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Wayfair teams up with Google Cloud for the inaugural Wayfair-Google Cloud Machine Learning Hackathon

On Dec 9th and 10th, Wayfair and Google Cloud came together for the inaugural Wayfair-Google Cloud Machine Learning Hackathon. Wayfair firmly believes that hackathons are a great way to fuel a culture of collaboration and experimentation. To fuel Wayfair’s incredible pace of innovation at scale, it’s team of more than 3,000 technologists is constantly experimenting and taking smart risks. It’s test-and-learn culture empowers everyone to think critically and creatively, and take big swings to raise the bar on its world-class experience. 

The Wayfair-Google Cloud Machine Learning Hackathon was all about getting Wayfairians excited about and enabled on new technology. More specifically, this event was a contained test environment for Wayfair innovators to validate AI and ML tools in order to understand how to get better insight from their data. The projects worked on during this hackathon will help Wayfair build new use cases that could impact the business and the end customer in new and productive ways. Google Cloud’s focus for this Hackathon was to enable Wayfairains to harness the power of Machine Learning and AI to enable their own goals around continual improvement and relentless customer focus. 

Prior to the event, Wayfair Data Scientists and Machine Learning Engineers who signed up and submitted ideas for the Hackathon were invited to optional Google Cloud enablement and training sessions. Google Cloud set up classrooms in Qwiklabs on topics including, but not limited to, BigQuery, Vertex AI, and Natural Language AI, so that all Hackathon participants could try out new technologies and tools in a learning environment. Google Cloud subject matter experts were available to field any questions Wayfairians had about the use cases they were hacking on. 

The Hackathon was a hybrid virtual & physical event that hosted 67+ innovators, 49 of which registered for Google Cloud supported ideas. 15 judges from both Google Cloud and Wayfair oversaw the event. The esteemed list of judges included Steven Conine, Wayfair’s Co-Founder and Co-Chairman who has helped pave the way for the development of practical applications of next-generation technologies like augmented reality. The judges measured and evaluated the success of a project based on the following criteria:

“Wow Factor”: How innovative is the project?

Impact: How impactful is the project to Wayfair?

Polish: How complete is the project?

Presentation Quality: How clear and consistent is the demo? 

The theme of the Hackathon was Machine Learning and AI. Teams were able to collaborate with participants globally, either in-person or virtually, and work together on projects in five categories:  Relentless Customer Focus, Always Improving, Google’s Choice, People’s Choice, and Hackers’ choice. 

At the end of the two days there were winners in all 5 categories. The Google’s Choice award went to “Entity Extraction for Order Matching”. Team “Project Clippy” was named both Hackers’ Choice and the winners of the Relentless Customer Focus category. See below for the results of the 5 categories: 

Relentless Customer Focus and Hackers’ Choice

Winning Team: Project Clippy

Hackers: Misha Balyasin, Alex Saad, Leo Smerling, and Gabriele Lanaro

This project provided a gamified experience to make the process of leaving a product review even more seamless. 

Always Improving

Winning Team: Customer Causal MetaLeaners

Hackers: Colin Gray, Irene Wang, Huy Vo Tran, Wenhao Xu, and Santiago Velez Ferro

Team Customer Causal MetaLeaners worked to build lightweight procedure(s) for computationally distributed, multi-target, customized loss functions to make causal meta-learners more applicable to real-world Wayfair problems.

Google’s Choice Award:

Winning Team: Entity Extraction for Order Matching

Hackers: Roger Bock, Bradley West, Sina Moeini, and Jonathan de Melker Worms

This team built out a solution to use text models to extract and identify the products that customers purchased from user reviews.

People’s Choice:

Winning Team: KNN and ANN on Vertex AI

Hackers: Santosh Jhingade, Ashrith Marpaka, Nikhil Bhaip, Adam Schulze, and Brandon Sanders

The KNN and ANN team used AI and Machine Learning to approach product matching.  

Wayfair leaders reflected on the two days and shared their input. Matt Ferrari, Head of Ad Tech, Customer Intelligence, and Machine Learning; Engineering and Product at Wayfair said, “Wayfair has a lot of vendors, but very few strategic partners, and Google is that. Our Partner.” “Thank you all for the participation! I’m grateful to Google, and the many others for helping lead a successful event.” 

Wayfair partners with Google Cloud to optimize performance and resiliency, support scaling data-driven decisions, and Increase employee productivity. “Our category is ripe for innovation, and our partnership with Google Cloud helps us ensure that great ideas can come from anywhere by empowering our technologists with cutting-edge products and solutions,” said Ferrari. “We’re proud to partner on efforts like hackathons that align with our team’s eagerness to work on complex, rewarding problems that push the envelope and challenge us to always think big.”

At first Google Cloud won Wayfair over with the speed, reliability and performance of their technology. Hackathons like this one exemplify that what is equally as important is Google Cloud’s willingness to work side-by-side with Wayfair at every level to enable a culture of innovation. Learn more about the Wayfair-Google Cloud partnership here.

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