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They think of themselves as the marketer, the hacker, and the skeptic.
More specifically, they’re CEO Ken Cho, MBA ’03, and University of Texas at Austin researchers Jason Baldridge and James Scott. Together, they’re three of the top minds at People Pattern, an Austin startup that uses massive unstructured data to gain insight into how consumers think about a brand.
They’re also the latest example of the good things that can happen when industry and academia collide.
“I like to characterize it as… smart, scrappy teams working with limited resources to try to do great things,” says Baldridge, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics.
Baldridge, People Pattern’s co-founder and chief data scientist, is a computational linguist. He studies natural language processing to understand the sentiment buried within conversations. When people talk about a company or brand, is their language positive, negative, or neutral?
Cho, an established entrepreneur, wondered if Baldridge could determine this for millions of conversations happening daily across multiple social media platforms. So he did the only reasonable thing: “I stalked him.”
He recruited Baldridge and James Scott, associate professor at the McCombs School of Business and People Pattern’s chief statistician, because he knew their skills would be invaluable: Baldridge digs through piles of unstructured data to identify patterns, then Scott weeds out the noise and builds statistical models to make them useable.
“There are a lot of synergies between someone with Jason’s background and someone with my background in terms of being able to get interesting insights of out really, really messy data sources that we confront every day,” says Scott.
As is fitting for a marketer like Cho, he doesn’t only leverage Baldridge and Scott’s expertise but also the prestige and weight their university titles hold.
“I call Jason and James ‘professor’ in front of everyone because it’s a marketing thing,” Cho explains. “When you have a professor at the table with other marketers, they listen. They don’t want to listen to me, but they really listen to them. It’s a strategic advantage for us to sell and differentiate ourselves.”
Co-sponsors: McCombs Alumni Network, College of Liberal Arts, College of Natural Sciences
Watch McCombs Associate Professor James Scott, Liberal Arts Associate Professor Jason Baldridge, and Kenneth Cho, co-founder of People Pattern and Spredfast, discuss the challenges and opportunities for companies that want to partner with university researchers. They were a featured guest panel as part of the Texas Enterprise Speaker Series on Jan. 29, 2016.