Ilana Wisby is CEO of Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC), an early stage Oxford University spin-out company founded by Dr Peter Leek. OQC is building the heart of a quantum future with the power of employing a simple, elegant approach to quantum computing. The company raised 2M in seed in 2017 and is looking to raise Series A toward the end of the year.
My academic background lies in quantum physics, in which I completed a PhD placed in industry at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington. From there, I moved to a software-development start-up company specialising in AI technologies, where I quickly found myself in the role of COO – before more recently moving to OQC to begin my role as CEO.
I found myself well-suited to working in an entrepreneurial environment – enjoying the fast pace, the vast array of challenges, and the opportunity to work at the forefront of innovation. Most of all, I enjoy working with like-minded, enthusiastic teams in taking our ideas through from conception to fruition and the real-world impact that our work can bring.
I see entrepreneurship as a mind set. To me, it’s a growth mind set. The ability and desire to grow as an individual, to grow as a team, and as a company. To have goals in mind but not to be afraid to be agile and change direction to continue growing in the right direction – not just any direction. Entrepreneurship is about passion. It’s both a mind set and a lifestyle choice. But most of all, it’s about investing in people.
When I was first speaking with Peter about his quantum architecture, I was drawn to the simplicity and the marked difference in his approach. Peter was prepared to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, not to follow the crowd and to re-design the ‘standard’. He was both passionate and humble, and, importantly, shared the same core values as me.
Genuine people skills. It’s important to really care and invest in the people who share your vision and to listen to those who don’t.
A growth mind set. It’s important to always want to continue to improve: yourself, your team, and your product.
Reflection. It’s important to be able to reflect, in order to genuinely improve.
My favourite part of being an entrepreneur is being able to bring so many incredible, skilled, passionate people together.
Probably Blizzard Entertainment, or Rooster Teeth. They are just incredible, people-centric organisations. They have both cultivated an incredible work cultures, as well as communities. Their employees are working on things they truly passionate about, and that shows with the high quality work they publish – but they also seem to have fun whilst doing it.
These are both pretty large companies now, but they have kept that ‘start-up’ vibe and passion – what’s their secret!
In a previous role, we lacked direction. Our product suffered as we didn’t have a clear vision of what we wanted it to be.
Previously, I’ve funded projects with funding from InnovateUK, DfT, as well as bootstrapped from a bunch of client projects. In this role, we are fortunate to have raised with Seed and also have an InnovateUK project.
InnovateUK & DfT.
There’s a great community and a wealth of knowledge which people are only too keen to share!