware and applications, and Amadeus is excited to be backing great entrepreneurs here.”

Nu Quantum is a partner in the consortium led by the National Physical Laboratory, developing the UK standard for quantum random number generation, a project which was awarded £2.8m from the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

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AOC’s debut Twitch stream is one of the biggest ever

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made her Twitch debut tonight to play Among Us and encourage viewers to vote. She also, very quickly, became one of the platform’s biggest broadcasters: her stream peaked at 435,000 viewers around the time of her first match, according to Twitch. (The stream is still going as of this writing, but it had dipped to around 350,000 viewers after about two hours of playing.)

That peak viewership puts her broadcast among the 20 biggest streams ever, according to the third-party metrics site TwitchTracker, and much higher if you’re only looking at broadcasts from individual streamers. Ninja holds the record for an individual streamer, with more than 600,000 viewers during a Fortnite match with Drake in 2018. TwitchTracker’s metrics suggest that AOC’s stream could in the top 10 for an individual in terms of peak viewers.

Politicians have increasingly been using tech and games to get out their message. The Biden campaign debuted an Animal Crossing island last week. Last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Twitch to reach a “potentially supportive audience that we may not be hitting other ways.”

The stream reached more than 300,000 viewers before the first game even started.

Ocasio-Cortez’s stream came together quickly. She tweeted Monday asking, “Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” Major streamers quickly signed up — she ended up being joined by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pokimane, HasanAbi, Disguised Toast, DrLupo, and more. Her stream even had graphics prepared, which Ocasio-Cortez said came from supporters who started making art after she tweeted.

Despite only having minimal Among Us experience — Ocasio-Cortez said Monday that she’d never played before, but seemed to have brushed up before the stream — she did well in her first broadcast. She was chosen as an imposter in the first round and, with a partner, knocked out about half the field before getting caught. Omar later made it to the final three as an imposter before getting voted out by Ocasio-Cortez and Hasan.

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Political strategist turned tech investor Bradley Tusk on SPACs as a tool for VCs

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Bradley Tusk has become known in recent years for being involved in what’s about to get hot, from his early days advising Uber, to writing one of the first checks to the insurance startup Lemonade, to pushing forward the idea that we should be using the smart devices in our pockets to vote.

Indeed, because he’s often at the vanguard, it wasn’t hugely surprising when Tusk, like a growing number of other investors, formed a $300 million SPAC or special acquisition company, one that he and a partner plan to use to target businesses in the leisure, gaming, and hospitality industries.

Because Tusk — a former political operative who ran the successful third mayoral campaign for Michael Bloomberg —  seems adept at seeing around corners, we called him up late last week to ask whether SPACs are here to stay, how a Biden administration might impact the startup investing landscape, and how worried (or not) big tech should be about this election. You can hear the full conversation here. Owing to length, we are featuring solely the part of our conversation that centered on SPACs.

TC: Lemonade went public this summer and its shares, priced at $29, now trade at $70. 

BT: They are down today last I checked. When you only check once in a blue moon, you’re like, ‘Hey, look at how great this is,’ whereas if, like me, you check me every day, you’re like, ‘It lost 4%. Where’s my money?’

We got really lucky; Lemonade was our second deal that we did out of our first fund, and the fact that it IPO’d within four years of the company’s founding is pretty amazing.

TC: Is it amazing? I wonder what it says about the common complaint that the traditional IPO process is bad — is it just an excuse that founders and investors use to keep a company private longer?

BT: [CEO] Daniel Schrieber was very clear that he and [cofounder] Shai Wininger had a strategy from day one to go public as quickly as they possibly could, because in his view, an IPO is supposed to represent kind of the the beginning. It’s the ‘Okay, we’ve proven that there’s product market fit, we’ve proven that there’s customer demand; now let’s see what we can really do with this thing.’ And it’s supposed to be about hope and promise and future and excitement. And if you’ve been a private company for 10 years, and you’re worth tens of billions of dollars and your growth is already starting to flatten out a little bit, it’s just much less exciting for public investors.

The question now for everyone in our business is what happens with Airbnb in a few weeks or whenever they are [staging an IPO]. Will that pixie dust be there, or will they have been around so long that the market is kind of indifferent?

TC: Is that why we’re seeing so many SPACs? Some of that pixie dust is gone. No one knows when the IPO window might shut. Let’s get some of these companies out into the public market while we still can?

