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A Forbes Thought Leader: David Petersen '92

Can you guess which city went to bed the latest on New Year’s Eve? How about the earliest? Or students at which of these two colleges, Auburn or Alabama, eat more food? Drink more coffee?

Those are some of the insights that can be tracked by the mobile technologies used by Sense Networks, which bills itself as “the original Big Data mobile location company” and whose CEO is a Washington and Lee alum, David Petersen, of the Class of 1992.

Forbes Magazine recently profiled David and Sense Networks in a Thought Leaders column titled “Will Sense Networks Rev Up the Local Retail Mobile Ad Market?”

Although Sense Networks can offer interesting data on late-night revelers and college coffee drinkers, the company uses its technology primarily to help companies reach mobile audiences for carefully targeted advertising.

As David explained in the Forbes column, “We are insanely focused on one aspect of a problem — sifting through data from over one hundred million phone users to help local marketers better predict and influence buying behavior.”

With its Retail Retargeting program, the company can use data from mobile users to let retailers know who has been shopping in their stores and then “retarget” those shoppers with personalized ads.

According to Forbes, Sense Networks processes “4 billion location points per day and have processed over 1 trillion location points.” David compares the company to “the neighborhood flyer of the 21st century.”

An economics major at W&L who received an M.A. in finance from Georgia State and then worked on a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, David conducted research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta before becoming a senior manager in consumer finance and marketing organizations at BellSouth Telecommunications. He then went to a startup called Telephia, which deals with mobile performance issues. Telephia was sold to The Nielsen Company in 2007.

David joined Sense Networks in July 2010. Under his leadership, the company has experienced 100 percent year-over-year growth.

Oh, and which city stayed up latest on New Year’s Eve? That would be Miami, followed by Jersey City, N.J., and Garland, Tex. Earliest to bed? Anchorage, Alaska, followed by Riverside and Chula Vista, Calif. (Incidentally, LexVegas is demanding a recount.) And the fast food leaders between Auburn and Alabama? That would be Auburn by 27 percent. The schools are tied when it comes to coffee drinking.

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