Entrepreneurial Research

  • MarketMiner by Anacode: getting the signs right

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers who are entering or expanding in China need information on the specific needs and attitudes of Chinese consumers. To develop a better new product, manufacturers of components or whole cars have to know what customers criticize on previous and competitive models. Much praise and criticism is expressed in text form, widely scattered across the Chinese Internet. MarketMiner, the software developed by Anacode GmbH in Berlin, automatically collects and interprets this feedback.

Into the detail of cars

Traditional market research provides more general mood reports. For instance, they capture the desire to buy cars across the country. By contrast, MarketMiner adopts a detail view on individual aspects of a specific car model – for example, components – and the related opinions of (potential) customers. Thus, it provides valuable insights for manufacturers which can be incorporated into their development and marketing strategies.

Parts becoming whole

In order to capture the opinions of Chinese automobile enthusiasts, the servers of Anacode "disassemble" car models available in China into single parts like wheels, doors and engines. Of course not on the car lift – MarketMiner’s lever is a pipeline in three steps: daily scanning of the Chinese Internet to find relevant comments on specific car brands and models, fine-grained linguistic analysis of these texts and the creation of a final report for the manufacturer. But let’s meet the team first.

Founding team

Dr. Janna Lipenkova (CEO) and Aaron W. Baur (CFO) founded Anacode in 2015. Janna originates from St. Petersburg, attended high school in France, studied Sinology and Business Administration in Berlin and earned her PhD in computational linguistics at Freie Universität Berlin and Universität Stuttgart. Currently, she is learning Hebrew. Aaron is a business graduate. He studied in the United States and Hong Kong, and completed a master’s degree in finance in the UK. In addition to his function at Anacode, Aaron is currently working on his doctoral thesis on Business Information Systems at ESCP Europe Business School.

Backing from China

Two Chinese lead engineers work for Anacode: development manager Qing Zhou brings over 15 years of experience as a software and research engineer at Huawei. He is co-author of 43 international patents and an active member in several standardization organizations. De Ning is knowledge engineer and brings the linguistic intuition of the native speaker to the team. He designed and compiled the lexical and linguistic resources of the MarketMiner.

How it works

The MarketMiner performs two processing steps: first, it scans the Chinese Internet and collects utterances in articles, forums and social networks related to the car model(s) in question. The data catch lands in a first database. Only then begins the actual linguistic analysis, which is realized with the Python programming language. The results end up in a second database that provides detailed opinion data in a structured form. This serves as the basis for the actual reports.

Heavy customizing

Anacode opted for Python because many text analysis and machine learning libraries already exist for this programming language. Anacode’s developers "just" have to adapt these code components – but this goes to the finest details of the Chinese language and requires a lot of linguistic knowledge and technical expertise. Herein lies the core of the product which Janna develops daily with her team, sometimes with a pen and lines of code or syntax trees on paper. And preferably on early Sunday mornings, when Berlin is still asleep and everything is quiet.

Cars today – the world tomorrow

Janna refers to cars as "linguistically manageable" and therefore started MarketMiner plowing across the car market in China. But the works of Anacode never stand still. With the experience gained in the automotive industry, Anacode developed linguistically adapted versions of the MarketMiner to cover other industries and languages. First versions of these are already live for new customers. Anacode’s linguistic team grows with each new application of its MarketMiner.

[April 2016]