DURHAM, N.C. – A photo at Robbie Allen’s Twitter account reflects how hectic his life has been just this year – CEO, ex-CEO, executive chairman, Ph.D. student with a focus on artificial intelligence (not something for the meek, certainly not the lazy) and now CEO again. And he thought crossfit was tough?

Robbie Allen is returning to the CEO chair after just a few months off from selling then exiting Automated Insights, taking over as the top executive of machine learning startup Infinia ML. But he’s not stopping his work on a Ph.D. in computer science with an emphasis on artificial intelligence.

A glutton for punishment? Maybe. Life-long learner? Absolutely.

In a Q&A with The Skinny, Allen talks about how he met Infinia ML founder (Duke University’s Dr. Lawrence Carin), why he decided to take the job, whether he has any regrets about selling AI (where he does remain executive chairman), and what his plans are for growing Infinia ML.

What are the major reasons for your decision to accept this position?

The main reasons include:

1) the team is world-class and not easy to replicate
2) the market opportunity for machine learning is tremendous
3) I was impressed by Carrick Capital and their ability to help the company.

[The Silicon Valley venture capital firm has poured $10 million into the startup, which Carin launched earlier this year.]

Will you continue your education or does this job take precedence?

I will continue my Ph.D. part-time. Continuing education is a core tenet of the company and I plan to lead by example!

How did you meet Dr. Carin? How have you developed a relationship that led you to decide to join his venture?

Two times previously, different people had tried to connect us but we got together. We first met after I learned about the company.

Lawrence and I hit it off immediately. He’s brilliant, but also humble.

Are you involved in any way still with Automated Insights?

Yes, I will continue to be the Executive Chairman for Automated Insights.

Looking back, why did you decide to leave AI? Any regrets about that decision?

I had been with the company for 10 years since I originally found it. During that time I had two kids and took few significant breaks.

I was ready to take some time off.

I also thought the timing was right to bring in a CEO that could oversee the execution phase of the company’s journey.

No regrets!

As CEO, what do you hope to contribute most to the new company? With such as thinker as Dr. Carin can you provide new ideas and creative thought as well as executive leadership to the mix?

I hope to build an amazing culture much like we did at Automated Insights.

I hope to bring my unique technical and business perspective to developing products.

One of the things that attracted me to this company is that I won’t have to be the only technical voice for the company like at Automated Insights. Lawrence and I can share that.

What are your hiring plans – how many people and in what areas? Where will they be based?

We have seven distinct positions on our website now.

Several of those positions have multiple openings, especially when it comes to Data Scientists and Python Engineers.

We could easily double our headcount next year and possibly triple it.

With so many AI startups and other companies investing so heavily in AI, what sets this venture apart?

I’m skeptical of many of the startups that claim they are doing machine learning. Advanced machine learning techniques like deep learning take real skill to do right.

We have a team of Ph.D. and senior data scientists that are expert at this. Fundamentally, our team sets us apart from any company on the east coast.