Olin Hyde ('88) Profile

Olin Hyde '88
Olin Hyde '88

It’s difficult to imagine having a boring conversation with Olin Hyde, a 1988 Miami honors alumnus and Vice President of Business Development for ai-one. His mission is to embed his company’s artificial intelligence into every computing device. So it comes as no surprise that Olin has a habit of shifting simple questions like, “What do you do?” into discussions of technology, morality, consciousness, literature, and the meaning of data – a blend that is complex, sometimes geeky, and fascinating. A conversation with him will leave you thinking about how everything is connected – and that’s exactly how he’s used his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies to propel his career.

Olin’s first job out of college was as a research analyst with Andersen Consulting, the company that would later become Accenture. He describes the first phase of his career as working for “a homogenous company serving homogeneous American clients with homogeneous ideas.” He left Andersen to start a software company that he later sold in 1993. In the mid-90’s Olin entered the second phase of his career by starting an offshore technology company that “used the best talent we could find internationally to serve an American market." Now in the third phase of his career, Olin works in “the most diverse environment possible. On any given day I speak to companies in four or five countries. The majority of our customers are small international companies with innovative ideas to solve very complex problems that span the planet.”

As an alumnus, Olin cares deeply about the future competitiveness of Miami. He sees the world continuing to get more competitive at an accelerating rate. “The most important skill to master is how to reason. What you learn is important but critical reasoning is what sets you apart.” He sees the Honors Program as an important way for students to foster these skills through independent research projects. And Olin speaks from experience. Olin started his most recent company, Auto-Semantics, as a research project. “I wanted to see if we could solve marketing problems using artificial intelligence.” Turns out, he could and he did – enough so for Auto-Semantics to get acquired by ai-one in a stock deal in 2011.

ai-one, a company started in 2003 in Zurich, provides tools that enable developers to build artificial intelligence into software and internet applications. The company is one of the first to offer the ability to build “machine learning” into almost any system. Olin describes the technology as an “empty brain” that learns the relationships of all the data it is fed—just as human brains do—and learns how to interpret that data using contextual clues. ai-one enables the development of machines that can learn to recognize patterns and associations so computers can answer “big data” questions with minimal human intervention.

Olin jokes that while the conversation in his office sometimes revolves around the possibility of ai-one’s technology turning into “Skynet”—the self-aware and anti-human artificial intelligence system in the Terminator film series—it’s actually no real threat. While ai-one’s technology can learn from data over time, it is incapable of conscious, autonomous thinking, or creating thoughts out of nothing.

Olin’s customers at ai-one use the technology for a variety of fascinating projects. They include fraud prevention, network security, crime scene analysis, and understanding social media feeds such as Facebook. In Germany, one company uses the technology to read the human genome to provide personalized medical treatments.

A serial entrepreneur for most of his life, Olin has started eight companies. He’s had what he describes as “a couple good exits, a couple mediocre efforts, and four massive failures.” But, he remains positive about his missteps, believing that learning from failure is the biggest part of success, saying: “it is better to do something wrong and fix mistakes along the way than to strive for perfection and accomplish nothing.”

Olin has noticed his perspective is changing as his career continues to progress. When he sold his first company his identity centered on his work. Now, as he’s matured, his identity has “multiple centers of gravity” including his involvement in non-profits, art and community organizations and mentoring at-risk children.