The Sevillian expert in Artificial Intelligence that competes with Google and Amazon from Oregon with 17 years left the studies and worked as a waiter, but with 19 he resumed COU and got his doctorate in Computer Science.
A world-class IT
Francisco Martín (Las Navas de la Concepcion, Seville, 1970) is today a world-class IT engineer and engineer. His company BigML, which uses Artificial Intelligence applied to companies, competes with giants such as Google, Amazon or Microsoft. However, not everything was easy for this Sevillian, who even left school when he was 17 years old, when he was studying COU, to start working as a waiter and even selling newspapers from Monday to Sunday.
About his life and youth
His family was known in Las Navas de la Concepción as “Los Jaboneros” because his grandfather was engaged in the production of soap. «My grandfather opened a small soap factory, he was an inventor, he had great creativity and he even learned to play the violin on his own. My parents and my uncles were looking for the oil, the pringue, to make the soap. Those were the times of the postwar period and hunger sharpened creativity. They made ferris wheels for the wrists of the richest families in exchange for a piece of bread. When the family comes together, they tell those anecdotes», says Francisco.
When he was 4 years old his parents emigrated to Valencia but his childhood and adolescence are linked to Las Navas de la Concepción because he returned every summer to his hometown. “There I had my first girlfriend, I made my first pranks, I took my first…”, laughs this businessman, who left school and went to work as a waiter in the Ford of Amusafes (Valencia) and tried his luck in the Armed forces.
Changing his life
“I was 17 years old” he recalls, “when I stopped studying and my life changed. Suddenly I lost my way, I did not know what to do. Now that I have children of that age, I realize the position I am in, wondering if I have to make them study or not. I really crashed with society when I was studying COU, which instead of being called a University Orientation Course, should have been called a Disorientation Course (laughs). I passed Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, the most difficult, without studying, but the easiest thing was not because I was a hooligan, they threw me out of class … Then we did not have help to know what we wanted to be in life. In the United States, parents support their children to go around the world when they finish high school, to do things before entering the University and can better choose what they want to do. I would have needed it”.
If Francisco had continued working as a waiter, we would have lost a great entrepreneur and expert in Artificial Intelligence. He, however, does not consider that time as lost. «Working as a waiter I achieved mental agility, I learned to memorize because I had to attend 18 tables at the same time … all that helps, it helps you to know some things, how to run a company and do many things at the same time. The waiter training was fundamental (laughs) ».
That he left school was, however, a setback for his parents. “The parents of the postwar period had two objectives with their children: that they did not pass man and that they studied. Leaving school affected my family, he admits. However, when I was 19 years old I started from zero COU”.
Finally, he finished Computer Engineering at the Polytechnic of Valencia, with an average score of 9.3. He did his PhD at the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute of Barcelona, and added to his studies a post-doctorate at the State University of Oregon (United States), where he has lived since 2003.
Endogamy in the University
“In Spain, as the University works, everyone tends to study in the same city where they have family, but that in the United States is frowned upon, as well as doing a doctorate at the same University where you studied. Many universities do not allow you to stay as a professor if you have done a PhD there. Out of inbreeding, so if you want to go back to the University you have to be out three, four or five years” explains Martín.
In the Superior Council of Scientific Investigations (CSIC) created two spin-off (Isoco and Strands) of Artificial Intelligence. As for Isoco, he left it in 2002 and ended up selling to the Sevillian company Clever. As for Strands, a pioneer in behavioral recommendation systems, with 500 banks as clients, it still has 30% of the company, which sold 30 patents to Apple, some of them used in the iTunes platform.
Francisco Martín left school at the age of 17, worked as a waiter and resumed COU at 19 years of age. He received his doctorate in Computer Science and finished his studies in the United States – Juan Florfes
In 2011 he created BigML in Oregon with five partners, one of them Tom Dietterich, a pioneer professor in Artificial Intelligence, as well as José Antonio Ortega, from Jaén, and several colleagues from the postdoctoral program. At present, Francisco Martín is CEO of BigML, where he has 30% of the share capital. The company has 100,000 customers who use their Machine Learning applications, and 33 employees in 14 cities, one of them in Las Navas de la Concepción.
The company BigML is a platform that allows to create applications using Artificial Intelligence
BigML uses Machine Lerning or Machine Learning techniques for the most diverse issues: from predicting turbulence to changing the direction of an airplane or determining what palliative care is for a patient.
“At the moment we are leaders in Machine Learning because we started before anyone else and when we did it, there was nothing like it because Google had a small project and did not pay much attention to it. We started earlier and we are in front of companies as big as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM … Only one of those companies is worth more than the 35 largest companies in Spain. Can we compete with them? If it is because David is against Goliath, we can move faster and the people who try our product are delighted”says this Sevillian businessman based in the United States.
Could you take your company from Las Navas de la Concepción or do you need an ecosystem? Francisco Martín declares that “the problem is that there is no fiber optic there. It seems that it will soon reach these towns, which will allow many people of a certain level to seek quality of life and work in large companies”.