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How Machine Learning Has Changed the Business Landscape in Chicago

Jon Chua, a Management Consultant at Kenway Consulting and MBA Candidate at the The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, discusses the impact of machine learning in Chicago's business, technology, and innovation communities. The University of Chicago is an 1871 University Partner and will be hosting their 2nd Annual Chicago Machine Learning Venture Capital Summit this coming Thursday, April 12. 

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Guest Author: Jon Chua, MBA Candidate, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

It has finally happened: data is cool. Not only has the recent trend toward valuing the power of data continued on in academic and business settings, but it has actually gone mainstream. Perhaps you’ve seen data’s new influence in the Microsoft commercial about artificial intelligence (AI) featuring music artist Common, or in Google’s use of this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, to promote their new cloud platform.

Although hearing the testimonial of an Oscar-winning rapper may direct attention to the wide-reaching impact of data, the questions of what these new tools are and how they impact your business are still left unanswered. This is why the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation along with Built@Booth, a Chicago Booth student group, are hosting the Machine Learning Venture Capital Summit on Thursday, April 12. The event will bring together venture capitalists, machine-learning (ML) startups, and cutting-edge researchers interested in ML applications and commercialization.

Simply put, ML is the science of discovering structure in large datasets and forming predictions by leveraging advanced computing methods along with statistical fundamentals. Its ultimate goal is to generate accurate predictions even when the relationship between inputs and outcomes is not always clear.

While the objectives of machine-learning are clear, organizations have only been able to make it profitable by finding innovative applications. Chicago has quickly become a hotbed for companies that utilize ML to drive their businesses, use ML fundamentals to build data-driven products, or invest in ML companies. Grubhub is one of these companies.

Have you ever wondered how Grubhub recommends restaurants? How the company is able to estimate which restaurants have the fastest delivery? Or how it knows that you’ll probably want your food delivered when the forecast calls for rain? Grubhub mixes technical skills, business acumen, and passion for data to improve the overall customer experience and drive platform engagement. Alongside Grubhub, here are three more examples of companies and industries that are leveraging the capabilities of ML.

Narrative Science

By using ML and AI techniques to turn enterprise data into insightful and engaging narratives, Narrative Science is at the forefront of advanced natural language generation. The company’s core Quill platform allows organizations to automatically generate product descriptions and performance reports which bridge the gap between data capture and human understanding.


Tempus aims to enable physicians to treat cancer more effectively by merging big data and ML technologies. The technology company has built the world’s largest library of molecular and clinical data with a unique product that makes the data accessible and useful.

Venture Capital

The presence of ML in the venture capital world is apparent in Chicago Inno’s Top 15 Tech Fundings of 2017 with the top five venture capital deals in Chicago all being companies that directly applied ML. Uptake, a SaaS company that uses ML to enable companies to manage their equipment better, combined two rounds of funding to generate $207M. The above-mentioned Tempus was able to raise $70M, and Raise, a peer-to-peer marketplace for gift cards, received $60M in funding.

How Does This Affect You?

The only way that organizations will be able to derive value in this new age of data is if leaders can align tools with business strategies. A recent Harvard Business Review article by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee stated, “the most important general-purpose technology of our era is artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning,” and “the bottleneck [on business impact] now is in management, implementation, and business imagination.” Chicagoland companies have been able to create new, creative, and innovative ways to monetize ML. Discovering other imaginative applications of ML for operational efficiency, product development, product management, and forecasting and estimation will usher the field into new frontiers. Investment in and management of these initiatives will only continue to grow, providing new opportunities to engage in this exciting new space.

About the 2018 Machine Learning Venture Capital Summit

The Machine Learning Venture Capital Summit brings together ML and AI practitioners, executives, and investors to explore how these fields are shaping the business ecosystem. It provides learning opportunities from these experts as well as connections and introductions into the business side of the science. This year’s panels will cover cutting-edge applications of ML and discuss how venture capitalists play a role in their growth, along with how ML and AI are being applied in healthcare, and the inroads that ML and AI are making in the fintech space. Our keynote, Chris Shallue from Google AI, will also discuss how Google AI and NASA have worked together to use ML and AI to discover a planet orbiting a distant star.


The opinions expressed here by 1871 guest writers are their own, not those of 1871. To learn more about the Chicago Machine Learning Venture Capital Summit, which takes apace April 12 from 1:30 - 9:00 pm at Venue SIX10, follow this link.

Topics: Insights

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