Very soon, we might be seeing the world in a new way, thanks to Rachel Taylor (MBA '20) and her teammates at SBQuantum.
Rachel Taylor (MBA ‘20)
SBQuantum — the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) startup Taylor worked with as a Full-Time MBA student and went on to join as a co-founder and COO — is developing a novel magnetic intelligence platform which combines a quantum magnetometer with a suite of proprietary algorithms to provide additional information on magnetic anomalies.
This technology — which Taylor jokingly refers to as a highly sophisticated metal detector or compass — has several promising applications. For instance, it could change the mining industry by enabling crews to collect richer data from magnetic surveys, allowing them to reduce the costs and environmental impact of their drill programs. Their product could also enhance navigation technology, giving users access to reliable directions, even in GPS dead zones, such as areas that are underground, underwater or in complex urban environments. Additionally, it could also be used in defense and security to detect weapons and other threats.
“There are so many opportunities that come from fully seeing and understanding an environment,” explains Taylor. “Our goal is to reveal the invisible.”
It’s a daunting challenge to be sure, but one that she and SBQuantum are well equipped to take on. After all, they were among the few ventures that graduated from the rigorous CDL program, which supports startups and Rotman students in envisioning — and realizing — the inconceivable.
Building something massive with the CDL
In the innovation space, it's not enough to develop a novel idea. Successful startups need to be strategic, resilient, agile and able to overcome overwhelming and unexpected challenges that arise.
Every year, the CDL, founded at the Rotman School of Management, supports early-stage tech and science startups with further developing their ideas, business plans and resilience through a nine-month, objectives-based program. Along the way, cofounders are mentored by experienced entrepreneurs, and those that complete the program at the CDL-Toronto site might be matched with Rotman students from the Full-Time MBA, professional MBA and specialized programs.
Excitingly, in 2017, the CDL launched the quantum stream, which works with startups that are leveraging quantum hardware or algorithms.
It was the opportunity to partner with startups specializing in emerging technologies like quantum computing and blockchain that initially drew Taylor to the CDL Advanced Course in her second year.
“I specifically wanted to work with a team that was really at the beginning of its journey and operating in a space that hadn’t yet been established,” she says. “I felt like that’s how I would have the most impact in helping a venture carve out its strategy.”
She instantly clicked with (and was matched with) SBQuantum, a startup originally co-founded by David Roy-Guay during his graduate studies at Université de Sherbrooke’s Institut Quantique. Right away, Taylor got to work helping them develop a business strategy.
In their year working together with the CDL, Taylor and SBQuantum were in sync. Before CDL sessions, they jumped into whiteboarding and defining their mission, purpose and place in the market. In between classes, she was on calls with cofounder Roy-Guay, offering advice on day-to-day operations.
Taylor and SBQuantum learned a lot from each other in the process.
“David was extremely receptive to my advice, and I think he benefited from my approach on how to think through business and strategy problems. I give David a lot of credit for being open to new ideas and wanting to learn,” she says. “For me, working with a CDL startup was an exciting opportunity to explore an unexpected path.”
When Roy-Guay asked her to join SBQuantum as a cofounder and COO after she graduated from the MBA program, Taylor jumped at the chance.
“I had to say yes, I just knew that an opportunity like this would never come up again,” she says.
From business school to startup life
Today, Taylor works out of Toronto, but keeps close contact with her colleagues in Sherbrooke. (The plan is to make regular site visits to the lab when the global pandemic is resolved.)
Her business school education is directly applicable to her work today. She has pulled insights from her managerial accounting classes to develop SMART goals for the team and drawn on her training in business design to build a culture of user-centered product design. Taylor’s also applied a strategic mindset in planning and road mapping, and she’s constructed business models to estimate their revenue projections.
There are a lot of projects keeping her busy, and even more to look forward to.
The team has developed a physical prototype that they will be testing with partners in the field this summer. “It’s a significant milestone, and a direct result of the substantial work the team poured into building the sensor, algorithms and processing software,” she says.
Despite their substantial progress and resilience (the team has stayed focused despite the challenges brought on by the global pandemic), it’s the people she takes the most pride in.
“SBQuantum is expanding and evolving, but the individual team members are growing too. Seeing the questions people are asking in meetings and how we are all becoming more strategic — that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »