Eight short months ago, I wrote about how I was stepping back after 10 years at Automated Insights to take some time off and start on my Computer Science Ph.D. at UNC. Now, I’m excited to announce that I’m getting back into the startup game with a new company. You might be thinking exactly what my wife did: “Robbie, you can’t go one semester into your Ph.D. without starting a new company?!?!” It’s all logical, I promise.
This past summer was great. I did a bunch of things with my family, and I can now talk in-depth about all sorts of “off the beaten path” places around the Raleigh-Durham area that most locals have probably never been to before.
I had time to ponder and add to the growing discourse about what the resurgence of artificial intelligence means for technology and for the workforce. Is it overhyped? Yes. Will there be a correction to the hype? Yes. Is the hype warranted? Yes. I also wrote a number of satirical pieces too, which I really enjoyed. It’s fun to poke at investors especially when you aren’t actively raising money.
Then I started my first semester at UNC. It was an adjustment, but after a month of classes and research, I really started to enjoy it. The average age of my classmates is fifteen years less than me. I’ve learned that advanced machine learning techniques like deep learning aren’t something you can pick up in a weekend. You can’t take a short online course and start creating complex models. That got me excited because it means that skill can be a differentiator.
So when I met Lawrence Carin, the Duke University Vice Provost of Research and Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering, I was intrigued to hear about a new company he was starting. I told him the situation had to be perfect for me to change my current path. I was enjoying life as a student. I had already started thinking of a couple potential startup ideas I was going to explore. But after talking to Lawrence and meeting the team he was building, the opportunity was compelling. He had raised $10 million from Carrick Capital Partners with Mike Salvino, former CEO of Accenture Operations, as Executive Chairman for the company. They needed a CEO to help them figure out how to take a team of incredible machine learning experts and some significant projects with large brand name companies and turn it into a sustainable product company.
Infinia ML is born
My big announcement today is I’m joining that new startup as Co-founder and CEO. The name of the company is Infinia ML. We even have a simple website. The team we’ve assembled is not something you can easily replicate and it is our competitive advantage.
We have several ideas for potential machine learning-based products. Initially, we are going to do some consulting and R&D work with large companies to help validate our ideas.
As far as Automated Insights goes, I’ll continue to be the Executive Chairman of the company. The two companies aren’t competitive in any way, and I hope there are ways to help the companies collaborate for certain customers.
I’m going to continue to work on my Ph.D. on a part-time basis. The good folks in the UNC CS department have been very supportive.
To summarize: my new company focuses on ML, my previous company focuses on NLG, and my research focuses on applying ML to NLG.
Commitment to the Raleigh-Durham area
A common interest Lawrence and I shared was a passion for growing Infinia ML in the Raleigh-Durham area. Sure, we have lots of options to move the company elsewhere, but we believe the Triangle is going to be a significant advantage for us.
Most of the best machine learning labs are on the west coast of the US at companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Infinia ML is going to be another option for those interested in joining a top tier machine learning team, but in a highly affordable area with a higher quality of living. We will be tapping Duke, UNC, and NC State to provide a steady stream of future machine learning experts. And for great software engineers that are interested in machine learning but have little experience with it, that’s ok, we’ll train you.
Another big advantage for us with having a core nucleus of academics that have been teaching machine learning for years is we intend to set up ML bootcamps and training sessions for new hires. That’s not such a bad value proposition, right? Come join an exciting new company and we’ll train you on one of the hottest skills (the hottest?) in the technology field today.
We have a bunch of open positions. Apply today!
After having done a startup before and invested in a bunch of startups, I definitely consider myself a “startup guy” now. I like starting and growing companies and helping new companies and entrepreneurs. The attraction of starting something new with a great team and significant funding was too strong to resist. I couldn’t be more excited about this new chapter. Stay tuned for much more!