MBA electives: how a fighting accident led to a marketing customisation startup

It is not uncommon for industry guest lecturers to join MBA electives and share their entrepreneurial journey with students. But not many innovative businesses have their origin in an MMA full-contact fight. Last Friday Sander Nagtegaal, CEO and co-founder of Unless.com explained how a stranglehold in a training session left him with severe brain damage. Even after he eventually regained the ability to walk and speak, he noticed that he found it harder than before to connect with people emotionally and fine-tune his message to their intentions, while giving presentations and sales pitches, for example.

What if you could write code to read human intentions for you and adapt your customer approach? This insight led to the founding of Unless.com, a service that analyses website data and customises how people interact with it, only showing content and buttons prospective customers are most likely to engage with.

Machine learning

In keeping with current thinking, Nagtegaal and his team looked at machine learning to translate date to action effectively. Interestingly he found that sometimes (simpler) statistical modeling of available data is enough to make meaningful predictions.

“Like many things in life, our business success was partially created by accident, but also by failing in our initial approach and quickly shifting gears. We have learned to never blindly default to the most complicated available technology, such as machine learning. What if you can solve 50% of your marketing problem, with a simpler, cheaper technology in half the time? True innovation comes out of struggle and never out of technological advances alone.”

MBA electives

Nagtegaal appeared in the MBA elective ‘Consumer-Centric Digital Transformation using Machine Learning’ by RSM professor Gui Liberali. MBA students electives take place in the second half of the MBA programme and allow students to deepen or expand their knowledge about their target industries.

Photo: Sander Nagtegaal - CEO & Founder Unless.com

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