BT: No, I don’t I don’t think so. I think SPACs have become a way to raise a lot of money very quickly. It took me two years to raise $37 million for my first venture fund, and three months was the entire process for me to raise $300 million for my SPAC. So it’s a mechanism that is highly efficient and right now is so popular with public market investors that there is just a lot of opportunity, and people are grabbing it. In fact, now you’re hearing about people who are planning SPACs having to pull [them] back because there’s a ton of competition right now.

At the end of the day, the fundamentals still rule. If you take a really bad company public through a SPAC, maybe the excitement of the SPAC gets you an early pop. But if the company has neither good unit economics nor high growth, there’s no real reason to believe it will be successful. And especially for the people in the SPAC, where they have to hold on to it for a little while, by the time the lockup ends, the world has probably figured out that this is not the greatest IPO of all time. You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

TC: You say you raised the SPAC very quickly. How is the investor profile different than that of a typical venture fund investor?

BT:  The investors for this SPAC — at least when I did the roadshow, and I think I did 28 meetings over a couple of days — is mainly hedge funds and people who don’t really invest in venture at all, so there was no overlap between my [venture fund] LP base and the people who invested in our SPAC that I’m aware of. These are public market investors who are used to moving very quickly. There’s a lot more liquidity in a SPAC. We have two years to acquire something, but ultimately, it’s a public property, so investors can come in and out as they see fit.

TC: So it’s mostly hedge funds that are getting paid management fees to deploy their capital in this comparatively safe way and that are getting interest on the money invested, too, while it’s sitting around in a trust while [the SPAC managers] look for a target company.

BT: Why it kind of does make sense for [them to back] VCs is they are basically making the bet to say: does this person running the SPAC have enough deal flow, enough of a public profile, enough going on that they are going to come across the right target? And venture investors in many ways fit that profile because we just look at so many companies before deploying capital.

TC: Do you have to demonstrate some kind of public markets expertise in order to convince some of these investors that you know what it takes to take a company public and grow it in the public markets?

BT: I guess. We raised the money, so I guess I passed the test. But I did spend a little under two years on Wall Street; I created the lottery privatization group of Lehman Brothers. And my partner [in the SPAC], Christian Goode, has a lot of experience with big gaming companies. But overall, I think that if you are a venture investor with a ton of deal flow and a good track record but very little or no public market experience, I don’t know that that would disqualify you from being able to rate a SPAC.

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Google sued by DOJ over antitrust practices: What you need to know

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The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Google today, claiming the company has an illegal monopoly of search traffic. It’s a major challenge to the dominance of the Big Tech companies — the first from the DOJ. But it’s been coming on for a long time.

The DOJ’s complaint is 57 pages long, but to sum it up, it contends that Google uses a series of business deals and shady practices to kneecap any potential competition, calling it “a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet.” The deals it’s made with Apple and other hardware manufacturers to make its search engine the default on so many machines gives it a whopping 80% of the market share. One line of the complaint contends that Google’s dominance is so absolute that “Google” has become a verb that means “to search for something on the internet.”

Google’s response is that its dominance is because of consumer choice, not because of anything illegal it’s done. In a statement issued this morning, Google’s VP of Public Affairs Kent Walker refuted specific allegations that its agreements with other tech companies are the result of anything but competence on the company’s part. “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”

If the lawsuit succeeds, what would it mean for consumers? Google contends that it would “artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.” While the DOJ‘s complaint doesn’t specifically address how it would change things for us, the users, it does say that, at the moment, “American consumers are forced to accept Google‘s policies, privacy practices, and use of personal data.”

The DOJ first opened its investigation into Google last year, and had previously investigated the company in 2013 but opted not to sue it. U.S. Attorney General William Barr allegedly opted to go against advice of the DOJ‘s lawyers in bringing the case this month — initially they’d wanted more time to build their case. State attorney generals in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas have signed on to support the lawsuit, and it’s possible that other states could bring their own actions against Google.

It’s worth noting that Google isn’t the only company that’s facing criticism from the American government. Earlier this year, the heads of Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook — a veritable Four Horsemen of Big Tech — sat in a hearing in July specifically over this issue. While the hearing was not the most productive — as my colleague Tristan Greene pointed out, the congresspeople present seemed to want to talk about everything except antitrust regulation — at least one or two congresspeople said that the companies in general, and Google in particular, have “too much power.” Both Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on that point, though I’m not entirely sure they’d agree on what breaking up that monopoly would look like.

It’s not the first time Google has faced antitrust allegations, but it’s the biggest of any of the lawsuits so far. It could presage antitrust laws being modified or expanded to account for Big Tech, but that would require the complaint to have some measure of success. In any case, it might have to take a backseat to the US Presidential Election taking place next month.

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