By Flaminia Cavallo (Founder, TheoryMine Ltd)
I am not very different from any other young woman you come across. I don't like waking up early in the morning and I like staying up late chatting with my friends. I like shopping and nights out. I like working out, but I like staying in to watch a movie even more. I love to travel and I count the days until my next holiday. I like mathematics and computers, which has always felt natural.
That's why I used to be surprised at people's shocked reactions when I told them I studied "Artificial Intelligence and Maths." I am now very used to it.
When I had to choose what I would study at university, the sciences were always the only option for me. The decision to start my own company was just as natural. That's what led me to found TheoryMine.
TheoryMine is the result of my forth year dissertation. I was part of a great research group, The Automated Reasoning Group, at the University of Edinburgh. We focused on automated theorem proving. Together with my supervisors (Alan Bundy, Lucas Dixon and Roy McCasland), I invented a software system (which builds on decades of world-class research) to generate novel mathematical theorem. Computers can, by themselves, generate millions of new proved, interesting and often useless theorems. The idea to get people to name them was born almost as a joke. We had the possibility to create a lot of theorems, and no names to give them!
I discovered that people not only find the idea entertaining, but that they also relate to it quite easily. Many people find it cool to have their name attached to an everlasting truth, just like Pythagoras. Friends of mine who had never showed an interest in mathematics before started asking me, "So, what does this letter stands for in the equation?" or, "What is this induction thing?" I realized that this is something that not only engages people, but also raises interest in the fun side of mathematics.
For me, starting and owning a company has been both scary and reassuring, both dull and extremely exciting. Scary because it's impossible to start a company for the first time and know all the things that one must know to be successful. When I started I didn't even know what a software license was!
I was reassured by the realization that there was always someone willing to help and teach me. It has been dull because I can't begin to count the hours I've spent on my own in front of the computer, checking and checking again that everything works fine. It has been exciting because when everything works, there is a huge sense of satisfaction!
Would I recommend entrepreneurship to anyone? Yes. And I will always be grateful to the people who pushed me and helped me to start TheoryMine in the first place. Coming from a country where little encouragement is given to young people wanting to start a business, I know how lucky I was to find myself in an environment where I could get the support I needed.
Entrepreneurship is something you get addicted to. Now that I have done it once, I see business ideas everywhere, and I always think there is nothing as rewarding as doing your own thing, even if on a small scale, and doing it the way you want to. All you need is some ambition, drive, and a whole lot of perseverance.
About the guest blogger: Flaminia Cavallo is the founder of TheoryMine Ltd, a company that sells the right to name a newly discovered mathematical theorem. She studied in Edinburgh with a joint honour in Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics, graduating as a "best in class" student. She worked as a research assistant at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh and in 2010, she won first place in Scottish Institute for Enterprise's New Venture competition. Follow her on Twitter at @flcav.