Sunday, August 30, 2015

US Open Preview - Djokovic Still Heavy Favorite Despite Recent Losses

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After last year's US Open, many began to question whether Marin Cilic's triumph represented the beginning of a transition at the top of men's tennis, from the dominant Big Four to a set of young guns that included Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and more. However, with the exception of Kei Nishikori, who has risen to a career high ranking at number 4, other young guns have yet to challenged the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Coming into this year's tournament in Flushing Meadows, it seems like these three players are yet again the clear favorites. But what are the odds among these elite men? Is Djokovic still the clear favorite after losing to both players in back to back finals? Will Federer's return-and-charge approach still bode well in a best of five set match in slower hard courts?

To answer these questions, I enhanced the prediction model I made for this year's Wimbledon. In accounting for player's performance in the past year, the model places more emphasis on hard court matches, quality of opposition that players have won or lost to, how close each players' matches were, and the level of tournaments players have participated in. In particular, I put special emphasis on matches played in Washington, Montreal and Cincinnati. History has suggested that players that have performed well in these tournaments have gone on to do well in the US Open. For instance, all players who have won Montreal/Toronto and Cincinnati in the same year have gone on to win the US Open title (except Andre Agassi in 1995). 

Simulating 50,000 tournaments led to the following odds of each players reaching each stage of the tournament:



Despite losing in finals as of late, Djokovic still has a 56% chance of winning the US Open. The 28-year-old Serb is having his best season since his historic 2011 breakout campaign. Given that his recent losses have come in three set matches, Grand Slam matches should give him more time to adjust to opposition tactics and ultimately come out triumphant.

Also interesting to note is that Federer's title prospects far exceeds Andy Murray's. I have frequently dismissed the common belief that Murray has a better chance than Federer, and I will reiterate here. The Swiss Maestro has won his last five encounters against the Scot, including the last ten sets, so the recent Cincinnati champion will definitely be the favorite in their potential semi final encounter.

Other interesting results include Andy Murray having a relatively low chance (48%) of reaching the semi finals. This is likely due to a potential blockbuster match against Roland Garros Champion Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter finals. Also notice that Rafa Nadal has a surprisingly low chance of reaching the semi finals (6.9%), as he is placed in the same quarter as Djokovic. That said, he is still is the sixth favorite to win the title (1.2%), as Nadal has a tendency to peak at the latter stages. Should he get past Djokovic, his title prospects will skyrocket.

1st Round Betting Recommendations

We also sought to determine the matches that would yield the largest expected gains, according to odds reported from oddportals.com. By converting our probability to odds, we determined expected gains/losses by multiplying the difference in DataBucket odds and OddPortal odds by the probability of winning the bet. The results can be seen below:



Interestingly, betting Marco Cecchinato to win his match against soon-to-be-retiring Mardy Fish would most likely yield the largest gains, as betting companies have claimed Fish to be the favorite in this match. While Cecchinato is ranked outside the top 100, he is definitely the more physically fit player at the moment, and will more likely come out the victor in five-set Grand Slam conditions.

A general trend in these results suggest that betting odds for matches featuring the top players tend to be more aligned with DataBucket odds, while matches consisting of lower ranked player tend to be less aligned. This may be due to supply and demand factors relating to the betting market. Other attractive bets including Lucas Pouille defeating Evgeny Donskoy and Marsel Ilhan defeating Radek Stepanek.

DataBucket will be updating US Open predictions throughout the tournament. Stay tuned for updates.



Sunday, August 2, 2015

How Much Five Guys Costs in Different Parts of New York (and the US)



If you have travelled to different parts of the US, you will probably notice that restaurants do charge customers at different prices. A cappuccino in a Starbucks in Manhattan will most likely be much more expensive than the same cup of coffee in Nebraska. Similarly, a double cheeseburger in a San Francisco McDonalds will be more expensive than the same burger in Colorado.

