Aegiq secured a seven-figure seed investment led by High-Tech Gründerfonds to revolutionize trust in global telecommunications and computing with quantum photonics. The investment comes along with funding from Innovate UK and brings Aegiq’s total funding to over £3.5m
Aegiq is a company developing a single-photon source which can leave a footprint in the quantum world and High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) is focused on supporting high-tech start-ups with significant growth potential, with the decision as to whether the HTGF should invest in a start-up being made purely on market criteria.
As both are members of the Tech Tour community, we decided to interview Dr. Gernot Berger, Senior Investment Manager from High-tech Gründerfonds and Dr. Maksym Sich, Co-Founder & CEO of Aegiq to learn the backstory of how it happened.
Question: What kind of business do you run? What are your mission and beliefs? How long have you been in business? Why do you do what you do?
Dr Gernot Berger: High-Tech Gründerfonds is a seed investor for innovative technologies and business models. We support tech founders with our technological expertise, financing know-how and our wide network in both industry and academia.
Personally, I firmly believe that we see a lot of great ideas in Europe in the field of photonics. After being a successful photonics start-up co-owner, I switched to the investment side more than 3 years ago. My mission is to drive deep tech and photonics start-ups and help create thriving companies.
Dr Maksym Sich: At Aegiq our mission is to accelerate the global transition to the quantum stage by bringing mass market applications with the most scalable technologies – and quantum photonics is the answer. We started Aegiq with this vision at the end of 2019 as a spin-off from the University of Sheffield.
Question: What challenges were you facing and what motivated you to solve them? What was at stake?
Dr. Berger: One of the biggest challenges we see in deep tech start-ups is implementing technology-based business development and developing a promising go-to-market strategy. Both are the foundation for later success, whereas poor execution is often a major factor for failure.
Dr. Sich: We saw the opportunity in a clear demand for high-efficiency quantum light sources which are critical for any scalable quantum information or even sensing applications since they can reduce error rates in the systems and therefore enable them to work in practice. We were also lucky to have the technology and IP to build such generators. Coupled with significant growth in spending on quantum technologies around the world the time was right.
Question: How and where did you meet?
Dr. Berger: At an incredibly early stage of the start-up, Aegiq sent the pitch deck to one of our official addresses. Because of the topic and my background, I was then the one who contacted them.
Dr. Sich: We simply sent our pitch deck and email to one of the team members at HTGF.
Question: How can one trust someone you have never met while we have a Covid-19 crisis going on and build enough trust to invest?
Dr. Berger: Shortly before the Covid 19 pandemic broke out in Europe, the Aegiq team visited us in our Bonn office. Later, we used video calls to stay in touch and eventually close the funding round.
Question: Maksym, what attracted you to the HTGF and Gernot, what attracted you to invest in them?
Dr. Berger: On the one hand, the team has shown exceptional drive, perseverance, and agility. And on the other hand, the unparalleled technology that provides a unique solution to one of the bottlenecks in quantum technology.
Dr. Sich: We made an extensive research to identify funds that invest in deep tech, photonics, and quantum technology. HTGF was one of the top ones on our list, so it was extremely exciting to get a very prompt reply from Gernot Berger.
Question: Why did you trust a Tech Tour Community member over the competition? What did they have that no one else on the market could offer? What was the size of the investment?
Dr. Berger: In this case, the first contact did not come through the Tech Tour. However, the Tech Tour offers a great platform – especially for startups such as Aegiq – to contact various stakeholders and seed as well as later-stage investors. As an investor, I can find exceptionally good companies with strong technology here – such as one developing a unique single photon source. Therefore, I regularly recommend corresponding start-ups to apply to Tech Tour because of the high added value.
Dr. Sich: At that point, we did not focus on Tech Tour, however, several Tech Tour Community member funds suggested we participate in a Tech Tour programme. We made excellent connections by participating with some potential investors for our Series A round.
Question: How do you see growing your cooperation in the future? How do you see your company making a difference in the future?
Dr. Gernot Berger: HTGF has built a vast network in Germany and Europe that opens doors for the start-up to experts, new investors, business partners and new employees. In addition, the active photonics and quantum portfolio of HTGF has grown to around 15 companies, which adds mutual benefits for start-ups.
Dr. Sich: Partnering with HTGF and having them as our lead seed investor created a rock-solid foundation for our company's growth. Importantly, we work closely, and it proved to be critical to lean on personal and corporate expertise.
Question: How did you benefit from the Tech Tour events and activities? What do you consider is the best asset of the Tech Tour programmes?
Dr. Gernot Berger: The opportunities for networking and generating visibility are the biggest asset of the programme. On the one hand, the Tech Tour offers an excellent format to get to know start-ups from the deep tech and photonics sectors. On the other hand, the competition provides start-ups with high visibility and allows them to connect with relevant investors, who in turn have an above-average understanding of their technologies.
Dr. Sich: Photonics event in 2021 brought us several in-depth conversations to join our seed round syndicate.
Question: How do you see the future for Aegiq and how (will) it impact the world of Quantum?
Dr. Gernot Berger: The single-photon source developed by Aegiq represents a platform technology with unparalleled specifications that can become a key for various applications and leave a footprint in the quantum world.
Dr. Sich: We see Aegiq supplying products and solutions to businesses and consumers integrating quantum 2.0 technologies in our daily lives to improve them and unlock new capabilities and create a backbone of the future technological step change. Our ambition is to surpass the ‘unicorn’ status and contribute to FTSE 100 or SP 500.
Aegiq’s platform technology enables a range of new R&D applications in quantum science, sensing, imaging, and others, and is ready to service this market. The technology will be also developed into a new generation of networking with quantum security, including quantum key distribution (QKD), as well as large-scale quantum computing applications.