Jeremiah Smith (MSc Computing 2011, PhD 2015) kick-started his career as a tech entrepreneur during his time at Imperial where he twice won the Enterprise Lab's Venture Catalyst Challenge for his companies Flashbackr and DX.network. He is now co-founder and Chief Product Officer of environmental startup CarbonChain, enabling companies in the commodities sector to measure the emissions in their supply chains.
What did you learn during your time at Imperial, in class or out?
In class I had the privilege to learn from some of the best AI researchers, this honed my rigour and intellectual capacities. Outside of class I took my first steps as an entrepreneur through the Imperial Enterprise Lab: I started my first company (Flashbackr) at Imperial thanks to the support of the Enterprise Lab which was a defining moment in my career — eight years and four companies later I am still in the tech startup space.
Can you tell us about your studies at Imperial?
I did my master in AI in the computing department (distinction), the topic of my thesis was on using Reinforcement Learning to learn the best strategies to redistribute bicycles in cycle sharing schemes ('Boris bikes').
I then immediately followed on with a PhD in Computing (Marie Curie fellowship) where I researched the challenges in deploying context-aware systems (systems that make decisions or take actions based on the predictions of a machine learner e.g. a smart thermostat) over long periods of time. My main contributions were algorithms which adapt to changes in user behaviour, also known as concept drift, a problem very often overlooked in AI-based applications to this day.
Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?
My colleagues (they were all so smart!) and supervisors: Luke Dickens and Naranker Dulay for their guidance.
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
Meeting my friend and long-term business partner Yury who I founded my first, and all following, companies with! We were office colleagues while doing our PhDs and used to go to the sports centre to swim which is where a lot of the brainstorming happened.
What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?
The Huxley building of course! Where I spent so much time during my Master's and PhD.
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now.
I recently co-founded an environmental startup CarbonChain to measure greenhouse gas emissions in commodities supply chains.
The next global crisis will be climate so it’s critical for the world to transition to a low carbon economy to curb climate change. One of the most important steps for this is the transition to low carbon supply chains in the commodities sector because 50% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from oil and gas, mining and agricultural supply chains.
At CarbonChain we want to support this transition by allowing companies in the commodities sector to measure the emissions in their supply chains (shockingly, their current visibility on emissions is almost inexistent) and help them take action to reduce them.
And we’ve been lucky enough to get accepted into Y Combinator (it’s where Airbnb, Dropbox and many others got their start). We are doing the program as we speak!
What does a typical day look like for you now?
I head product at our company so my work usually involves the following: product design, product management, customer interviews, emissions modelling, climate regulations research and anything else needed to make things happen!
What would be your advice for current students?
If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Find what you are passionate about and good people you love to work with — the rest will sort itself out.
What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?
Imperial College is respected world wide, it’s an honour to have attended the institution and it has opened many doors for me.
What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?