How Iris.ai began
How it all started
Of course, you can read our brief bios on our site, but we’d like to give you a little richer story too. After all, this company was founded because of the team, not any initial idea.
The summer of 2015 Maria, Jacobo and Anita met at Singularity University’s GSP15. With a total of 80 brilliant, smart, driven class mates we were thrown into a crazy ride of exponential technology, grand global challenges and the ultimate challenge: how can you positively impact the lives of a billion people within 10 years?
After 5 intense weeks of classes and workshops, our worlds turned upside down and everything we thought we knew about the future challenged to the extreme – we were asked to form teams and start generating ideas. We found each other with a common process idea: that we’d rather form a diverse, well-balanced and kick-ass team, and then started working together to find common ground for problem space and then put our brains in motion to try and solve it.
There were 5 of us. After the first weekend intensive, there were 4, for the best of all parties.
We discussed out way through problem space after problem space. Water. Food. Environment. Health. What were we passionate about? What did we want to solve? Where did we have enough experience to quickly be able to separate good from bad ideas?
During these discussions we always bumped into the same issue: We don’t know enough. We don’t have domain expertise. We don’t know what humans already know about this. So on our way back from lunch one day, the conversation drifted to this issue: How do you access real scientific information? Why is the research world so inaccessible to us “mere mortals”? And as the discussions progressed over hours, it was clear that we’d found a problem space we were all passionate about.
Over the next few weeks, we had countless interviews with innovation departments, entrepreneurs, publishers, startups, researchers and universities. We ideated, sketched, discussed and made connections.
We quickly realized the potential of AI technology in the space. However, without an AI expert on the team, our initial product ideas were focused on the user experience and the problems to be solved – we assumed we’d find the right tech team to do it.
We graduated Singularity University in August, and before we left both Maria and Anita bought plane tickets to visit Jacobo Madrid in September. We knew that without that level of commitment, this would never happen. Andrea decided after careful consideration to leave the team and continue developing her own amazing Awake Labs.
Then comes the part of the story without which Iris.AI would have stayed a good idea. Victor and Anita had worked together in a couple of projects in the past – in software and race cars. However, Anita had a feeling Victor might know something about machine learning too – and she knew that he was crazy enough to make anything happen – so she invited him for a coffee. As it turns out, Victor did not only have a masters degree in AI plus several years of AI research experience – he was looking for a more fast pace environment than the University, and he’d been thinking about this AI based tool that would allow you faster access to relevant content.
10 minutes into the coffee with Anita, Victor had decided he was part of the team. (He didn’t tell the others until a couple of weeks later). He was invited to join the team in Madrid under honest terms: “There is no money, there is no company, we don’t know what your role would be – but we don’t screw people over and we’re trying to solve a really big problem.”
Three days into the Madrid stay there were 4 Co-Founders of Iris.AI. Bringing Victor on board was the easiest decision we have ever made as a team.
Maria and Victor, still employed elsewhere, started phasing out of their other jobs, we started building in October… And the rest is history.