If you were going to choose your startup by its business category, you could do worse than being in “quantum computing software.”
That’s exactly the focus of QxBranch, which was formed in fall 2014 as a kind of skunkworks subsidiary. The company (pronounced Q-Branch) spun out from The Tauri Group, a small Virginia-based government contractor with a homeland security focus, with leadership from former Tauri executives, now CEO Michael Brett and Chief Strategy Officer Paul Guthrie.
A team of 20, 18 of whom are in technical roles spread across four continents, the company provides data analytics for companies in industries like finance, pharmaceuticals and energy. Its D.C. footprint is inside the Dupont Circle MakeOffices, removed from the company’s Northern Virginia defense contractor origins. But QxBranch supplements its startup stripes with hobnobbing — last year, the leadership team spent time with Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia, where the startup has a presence too.
With a quirky origin story and a distributed workforce, we were curious about the company’s culture, so we sent questions to industry veterans Brett and Guthrie. Here’s what they said.
TDC: Are there words you use internally to describe your company culture? Or team chemistry?
QB: High performing, collaborative, international.
TDC: Is there a favorite job interview question you use?
QB: This question is great for assessing whether people know what it’s like to work in a small company: “Describe what you think some of the key factors are in working on a small, distributed team. What do you see yourself bringing to that culture?”
And for technical hires, we always run them through a software engineering or data science homework problem to get an objective view of the candidate’s skills and approach to solving problems. Our software engineering problem is based on improving an application running on QxBranch’s quantum computing simulator, so we get a sense of the candidate’s ability to rapidly understand new concepts.
TDC: What is an example of a past technical challenge your team took on and solved?
QB: QxBranch works with organizations to help them understand where quantum computing will have the biggest impact on their business. We’ve worked with financial, pharmaceutical and energy companies to identify and validate the applications of quantum computing relevant to them. This is really challenging as it combines the ability of needing to quickly understand a new domain, and then working out how and where a quantum computing-enabled solution would drive value.
TDC: Why does a coworking space make sense for your offices?
QB: It’s a great environment for a small team, we’re close to a lot of great transport and lunch options and we get to interact and build friendships with the other companies in the building without feeling like we’re on top of each other.
TDC: What is something special about growing a tech company here in this region?
QB: Hiring in the Washington, D.C. region turns up some candidates with fascinating backgrounds. It seems everyone in this region is from somewhere else in the world, and they’ve moved here to take on a challenge. They’re very mission oriented and want to feel an emotional connection to the purpose of the company.
TDC: Any open roles right now? Are you planning on doing any hiring this year? What kind of roles?
QB: QxBranch is always on the lookout for great talent with software engineering and data analytics backgrounds. Right now, we’re recruiting for a Project Engineering Manager to support our data analytics team with some systems engineering and project management skills.