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Inside Nasdaq’s pop-up innovation lab

Nasdaq’s Boston office runs a unique internship each summer.

By Amy MacMillan Bankson  |  September 28, 2016

2016-nasdaq

Students with Nasdaq Executive Vice President and CTO/CIO Brad Peterson (fifth from right)

A cross-section of MIT students worked at Nasdaq’s Boston office last summer, where they explored several high-tech projects as part of a pop-up innovation lab. A pop-up innovation lab usually involves a focused team of researchers who work on conceptual product ideas that may—or may not—be taken to market.

While the innovation lab format differs from a typical summer internship, which often features one student embedded on a team, Heather Abbott, senior vice president of corporate solutions technology at Nasdaq, said the format has worked well for the past two years.

“The lab structure has accelerated the innovation process for ideas that harness rapidly evolving technologies to propel the business forward. The full empowerment of the cross-functional Nasdaq and student team, coupled with customer-centric lean innovation approaches, sets the foundation to make the program successful,” she said.

Nick Lomanto and Pasha Goudovitch, both MBA ’17, and eight MIT undergraduates, including Derek Salvucci, SB ’17, as well as an undergraduate from Boston College, spent 11 weeks working together on Nasdaq-sponsored projects, all of which were at various stages of development.

Here’s a look at the ideas the students explored:

Virtual reality

The students considered virtual reality as a way to visualize market data, Goudovitch said.

Salvucci, who is majoring in business analytics at MIT Sloan, said, “The goal … was to find a way to take advantage of the innate properties of virtual reality … the idea that you can be immersed in this new environment, and use it to make somebody’s life easier by analyzing data and making decisions faster.”

Blockchain

This project looked at different use cases for blockchain, the technology underlying Bitcoin. Using the Ethereum platform, Goudovitch and his team built an experimental voting application leveraging this emerging blockchain platform, while building on the learnings from Nasdaq’s Estonia voting pilot earlier in 2016.

Natural language generation and machine learning

Structured financial data can be generated by machines and turned into stories, much like sports scores are, Abbott said, with the goal of freeing up analysts for more complex projects.

“It’s like having a machine pre-generate certain analysis in a naturally written way,” added Goudovitch, who worked on this project.

Natural language processing

The team also developed voice interaction opportunities for Nasdaq’s applications, with the objective of making users more productive and simplifying their overall experiences.

“The MIT students made phenomenal progress on our innovation lab projects this summer,” said Nasdaq Executive Vice President and Chief Technology and Chief Information Officer Brad Peterson, SM ’89. “They helped us advance on several strategic business and technology fronts which we are carrying forward to the next phases of incubation. They truly inspired us with their accomplishments over the course of a few short weeks, and their creativity and drive were remarkable.”

Goudovitch and Lomanto said the level of access they were given to NASDAQ’s senior leadership team during the summer was “pretty incredible.”

“This was a … unique opportunity for students, both undergraduates and MBAs, to get exposure to the entire vertical of a new product: research, development, market analysis, and cost feasibility. The freedom to create, iterate, design, and explore was truly nothing like anything I had seen before,” Salvucci said.

Nasdaq also sponsors an externship program during MIT’s Independent Activities Period, held each January.