The Spanish Man Who Optimized The Titans

Do you know who the person in the photo is? I don’t think any of you know him but you will certainly know the organizations which he has impacted in a dramatic way: Amazon, Expedia, Genentech; the list goes on.

ennomotive-solverHis name is Jose Antonio Guerrero, a 53 year old mathematician who lives in Sevilla, Spain and works in a university hospital. So far it seems like a normal profile, but what is interesting about Jose is that he has a passion: Predictive modeling, forecasting and data analysis.

It was around 2011 that Jose Antonio decided to leverage Internet to follow his passion. His approach? Participating in crowdsourcing contests. Since the start of his little experiment, he has gone to win or rank on the top lists in many global data analysis competitions. Some examples include:

  • The winner of a global challenge in health-care: Using medical record data to Identify patients diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (Practice Fusion).
  • #6 Top player – Developing a model for ranking hotels in an online outlet to maximize purchases (Expedia)
  • #2 Top player – Developing an algorithm that helps predict where the occurrence, peak and severity of influenza will be in a given season.

 

Jose Antonio’s life has changed since he started with crowdsourcing: Several Fortune 500 companies have approached him with high-profile assignments or job offers. He has not accepted any of the job offers as he feels pretty comfortable with his hospital job and certainly enjoys the nice weather in Sevilla. He continues to participate in online challenges and tournaments. He has also been kind enough to coach and help us with Ennomotive (Disclaimer – I co-founded Ennomotive with few other colleagues from my consulting life. In a nutshell, we have developed a platform for running tournaments and challenges in the operations space).

My Co-founder Enrique Ramirez recently interviewed him at his house: We were curious to know why he still participates in online challenges when he can make a lot of money at prestigious firms doing similar things). His response: “Online challenges are very attractive for me because of the fact that they allow me to practice what I am passionate about in a competition setting. I think competition makes me try harder, learn what’s really relevant and push the boundaries. This way, I can make a stronger impact in the world.”

Jose Antonio Guerrero’s profile portrays an ideal solver. There are not tens of millions of them out there, but there are enough of them in any discipline. One of the biggest challenges of crowdsourcing platforms like us or others like Kaggle and InnoCentive is to identify and capture the interest of such solvers.

As of now, joining online communities is mostly reactive: It’s the solver who chooses whether to sign up on a given site or not. As online problem solving communities are getting more mature, it would not surprise me if 5 years from now we’ll have a profession called “solver head-hunter”: People who reach out to people on LinkedIn or elsewhere offering them serious incentives to compete on a given platform.

How do you think one can find or access many Jose Antonio’s?

(Feel free to follow @ennomotive on Twitter to keep up with new updates).

Photo credit: Akash k / Foter / CC BY-ND

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