Gary Flake - Scientist, Author, and Former CTO of Search at Salesforce (#42)


Dr. Gary William Flake is an independent scientist, author, and inventor, that currently advises over a dozen startups, public companies, universities, and non-profits.

Gary was previously the CTO of Search and Data Science at where he managed salesforce’s entire search business unit. Prior to that, Gary was CEO of Clipboard Inc., which was acquired by in May of 2013. Before founding Clipboard, Gary was a Technical Fellow at Microsoft (2005-2010), where he was responsible for bridging Microsoft Research and MSN, and for helping set the technology vision and future direction of the MSN portal, web search, desktop search and commercial search efforts. In this capacity, he founded and directed Live Labs, Microsoft’s greatest investment in applied research focused on the Internet, which was responsible for groundbreaking technologies such as Seadragon, Photosynth, Deepfish, Listas, Volta, and Pivot.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Gary founded Yahoo! Research Labs, ran Yahoo!s corporate R&D activities and company-wide innovation effort, and was Overture’s Chief Science Officer. Before joining Overture, Gary was a research scientist at NEC Research Institute and the leader of its Web data-mining program.

Gary has filed over 150 patents and has numerous publications spanning over 20 years which have focused on machine learning, data mining, and complex systems. Gary has also appeared in leading national publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Nature Science, CNET News, Computer World, Fast Company, TechCrunch and Mashable, and has presented at leadership events such as the TED Conference.

Gary earned his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Maryland, has served on numerous academic committees and university advisory boards, and wrote the award-winning book, The Computational Beauty of Nature, which is used in college courses worldwide. Gary was also the 2010 winner of the World Technology Award in the category of individual achievement in software, and was named one of the “Creativity 50” in 2009.

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Episode Summary

“Your work can only go so far if you can’t communicate it. Your ability to communicate the importance of it can really make a difference between it having an impact that is tremendous versus nothing at all.”

—Gary Flake

In this episode we’ll cover:

  1. How Gary got a job doing research in college after sneaking into a graduate-level seminar and asking questions
  2. Why Gary got getting recruited into becoming the Chief Science Officer at Overture
  3. The difference between conducting research in academia versus conducting research in the corporate world.

Key Milestones

a) Communication
b) Systems thinking
c) Hiring those who complement your skillset
Additional Resources

Selected Links from the episode:
Read more about Gary Flake on Wikipedia
Gary’s Book: Computational Beauty of Nature
Watch Gary’s Ted Talk