Adventurer Takes on Tech Ventures

Adventurer Takes on Tech Ventures

Adventurer Takes on Tech Ventures

June 7, 2012

Matt Mireles

Matt Mireles ’08 lives an ambitious life. “I always wanted adventure,” he said. After travelling the country and exploring a number of career paths, Mireles has established himself as a technology startup entrepreneur. Upon graduating from GS, Mireles founded SpeakerText, a program that automates the transcription process. Most recently, he developed Humanoid, a human brain-powered platform to complete tasks efficiently.

Born and raised in California, Mireles began his journey at the University of California, Berkeley, where he enrolled after high school. He quickly found, however, that college was not the adventure that he sought. “My sense of ambition diminished,” he said. “The horizon of what I could do shrank a little bit.” So Mireles took two breaks from Berkeley – the first to work as an emergency medical technician in south LA, the second to fight forest fires in Montana and Alaska. Although Mireles found fire-fighting exciting, he credits his paramedic position as a valuable experience that helped him “grow up a little bit.” At one point, he even considered being a doctor.

Following his time away from Berkeley, Mireles returned to school – though this time, on the other coast at Columbia. In addition to taking classes, Mireles worked full-time on an ambulance and wrote for the Spectator. Mireles’ journey took on a new direction when, in 2006, he was selected for the Eric Breindel Collegiate Journalism Award. The $10,000 scholarship and summer internship that accompanied the award both hinted at a possible career in journalism and validated Mireles’ 50- to 60-hour work weeks.

And yet despite a promising path in print, Mireles felt pressure to seek out yet another path and give the finance world a try. “I went from wanting a bunch of adventures to wanting a career,” he said. After graduation, Mireles enrolled in a program at the Stanford Business School, where his interest in entrepreneurship was first piqued.

“The way people in Silicon Valley talked – these weren’t a bunch of polished bankers. These were crazy, swash-buckling adventurers,” Mireles said. “I had a choice: I could either be a journalist and work for newspapers, which was a job… or I could pursue this entrepreneurial ambition that I’d been exposed to, that I got a taste to.” Mireles is the first to admit the risk inherent in his decision, adding with regard to entrepreneurship, “I really had no idea what I was doing.”

And yet true to his track record, Mireles chose the entrepreneurial path. Part of his reasoning stemmed from a lesson he learned at Columbia: Nothing is out of reach. “Columbia taught me that I could have access to power. It gave me this ambition and this hunger, because I wanted that; it just needed to be shown to me. I realized that this is not above me, that these people are not smarter than me.”

Mireles has since gained considerable attention in the tech community, founding SpeakerText in 2008. Mireles discovered an efficient way to do the same thing and more with Humanoid. Co-founded last year with Carnegie Mellon engineer Matt Swanson, the new company utilizes a robot-supervised army of 20,000 people to complete a wide variety of tasks.

“It’s pretty audacious, and frankly pretty foolish, to think that when you know nothing about engineering and software you can go start a software company somehow,” Mireles said. “That doesn’t happen by accident – it didn’t for me, at least. Columbia was a big part of teaching me that something like that was a reasonable expectation for me.”