‘We Have a Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity,’ Says New Director of Duality Quantum Accelerator
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Burts initially lived in Chicago while working at Boeing’s Corporate Headquarters between 2017 and 2020, although he first became enamored with Chicago when he visited in 2004 as an early career founder.
Some of his most exciting experiences include taking the lead in externally facing roles, and collaborating with universities, government, startups, and industry to transform ideas into breakthrough solutions that change the world. And this is the goal of Duality, Burts noted: “We are the first accelerator exclusively dedicated to developing quantum founders who will disrupt and re-define industries in the 2020s decade and beyond.”
To learn more about Duality’s new leader, we asked Burts about his previous roles and what excites him about the quantum space.
How has your past experience prepared you for this role?
I bring two decades of industry experience advancing Fortune 500 science and technology programs and strategies from concept to the university lab to the marketplace. I thrive in collaborative environments and have a track record of successfully galvanizing multi-disciplinary stakeholders – including industry, academia, government, and NGOs – to increase shareholder value and drive business growth.
I am also formally educated in public policy and building innovation ecosystems. A couple of years ago, I was invited to join the Silicon Valley cohort of the Founder Institute – the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator. As an alumni member of this ecosystem, I understand how its structured accelerator programming, proven methodology, and global network of advisors have transformed ideas into 6.5K+ fundable startups, which have raised $1.75B+ from investors, collectively valued at $35B+ and are distributed across 100+ countries.
What are you most excited about in the quantum space?
The people! We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in talent and build a new workforce of innovators who are rapidly developing quantum science and changing the course of history. The founders in Duality’s first, second, and soon-to-be third cohorts, are building the most promising early-stage quantum companies that will create thousands of jobs for next-generation STEM leaders all over the globe. I enjoy empowering people to tap into their life purpose, discover their “why” and unlock their fullest potential.
I’m excited to serve as a steward in this ecosystem, cultivate our cohorts to build high-performing teams, and bridge generational gaps between trailblazers and young innovators across many disciplines. I hope to inspire and create economic opportunities for untapped and under-resourced Southside community residents. Ultimately, people will elevate our quantum ecosystem to new heights, expand its impact across the university, the city of Chicago, the broader region, and the world at large.
What is your favorite innovation, big or small?
Water treatment and purification technologies. Access to clean water is essential for our existence and well-being. I grew up in Los Angeles, a dry region prone to drought conditions, so I’ve always been passionate about alleviating water scarcity.
One of my most impactful industry experiences was leading environmental groundwater cleanup contracting of a former rocket engine testing and energy research site for major U.S. space programs and other federal government programs. I teamed with some of the best scientific minds to explore methods of analyzing and treating groundwater contamination. Imagine the impact of applying quantum computing technology to clean up polluted water.
The ability to process millions of data points through complex algorithms with great speed and efficiency could help generate optimal decisions and safer treatment methods in minutes, if not seconds. This is just one example of how quantum technology can be applied to tackle real-world problems across numerous industries in ways that will improve our quality of life.
The University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory anchor the Midwest as a hub for water innovation. I’m grateful for being afforded the opportunity to call this great place my home.
What keeps you up at night?
My 1-year-old daughter. She brings unimaginable joy to my life on a daily basis. She also kept my wife and I awake with sleepless nights for at least 6 months of the past year! 😀 I never knew excessive sleep deprivation until we welcomed her into the world.
We’ve been able to minimize the sleepless nights, but recent teething has caused her to resist bedtime, and wake up in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I created a “Daddy-Babygirl” music playlist filled with songs by Sade, Anita Baker, and various Smooth Jazz artists to quickly soothe her back to sleep when she wakes up before sunrise.