MDS Spotlight: Recent MDS Vancouver Alumnae Starts Own Start-Up

Starting a business immediately after finishing the UBC Master of Data Science Vancouver program wasn’t on the radar for Heidi Ye and Rachel Wong as they entered the program but it was something that was always on their mind. 

Heidi Ye
Heidi Ye

“I always knew I wanted to start my own business but I just didn’t know when. School is a great place to meet smart people, have infinite access to free resources and well… you’ve already “given up” your job to begin with,” said Ye, a graduate of the class of 2021.

In fact, it was during MDS where Ye met her co-founder, Wong. 

“Rachel and I met at one of the first MDS social events before the program started and after that we worked on all the labs together, studied together, hung out outside of class, we work really well together,” Ye explained.

Ye calls their partnership as being two peas in a pod where she brings her strong business background to the business and Wong her strong tech background.

For Wong, she knew deep down that she always wanted to start her own business and wasn’t interested in working a 9-5 job.

“During the program, Heidi and I would chat and brew up ideas for a start-up. We’d go for happy hour and bring a notepad to jot down business venture ideas and different ways we could apply data science to commercial settings,” said Wong. 

Rachel Wong
Rachel Wong

Out of those brainstorming sessions, Rocketbrew was born. Rocketbrew is an e-commerce dashboard for benchmarking competitors to help online stores increase sales and traffic by aggregating competitive data such as pricing, promotions and keywords. 

“We use machine learning to transform these insights into recommended actions,” said Ye.

Rocketbrew’s vision is to create a world where online merchants can access and understand their data.

“When I worked at Shopify, everyday there would be merchants who would ask “how am I doing compared to my competition?” even billion-dollar companies would be asking this question that you would think would be trivial. This question was impossible to answer because of the highly unstructured nature of ecommerce data,” said Ye on why she formed Rocketbrew.

Before Rocketbrew and before MDS, Ye came from the world of commerce where she worked at Shopify and Proctor and Gamble while Wong came from the world academia, specifically bioinformatics research. 

For Ye, she always worked very closely with data in all of her roles but was definitely not a data scientist.

“While it’s important to interpret and tell stories with data, I felt I was missing a big piece on how to actually build tools with data. I wanted to learn how to be doer on top of being a thinker of data,” she added.

It was during Wong’s time in the health field, where she learned how important data literacy is.  

“We live in a world that is very data driven, there’s so much data out there but not enough knowledge or resources to utilize it,” explained Wong.

This led both ladies to apply to the UBC MDS program.

Ye liked that the MDS was very application focused rather than theory focused. For Wong, she liked the amount of information students learn in a short amount of time. 

The day after MDS Vancouver ended, Ye and Wong started Rocketbrew.  

Some of the things that both Ye and Wong learned from the MDS program that they will bring to Rocketbrew include understanding how things work on a technical level at a very high level. 

“Going through this program helped me work with and guide technical teams. I have a better understanding of questions to ask, how to manage scope of work, and help brainstorm ideas,” said Ye. 

For Wong, she said they used a lot of the knowledge from the machine learning courses to build and design certain features for Rocketbrew. Also, Wong noted that “the data visualization course taught us a lot about how to present data to non-scientific audiences.”

It has been two months since the launch of Rocketbrew but Ye and Wong have made a lot of progress that they are very proud of!

Meet our Students & Alumni