This is first in a series of posts profiling speakers at this month’s Supernova conference, a technology conference at Wharton that is co-sponsored by Technically Philly.
Wharton professor Eric Bradlow sees his department as a matchmaker between guys in suits and guys in lab coats.
“We want to connect companies with large data sets with academics that want to build data models,” he says.
Bradlow along with fellow professor Peter Fader started Wharton Interactive Media Initiative (WIMI) in August 2008 to help companies take the large mounds of user data and use it to predict customer behavior.
WIMI is able to predict the viewership of ESPN programming across cable, online and mobile. They’ve told Omnicom what online advertising methods are most effective and they’ve helped Hulu forecast user consumption “with ridiculous accuracy.”
Typically a large company approaches WIMI and asks the Initiative if they would like parse a particular data set, usually a record of consumer behavior. WIMI will then solicit proposals from academics and then select which ones will receive funding. The research is mostly conducted by graduate students, doctoral students and professors. Undergrads and MBA students are mostly involved through clubs and courses.
Since its inception the WIMI, a part of the Wharton School of Business, has attracted nearly 15 professors and hundreds of students that span across numerous departments at the University of Pennsylvania creating a rapidly growing program that Bradlow hopes will reshape the way people perceive Wharton.
“Call me back in 2012,” says Bradlow. “We’ll have a major by then.”
To be clear, Bradlow knows that WIMI won’t replace the finance and marketing material that has made Wharton into the best business school in country, but WIMI believes that data is the future.
“We haven’t been drinking too much of the Kool-Aid to believe that we are going replace marketing and finance … but our vision is that Wharton will be branded around the interactive media space,” he says.
Bradlow says that while academics have been trying to predict behavior using data for decades, “The technology has finally caught up and given us a sandbox to play in.”
WIMI will be presenting at this month’s Supernova conference and Bradlow promises to impress.
“It will exciting, thrilling and it will be the talk of the conference,” Bradlow promises with a laugh. “WIMI will steal the show.”
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