Closing Remarks from 2020 and insights of our practice

The journey of an AI company in Portugal through the pandemics


Over the last two years, we have worked intensively to create a reliable ecosystem for developing AI projects. Our long-term objective is to become an incubator for AI projects, ensuring higher levels of success than the industry standards. In our consulting practice as an AI company in Portugal, we face every project with a specific mindset. How can we create a walkable path to validate an AI challenge successfully?

AI company in Portugal creates a reproducible approach to AI innovation

Our ultimate goal is to move from an AI company in Portugal to become an AI project incubator. So, we have been working on multiple initiatives to accelerate the development of such projects. Examples of these initiatives are Data Ignite and our internal AI Library. Data Ignite aims to create a reproducible approach to AI consulting. It helps us to move from discovery to validation and execution of AI projects. NILG.AI’s Library contains hundreds of methods and models validated on our previous projects. It accelerates the time to market of our solutions.

I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has shaken us all, regardless of our industry and stage. High-tech consulting was not the exception. We had to adapt our value proposition, shifting how we conceive each industry’s needs and the format of our projects. We pride ourselves in being able to quickly shift to an equally efficient remote practice, growing our team and our customer base. In such shaky times, we would like to cite Andy Groove’s famous quote:

Bad companies are destroyed by crisis; good companies survive them; great companies are improved by them

Our transformation through COVID as an AI company in Portugal

We believe we became a better company as a result of this pandemic. We went beyond being just another AI company in Portugal. For instance, while many companies were forced to do layoffs and cut off investments, we were able to grow our team. This is relatively easy when you rely on external funding, but in our case, it was the effect of intensive efforts on increasing our customer base, diversifying customer acquisition channels and generating company awareness. We managed to open multiple positions for Data Scientists, where our latest job opening attracted +350 submissions which, considering the small size of our company, reflects our positioning as a relevant player in our market, and as an ecosystem to learn, grow, and work on innovative projects. Between 2018 and 2019, we covered mainly three industries: Healthcare, Telecommunications, and Market Research. In 2020, we expanded our areas of proven impact to fintech, real estate, travel and hospitality, SaaS, multimedia, hardware, and e-Commerce.

From our Porto offices (and homes after COVID), we were able to work with clients all over the world, including the Americas (USA, Canada, and Peru), Europe (Portugal, UK, France, Switzerland, and Croatia), and Middle East & Asia (Israel, Turkey, and India). So, are we an AI company in Portugal or an AI company from Portugal?

This year, we covered several core areas of AI, including Machine Learning (and Deep Learning if you are into using the trendy words), Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing, Audio Analysis, Forecasting, Recommender Systems, and Operational Research.

Placing Learning and Innovation as our North star

How did we manage to achieve such a reach in so many areas? By placing learning and innovation as our north star. We believe it’s the only way to deliver top-notch results to our clients. We invest a lot of time learning. On average, we promoted +70 learning sessions in 2020 (about 10-15% of our time) where we discuss recently published papers, how to tackle an AI problem, review code from peers, among others. As a result, besides delivering state-of-the-art results to our clients, we achieved multiple recognitions in the form of published research papers (some of which awarded) ([1], [2]), patents with our clients ([3]), and prizes to our team members (2nd place at Fraunhofer Challenge 2020, Honorary Mention at ERCIM Cor Baayen Young Researcher Award [4]).

To give back to the community, we sponsored and supported multiple events (VISUM, DSIE) and joined efforts with DSSG PT and other associations to hold webinars and competitions on multiple topics related to AI (Cervical cancer, Fairness in AI, Geospatial Data, Optimizing keyboards for ALS patient,and here).

What will happen in 2021?

In 2021, we will strengthen these initiatives, expanding our range of action, and increasing our impact on the community. We will keep walking the walk to become the right ecosystem for supporting any AI initiative. We are thankful for all your trust in us. Some of you read our content and keep up with our news. Others partner with us to accelerate your business. Let’s keep delivering high-quality work, that impacts the world for good, and that helps others navigate beyond the AI hype and into the actual solutions that boost industries in such challenging times.

Finally, I would like to thank all NILG.AI members (current and former) for their hard work this year. These results are evidence of the passion you put into your daily practice.

Wishes of a successful 2021,
Kelwin Fernandes

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