Satalia is the trading name of NPComplete Ltd. Both names relate to deep mathematical concepts, and in this article I talk about what they mean and where they come from.
From NP-Complete to Satalia
I had the idea for Optimisation-as-a-Service during my PhD in January 2007, whilst preparing for an Entrepreneurship class at London Business School. I pitched the concept to the class and built a team to assess the feasibility of the idea. We called the team NPC Solutions after the mathematical concept of NP-Completeness.
NP-Complete is a class of optimisation called a decision problem. NP-Complete problems appear in thousands of applications across almost every industry. The time required to solve even moderately sized problems can easily reach into the billions or trillions of years, using any amount of computing power available today. Understanding NP-Completeness sits at the centre of perhaps the most important question in Computer Science; does P =NP?
Twenty years ago the bottleneck preventing people from solving many practical problems lay in the limited capacity and performance of computers. However, modern computers – especially with the advent of cloud computing – are now capable of storing a huge amount of data and processing it at very high-speeds. The critical innovation is in the efficiency and effectiveness of the algorithms manipulating the data.
NPComplete Limited was formed in November 2008 and officially span out of UCL’s world renowned Department of Computer Science. With a prototype of Optimisation-as-a-Service – called the SolveEngine – I won a Kauffman Global Scholarship to study innovation and entrepreneurship in the US. As part of the scholarship I was placed in Cisco in Silicon Valley to help them build an innovation programme.
The SolveEngine contains many types of algorithms that solve optimisation problems. One optimisation problem is considered the mother of all of them: Boolean Satisfiability (known as SAT). It was the first problem proven to be NP-Complete by Stephen Cook.
It was a struggle explaining to VCs, partners and clients why we were called NP-Complete, so we decided to create a trading name that was a little less geeky. Sitting at my cube in Cisco in 2009 I was brainstorming names over the phone with the one of my co-founders. As I was typing random 6 or 7 letter domain names starting with SAT into Google, trying SAT-this and SAT-that, I came across SAT-alia. After a quick search for the meaning of ‘alia’, SATalia was born.
What does Satalia mean?
The name Satalia is made up of two parts; ‘SAT’ which refers to Boolean Satisfiability; and ‘ALIA’ from the Latin phrase ‘et alia‘ (often abbreviated to ‘et al’) meaning ‘and others’. So SATALIA means ‘Boolean Satisfiability and others’ and describes our core product – the SolveEngine – that harnesses a wide range of optimisation algorithms from academia and industry (such as SAT, OPB, LP, SMT, MZN, AMPL, GAMS, GMPL, CSP, etc). The SolveEngine exists to be a conduit for state-of-the-art optimisation algorithms into industry, and to enable academics to realise the value of their innovations.
A SAT problem asks whether a given boolean formula can be made true; (a V b V ¬c) Λ (d V ¬a) Λ (a V ¬b V d) Λ (¬a). All optimisation problems can be reduced to a special form of SAT called 3-SAT, where each clause has exactly three literals; (a V b V ¬c) Λ (c V d V ¬a) Λ (a V ¬b V d). Satalia’s logo makes reference to 3-SAT; (S A T) Λ (L I A), with three letters either side the Λ; the greek letter Lambda, meaning AND.
At Satalia we love solving very hard (NP-Complete) problems and we use many algorithms (boolean satisfiability and others) to ensure our solutions are better than anything else on the market.