At Cogo Labs (the Link Ventures startup incubator), the team is constantly studying the core components of entrepreneurship — breaking it down into what can be seen, understood, inferred, quantified and tested, all in order to produce scalable processes and algorithms. Then they add some special sauce. For Cogonauts, that not-so-secret ingredient is a mix of big data, laser focus, scalable infrastructure, individual motivation, teamwork chemistry and experience-driven mentorship. Those elements are used to ensure a highly profitable internet company, following a formula that can be — and is intended to be — replicated. It really is as straightforward as that: cool (data) science and fine (people) art, working together in a delicate balance. And especially in the Cogo Labs kitchen, the chefs always have a good time.
Cogo’s annual internship program is a perfect small scale example. The goal of the intern summer project is not only to create a real-world entrepreneurial experience for savvy college students, but also to hone the incubator’s ability to assemble small teams, give them a handful of tools and support them as they build online sites. Taught by Cogo’s very own engineers and analysts, the interns quickly learn and utilize different tools and frameworks. The learning curve is steep, but short and sweet.
This past summer, the Cogo interns’ designated theme was “wellness,” with one of the teams producing a site called Myschedule.fit. Their project started out as a way for online users to find fitness classes that do exactly what the title says — fit their schedules. As that intern team continued doing research and building out the necessary functionality, they realized that the key difference between their idea and those of competitors was the simple fact that their search was based on individual classes as opposed to gyms or facilities as a whole (see Spafinder). That insight became key in separating classes within gyms that offer varying types of workouts, which led to a better overall search experience when compared to Google and other engines.
The interns’ project was build with in-house analytics tools (such as “Beagle”) and open-source tools (like Piwik). After more than ten years in the space, Cogo’s tools can be used to acquire traffic through one-to-one marketing channels (such as Facebook, display, email, etc.). Once users arrive on site, “Beagle” measures user events and objectives. It is a solution flexible enough to name individual events and log individual user action, even when every site is different. From a technical standpoint, the Myschedule.fit intern team also used the Django framework to build out their backend. Django provides an intuitive interface for communicating with databases — helping write code to interact and modify data sets easily. As a result of their data mining, the interns also created some pretty cool additional tools, including a class categorizer that automatically tags about 96% of the 46,000 new classes they parse daily. Through this kind of problem-solving, the intern teams not only developed the skill sets and gained a deep perspective on the best use cases, but they built their own tools to dig into big data as well.
When the summer session ended, the interns passed the Myschedule.fit baton to Minerva, an incubating company within Cogo Labs. With big plans to scale the site (and one of the two intern engineers still on board part-time), the energy is now focused on adding more exercises to the platform, finding more comprehensive coverage of the actual services and creating more sources of traffic to get more users to the site. These processes and smooth transitions are a testament to Cogo’s data and development resources. Laying a scalable foundation with well-written code creates high quality growth right from conception.
After the three short months of the internship program, concepts like Myschedule.fit become useful enough to support consumer-facing websites. Cogo Labs is able to bring on interns and support them as they produce something that is actually valuable to the company: a semi-built product, ready to be taken to the next level. This strong combination of data insight, applied analytics tools and dialed-in mentorship are a key part of Cogo’s recipe for success!