Firing Bandits: Optimizing Crowdfunding

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Lalit Jain, Kevin Jamieson ;
Proceedings of the 35th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 80:2206-2214, 2018.

Abstract

In this paper, we model the problem of optimizing crowdfunding platforms, such as the non-profit Kiva or for-profit KickStarter, as a variant of the multi-armed bandit problem. In our setting, Bernoulli arms emit no rewards until their cumulative number of successes over any number of trials exceeds a fixed threshold and then provides no additional reward for any additional trials - a process reminiscent to that of a neuron firing once it reaches the action potential and then saturates. In the spirit of an infinite armed bandit problem, the player can add new arms whose expected probability of success is drawn iid from an unknown distribution – this endless supply of projects models the harsh reality that the number of projects seeking funding greatly exceeds the total capital available by lenders. Crowdfunding platforms naturally fall under this setting where the arms are potential projects, and their probability of success is the probability that a potential funder decides to fund it after reviewing it. The goal is to play arms (prioritize the display of projects on a webpage) to maximize the number of arms that reach the firing threshold (meet their goal amount) using as few total trials (number of impressions) as possible over all the played arms. We provide an algorithm for this setting and prove sublinear regret bounds.

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