Substantial progress has been made recently on developing provably accurate and efficient algorithms for low-rank matrix factorization via nonconvex optimization. While conventional wisdom often takes a dim view of nonconvex optimization algorithms due to their susceptibility to spurious local minima, simple iterative methods such as gradient descent have been remarkably successful in practice. The theoretical footings, however, had been largely lacking until recently. In this tutorial-style overview, we highlight the important role of statistical models in enabling efficient nonconvex optimization with performance guarantees. This presentation serves as a testament that the integrated consideration of optimization and statistics leads to fruitful research findings.
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