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July 16, 2017

Luminoso Joins with Leading Carmaker to Drive Automated Analysis of Buyer Complaints

MIT Startup Exchange helps deep learning analytics firm partner with an Industrial Liaison Program member and break into the Japanese market.

Eric Bender

Catherine Havasi
Cofounder & CEO

Customers offer their opinions and complaints in informal and disorganized ways, which makes these responses famously difficult to analyze. Conventional analytic software tools need considerable expert attention, and all too often, they sort customer responses into the wrong categories or unwieldy “uncategorized” buckets.

Luminoso Technologies, a startup from MIT, targets these problems with software that combines deep learning and natural language processing to help companies rapidly and accurately understand the concepts within their unstructured, text-based data—without requiring massive sets of training data.

During a pilot project for a Japanese carmaker, and Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) member, Luminoso used its software-as-a-service analytics system to examine a database of customer complaints to car dealers, where the carmaker’s existing tools struggled to properly sort out the complaints. “We found buckets that should be created, buckets that should be merged, and buckets related to problems in specific types of cars,” says Catherine Havasi, Luminoso co-founder and chief executive officer. “We helped them figure out how they could minimize the number of uncharacterized complaints and maximize the number of things that could be dealt with automatically.”

Luminoso software detected two concepts about one car model. One concept described the car smell in colorful language (such as an “attic” or a “dog in the car”) while the other concept mentioned finding dew inside the car. After reviewing these two concepts, it was discovered that the complaints reflected the same problem. The automaker then tracked down the common defect: a disconnected air-conditioning hose that allowed mold to develop. Conventional software with preset taxonomies would never have found this connection, because they would not have thought to write a taxonomy around mold inside a car, or known that there were so many ways to discuss a musty smell.

Given the success of this project, Luminoso has continued its relationship with the automaker and is talking with other Japanese car manufacturers. “Being in this market with this experience became really valuable to us,” Havasi says.

Getting into the Japanese market at all is very challenging for small U.S. companies, she notes. Luminoso made its initial connection through the MIT Startup Exchange.

Initially, MIT Startup Exchange chose Luminoso to participate in a 2015 Tokyo conference partly because the company’s software works natively in Japanese, among many other languages.

“We talked a lot with ILP before we headed over to Tokyo,” Havasi says. “We wanted to find people who had business questions we could help answer and were looking to get something done with relative speed.” ILP staff helped to target the car company and get to know key individuals within it. After meetings at the conference and the company’s headquarters, the project kicked off.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP have continued to lend assistance as a matchmaker for Luminoso, “not just with companies that become customers but with companies that help us formulate our strategies for particular vertical markets,” Havasi says. “For the average startup company coming out of MIT, there’s a lot to learn about how to work with a Fortunate 1000 company, and ILP also is great for that.

About Luminoso
Luminoso Technologies is a leading natural language understanding company that allows clients to rapidly discover value in their unstructured text data. With roots at the MIT Media Lab, Luminoso’s artificial intelligence-based software uniquely produces the most accurate and unbiased, real-time understanding of what people are saying, including insights that were not anticipated. These insights are used to increase marketing performance and build better customer experiences. Luminoso provides multilingual, flexible software that can be deployed to meet client needs in either a standalone Cloud or On Premise solution or integrated into an end-to-end client platform via an API solution. Luminoso serves clients such as Staples, Sprint, and Scotts Miracle-Gro, as well as a growing set of channel partners such as Publicis.Sapient and Basis Technologies. Luminoso is privately held with headquarters in Cambridge, MA.

About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.