Peering into a cloud of online chaos in search of an overall pattern may seem like a dubious proposition, but three years after graduating from Reed, Noah Pepper has convinced angel investors that it’s actually a business proposition.
TopicWatch, the first product from Noah’s company, Lucky Sort, is aimed at the financial and advertising technology marketplaces. It charts the frequency of words, phrases, or topics (think “Herman Cain”) on the internet, employing concepts developed during Noah’s association with Reed’s Artificial Life Lab (established by professor Mark Bedau ’76 [philosophy 1991–]) to reduce duplication and measure co-öccurrance in the sampled data. Its interface works on both desktop computers and iPads, making it possible for users to modify search criteria or to separate and refine the elements in an existing graph with just a few flicks of the finger.
Rather than attempt to understand the data it analyzes, TopicWatch embraces a statistical approach to language recognition, which means it’s as capable in Arabic and Chinese as it is in English. Investors are so impressed that they’ve plunked down half a million dollars.
The purpose of TopicWatch—zeroing in on what’s important—may have been presaged by Noah’s choice to attend Reed, which was the only school he applied to. He wanted a challenging environment that was “difficult but fun,” and got what he was expecting.
Noah hit the ground running at Reed, joining the group at the Artificial Life Lab and going to work building systems to detect fraud in medical billing in his senior year as an economics major. He’s remained enthusiastic and committed to his alma mater; for now he’s adamant about staying in Portland, and if you did a statistical analysis of Lucky Sort’s small but growing team, you’d find it’s 100% Reedies.