With that, we wondered - what if we can map out the prices of a large restaurant chain for the entire country?

Obviously, such data is very difficult to find on the web - if the prices of different stores were easily accessible, then some stores will become far more popular than others. Fortunately, Five Guys has an online ordering system that allows customers to pick up their food without having to wait in line, so the prices of their products for all of their stores are available online. With that, we mapped out the prices of various food items on Five Guy's menu for restaurants within 50 miles of the 50 largest cities in America. Check out our interactive graphic below:



(Note: To look at specific areas of the United States, click the search icon on the top left and type in a state or city. Or use the "+" and "-" buttons to customize your view)

Notice that the cities known to be more expensive (think Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and New York) are where the most pricey Five Guys are located. It is also interesting to see that for most cities, that the prices are largely the same (take a look at Las Vegas, Denver, and the large Texas city)



The most interesting region by far, however, has to be the New York area. A closer look reveals a clear-cut price segmentation strategy. Manhattan is by far the most expensive out of all the boroughs. Stores right across the Hudson are significantly cheaper, with bacon burgers over a dollar cheaper than in Manhattan. A similar phenomenon can be seen across the East River - Queens and Brooklyn restaurants offer bacon burgers that cost over 50 cents less.

We recognize that geographic price segmentation is hard to overcome - if you live in Manhattan and have no other reason to go to Brooklyn, it's not worth it to go just for a few cents savings. Nevertheless, it's interesting to quantify the  magnitude of the Manhattan premium.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Which School Produces the Most Successful Startup Founders?

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With startups becoming a larger and larger segment of the American economy, we looked to answer a question we figured would be relevant to a lot of people: what makes a successful startup?

There are many factors that can define "success" in entrepreneurship; we use money, namely venture funding, as our metric for success. We know that there are many philosophical arguments against this, but use it because of its ability to be quantified. We've already looked at which industries and states generate the most venture funding.

This week, we look at the founders themselves. What characteristics do founders of richly funded startups have in common? What can people looking to found a startup do to optimize their chance of success?

The data we work with this week comes from the Crunchbase API. We look at the top 5000-funded startups over the past 15 years and the education of each of their founders.

Looking at sheer number of founders per school out of this space of top 5000-funded startups, we see:
  1. West coast schools are highly represented. Stanford beats its runner up, MIT, by 43%. Berkeley is also 4th most represented. UCLA, USC, and CalTech closely follow.
  2. Ivy League schools are featured prominently in the top 15 schools, including Harvard, Cornell, Yale, UPenn, Columbia, and Princeton. This indicates that the prestige of the school may have an impact upon attracting venture funding, or that the rigorous level of education may produce capable startup founders.
  3. Business schools (Harvard, Wharton, Stanford) and engineering-focused schools (MIT, CalTech,  both feature prominently. There is no huge divide between the "egg-heads" and "talkers" - both are valuable to the startup industry.
  4. There is a large number of international universities on the list, including a noticeable number of graduates from Tel Aviv University, which is 7th on the list. This is attributed to its entrepreneurial culture.

We also looked at the average number of college degrees attained for each startup versus its amount of funding received. There did not appear to be a strong correlation between earning more degrees and the amount of funding received - the amount of funding looked relatively consistent across different numbers of degrees received on average.

In terms of average amount of funding graduates from each school gets, Harvard, MIT, and Stanford get a standard amount of funding. Indian Institute of Technology has a disproportionately high average funding as well as a large number of founders. Hanzhou Normal University and Zhejiang University of Technology are off the charts for average funding received. This is attributed completely to Jack Ma and Eddie Wu founders of Alibaba.


So what's the secret?

To best prepare for founding a successful startup, it appears that founders get a boost from graduating from prestigious universities, west coast universities, engineering-specialized universities, and/or business schools. The number of degrees does not really matter, and there are always rarities coming from relatively unknown colleges, but receiving a spectacular amount of funding.