Professor Profiles is a Wharton Journal series featuring unique stories and unknown facts about Wharton faculty.
Kartik Hosanagar is an associate professor of Information and Operations Management; his research focuses on various aspects of Internet commerce, including digital media and Internet marketing.
I step into Professor Hosanagar’s office as another student dashes out, probably discussing another tech startup idea with the professor. “Thanks for meeting – you seem pretty busy,” I say as I take a seat in his office.
“In these past few years tech has really blown up, so I’m finding it harder and harder to meet with students. I’m starting a new thing where I meet with students at 6pm to walk back to Center City.”
While I’ve done the background research on Professor Hosanagar, his numerous teaching awards and research in various areas, I want to get an understanding of him outside of the academic context. I jump right in to our interview and throw him an unexpected question, as evidenced by the surprise on his face.
“What would you want to share with Wharton students, outside of teaching?”
“I guess in terms of things outside of work that engage me, I’m into movies. I direct movies. I’ve made a bunch of short films that I’ve put up on YouTube. I’ve written a screenplay that hasn’t gotten very far, but that was one of the things I worked on during my sabbatical.”
WOW, I think. I would not have guessed this based on his lectures I’ve attended.
“First, it was always an interest of mine so I used to reach out to people in that industry and have coffee and get to know them. Second, I wanted to do something in that space and initially started working on digital media, distribution and marketing strategies but my interest was always on the creative side.”
I then ask him how he manages to juggle everything, given that I know he also has a two year old at home (which is why he prefers not to shake hands).
“A lot of this is fun for me. Movie stuff is really relaxation to me, so whenever I’m taking a break, that’s what I do. And startups are something I enjoy, so that’s relaxation for me too. Some people might go to a bar, hang out in a coffee shop; for me it’s movies, writing, or startups.”
“So what do you consider WORK?”
“I think the luxury I have is that I get to choose what I want to do. So I only choose things that are fun. There is a great synergy between my work and fun.” This aligns with what I’ve observed about him, how he takes conversations from actual startup boardroom conversations and makes them into classroom exercises. And sometimes he’ll work with companies with such interesting long-term, big picture questions that they spark and drive his research.
“What I’m researching right now may become my favorite. I’m looking at strategies in hit-driven industries, thinking about the similarities between movies, music, gaming, venture capital – all highly hit-driven, winner take all markets. Will something that worked in the movie industry work in the music industry?”
“So, it’s interesting because right after your lecture about hit-driven industries, I went to a M&E Club event about Data Analytics and Film Green Lighting with Professor…”
“Another student told me about this. I wish I had known earlier because I would have signed up to go to the talk.”
We go into more detail about what he thinks would be the most effective way to objectively judge screenplays (codifying decision rules by experts to know whether a screenplay is good or not – he’s even discussed this before with screenwriter Mark Rosenthal).
“Talking through these seemingly unrelated things like your screenplay and your startups, it actually sounds like they’re not disparate things – they’re fundamentally creative projects.”
“Yes, at first when I was embarking on the movie stuff, a lot of people told me I was losing my mind, but for me it’s not completely out there because the process of writing a screenplay and getting a movie made is the same as the process of starting a company and getting it launched, or starting a research project and getting it executed. There are perfect parallels such as founder or screenwriter having a creative vision, CEO or producer who handles the day-to-day execution, or VP of engineering or director who brings the creative vision to life. I’ve done a startup, I’ve helped several startups, so there’s no reason why I can’t do this.”
When he lays it out like that, it actually again all sounds very synergistic.
“Last thing, and this will be more fun for me than you, but I want to end with the Proust Questionnaire, as modeled after Inside the Actors Studio – just answer without thinking,” I say. Professor Hosanagar looks a little nervous.
1. What is your favorite word? Blue and pink. Wait, can I change that to apple pie?
2. What is your least favorite word? Green. I don’t know why colors are coming to my mind.
3. What makes you happy? My son
4. What makes you unhappy? Stress
5. What sound do you love? Birds chirping
6. What sound do you hate? Trains or airplanes screeching
7. What is your favorite curse word? Damn
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Being a director
9. What profession would you not like to do? I would not want to be… an investment banker.
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? You can do whatever you want and this lasts forever.