Dr. Jermain Kaminski, is Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship at the School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. Jermain’s research focuses on theoretical implications of artificial intelligence and applied machine learning in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship. He collected co-founder experiences in in Cambridge and San Francisco with his startup moviegalaxies.com, a website visualizing character interaction networks in movies. He further conducted research at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, MIT Media Lab’s Macro Connections Group, and finished his PhD in RWTH Aachen’s Technology Entrepreneurship Group. In 2014/2015, he served as a data analyst for a major German soccer team.
When you meet Jermain, it is hard to imagine him sitting still for very long. When he isn’t teaching or doing research, he’s developing websites for the new entrepreneurship center.
Jermain Kaminski (1986) was born and raised in Wuppertal, just a few hours to the east of Maastricht. But he could not have come to Maastricht University without first passing through Witten/Herdecke University, the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) in Aachen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), not to mention a stint in Silicon Valley in California. He has been in Maastricht since March of 2019. In fact, the university hired him before he had formally defended his PhD thesis at Aachen University.
RWTH Aachen and MIT are similar in that they are universities of technology. Jermain studied business and economics so he could learn how to create a business from scratch. During his studies, he made a living by developing websites and went on to co-found MovieGalaxies, a website which a number of universities are now using to teach network analysis. He also founded one of the largest Machine Learning Meetups in Germany and is now importing that idea to Maastricht University.
“I’m deeply convinced that – both for the purpose of research but also to create a start-up – students benefit from an essential understanding of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It’s my mission to bring it into the curriculum and to bring clarity to the topic.”
Jermain was attracted to Maastricht University because of its international nature. He especially likes the hands-on style of teaching here, and says it resembles the American teaching style more than what one finds more often in Europe. MU does a great deal of cross-disciplinary work.
“More than half of my students come the natural sciences – biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, neuroscience. I think that’s a great way to learn about entrepreneurship both for the students and for myself.”
Jermain doesn’t think of himself as a born teacher – rather as a researcher who likes to teach. But he was attracted to Maastricht’s teaching and learning style because it uses problem-based tutorial groups, which appeals to him.
“In the modern day, it doesn’t make much sense to be a classic-style lecturer, certainly with all the online resources now available. These days, the lecture hall has evolved into a place for reflection and discussion. And, in that sense, I don’t think of myself so much as a teacher than as a moderator.”
Jermain wants to give his first-year class the earliest possible impression of what entrepreneurship looks like so they can get a feel for what a start-up is and how they can apply their knowledge to their own pursuits.
“It’s never about the idea, but rather the execution of that idea that counts. That’s what innovation is all about.”
He believes it is important that his students know they are capable of starting their own companies. They learn why some start-ups are more successful than others, using recent cases from Maastricht to California. They also need to understand why it works better to have a well-balanced team to start a company.
“Innovation equals invention multiplied by commercialisation. If you don’t bring an idea to the market, it will only remain an idea.”
Jermain believes in the importance of teaching and helping non-business students – in working for everyone at the university. It is rare for business people to start successful enterprises on their own. The majority of good start-ups have a technical founder or co-founder. Connecting a varied set of students is a central element of the Maastricht Centre for Entrepreneurship (MC4E).
Within the MBA Programme, Jermain will have two classes; one in Entrepreneurial Pitching alongside his teaching partner Jarrod Ormiston. While Jermain focuses mostly on Technology Entrepreneurship, Jarrod teaches Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship. As a result, Jermain feels their work is mutually complementary.
As part of the MBA Programme, Jermain will also teach a session on recent trends in Machine Learning and their implications for business. As he sees it, knowledge of new computational methods will be crucial to the way people set and understand new businesses. The students are getting three streams – entrepreneurship, innovation, and machine learning.
“Whether we like it or not, machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming a standard part of every workspace. One of the most important things business people can learn is how to translate technical concepts into plain language.”
In May, Jermain will start teaching Machine Learning as part of the MBA Programme. As he sees it, this knowledge will be crucial to the way people set new businesses. Outside the programme, Jermain will teach in the MSc Programme an Introduction into Technology Entrepreneurship for the Maastricht Science Programme (MSP) at the SBE in the next semester.