11 Questions for Serial Entrepreneur Whurley who is Launching Strangeworks at SXSW

William Hurley, known as Whurley, is the founder and CEO of Strangeworks, a quantum computing startup, photo by John Davidson

William Hurley, known as Whurley, is one of the best-known tech entrepreneurs in Austin.

And he is always hatching up something new every year for South by Southwest. One year, Chaotic Moon, the company he co-founded and sold to Accenture, tasered an intern. Three years ago, Whurley launched Honest Dollar at SXSW and won many pitch competitions. A year later, Honest Dollar sold it to Goldman Sachs.

This year, Whurley is back with a new startup, Strangeworks focused on quantum computing. He’s officially launching the startup during his SXSW Convergence Keynote address Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Austin Convention Center Ballroom. Here’s some background on Whurley’s new startup, but stay tuned because he’s expected to make some more big announcements during his talk.

1. How did you come up with the idea for Strangeworks?

A. That’s a long story, but the short version is I’ve been watching and participating in the quantum computing community for a while now. After traveling the world for events, and speaking to a lot of potential clients, I realized that there’s not enough focus on the developers that will end up bearing the brunt of making this new technology a reality. So I wanted to build a company that would design and deliver developer tools and a systems management platform that would enable people to take advantage of this amazing technology.

2. How much money have you raised and who are your investors?

A. We raised $4 million in a seed round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners.

3. Do you have any role with Goldman Sachs any longer or have you left the company completely?

A. I love GS, and had an amazing time working there, but yes I am full time on Strangeworks.

4. You had several successful startups and exits. Why did you want to do another startup?

A. Chaotic Moon was like a startup for fun and profit. We had an amazing time and then an amazing exit to Accenture. But it left me feeling a little hollow. Honest Dollar was my first attempt at a startup that would do some good in the world. It worked and was acquired by Goldman Sachs. But it also made me realize that if I really want to change the world it can’t be in a model where there’s a dependency on me. Strangeworks is my latest attempt to balance my entrepreneurial ambitions with my ambitions to make a positive impact on the world. With Strangeworks I’ve removed myself from the dependency slot. So instead of me being the person to change the world, I am creating tools that thousands, tens of thousands, or hopefully millions of other people who want to change the world can do so; all powered by the upcoming quantum computing revolution.

5. Who are your customers?

A. We’re not releasing the names of the PoCs we have in process, but I can tell you that we are focused on four industry verticals. Aerospace, Energy, Finance, and Pharmaceutical.

6. Who is on your team?

A. We have a small team consisting of mostly developers and a physicist who can code.

7. Why are you the ones to do this startup?

A. Because we are developers. Because we want to deliver to market tools for developers by developers. Pragmatic, realistic tools that help enable quantum computing for the masses.

8. What challenges do you face bringing your startup into the marketplace?

A. Quantum computing is still somewhat in its infancy. The technology is changing on a daily/weekly basis, so it’s unlike any other startup I have attempted.

9. How do you acquire customers?

A. We have this black bag and a rented panel van. It’s extremely effective.

10. What is the business model?

A. We sell a subscription service to our developer tools and system management platform.

11. What is your long-term vision?

A. To create a sustainable business that could grow the size of a Tivoli, or a Dell. Something that can become one of the “big” deals that came out of Austin.

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