Founding a company is a bucket-list achievement in and of itself. But founding three companies is a whole nother story.
Just ask Matt Sanchez. He's lived in Austin for more than 27 years, founding a trio of tech companies along the way.
These days, he spends his time as CTO at CognitiveScale, a company he founded in 2013. Under his guidance, a growing team of engineers and data scientists is creating cutting-edge machine learning technology that echoes the cognitive abilities of the human mind. So far, his team has already filed more than one hundred patents since the company's inception.
Sanchez shared with us what's in store for him and his team.
What technologies power your business?
CognitiveScale builds software that emulates human cognitive abilities in order to augment the intelligence humans. We develop unique machine learning and natural language processing technologies to solve for business outcomes in the industry domains we serve: financial services, healthcare and commerce.
Our core technology can be described as a combination of novel data science techniques and an enterprise grade augmented intelligence platform with the industry specific blueprints to solve high-value problems using AI. It is both software and data with a method and tools to rapidly build cognitive applications and processes.
What technologies are playing the biggest roles at your company this year?
We have filed over 100 patents related to cognitive computing over the past three years. This year we continue to focus on novel machine learning and natural language processing technologies that solve some of the most challenging problems in financial services, healthcare and commerce. We are also expanding our leverage of core infrastructure like Apache Spark and Apache Kafka to scale up.
What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?
The most important technical initiative for us this year is the next generation of our Cortex platform. We have been building Cortex for three years and using it internally but have now reached a point where we are ready for our customers and partners to use it directly. I’m excited to see what they will build with it.
What are the biggest technology challenges you’ve faced in the past? How did you overcome them?
In the AI space, I have found a variety of key challenges that all of our customers struggle with:
Business value: What problems can be solved with AI and how do you prioritize?
Data: What is the right first and third party data to use? How do I know that my data is both “nutritious” and “digestible” by AI?
Skills: Do I have the right skills in my IT department to deliver an AI solution?
Enterprise Grade Technology: How to get my machine learning model from the lab into production?
Speed: It takes too long and costs too much, how can I show value quickly with AI?
At CognitiveScale, we have developed both a methodology (called our 10-10-10 method) as well as a set of AI technologies that help our customers see value quickly with AI.
What are lessons you’ve learned about working in Austin that other local entrepreneurs can learn from?
I have lived in Austin for 27 years and helped start and build three companies here. It can be harder to raise venture capital in Austin than Silicon Valley or New York City, but good companies can always find good investors.
Some VC firms are now considering Austin a key city to build a portfolio around — but don’t expect investors to come to you. Build as much of a presence as you can on the east and west coast to meet investors where they are.
Also, while Austin has grown rapidly, the competition for tech talent has also grown as Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. have all ramped up efforts to recruit here. Get involved at the grassroots level to meet and recruit top talent — tech meetups, local conferences, etc. are all great for this — not to mention the University of Texas which itself has a top 10 computer science program.
Austin is known for having a large talent pool of thirsty, young workers. What are the top characteristics you look for in a potential hire?
We do our best to make sure candidates will fit in well with the culture we have built at CognitiveScale.
The AI market is rapidly evolving and we are a startup — the combination of these factors can appear chaotic at times, but for the right individual can be the most rewarding career experience possible.
How would your team describe working with you?
I think you would have to ask them. My hope is that they would say I am part of the reason as to why they come to work each day.
Photo via CognitiveScale. Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.
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