Leeds-based Crisp has been helping some of the world’s biggest brands protect and manage their reputation online since 2005. The company is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Adam Hildreth, who founded his first business Dubit back in 1999 aged 15.
Dubit.co.uk was set up to entertain and educate young people while inviting their feedback on products and services from global brands such as Coca-Cola and Disney. Hildreth says that creating what was “effectively the first social network” came with a distinct set of challenges relating to its audience.
“People would try to exploit it by grooming kids, bullying people and posting illegal content,” he says. “Companies we were working with liked what we were doing but didn’t want to be associated with something that was unsafe, so we ended up hiring more people to police and moderate the site.”
Recognising that increasing human intervention wasn’t scalable in the long run, Hildreth founded Crisp to develop AI-based tech designed help keep people safe online with minimal disruption to users’ conversations.
Pivoting to B2B
Rated by Cambridge University as 98.6% accurate in detecting grooming, Crisp’s early software was offered to consumers via partnerships with major UK and US-based ISPs – something that didn’t go to plan.
“Parents weren’t buying, downloading software or putting it on their kids’ machines,” says Hildreth. “That’s despite every bit of market research telling us that they would.”
After acquiring a competitor in the US, Crisp began selling a new software-as-a-service (or SaaS) solution to Sony, Disney and other Blue Chip firms creating online social platforms for children.
“Big brands came along and told us how social media was posing a massive risk to their brand, asking how we could help them scale and identify opportunities,” says Hildreth. “We never pivoted from the business of keeping people safe on social media, but we absolutely pivoted our go-to market strategies and solutions.”
Hildreth says that only recently have brands begun to wake up to the damage that can be caused by harmful social media content.
“We’re an overnight success but we’ve been going 14 years,” he says. “For years I’ve been preaching that harmful social content is really bad and that we should do something about it – it’s just taken a while for people to realise.”
How it works
Providing multiple services from a single platform, Crisp’s software uses what the company calls “extended intelligence”, which combines AI (which has been continually trained since 2005) with human intelligence.
Crisp’s AI scans billions of pieces of data across the web and automatically removes content it knows to be harmful. When it’s unsure, that content is flagged to a 24-7 human intelligence team that will take action and then train the AI accordingly.
This helps brands with community management (ensuring social media channels are free of illegal and offensive content) while performing crisis monitoring, which looks at what people are talking about and acts to weed out misinformation and disinformation.
Malinformation, fake information intended to make a scheme sound more believable, is also tackled. When it comes to fighting so-called fake news, Crisp assigns a trust score to data-publishing sources to determine their reliability.
“If you think about it, everyone’s got an opinion – if somebody has an opinion that the world is flat, go and let them have that opinion,” says Hildreth. “We will basically tell you that nobody agrees with them. What you end up with is a network of trusted and non-trusted people – your own internal ranking system.”
“If somebody has an opinion that the world is flat, go and let them have that opinion. We will basically tell you that nobody agrees with them.”
Hildreth founded Crisp in West Yorkshire and has grown it with an international mindset since day one. Its first three customers were based in the US – Turner Broadcasting headquartered in Atlanta, Sony (San Diego) and then Disney (LA).
“We’re R&D headquartered in Leeds because there’s amazing talent here, a great work/life balance and we have everything we need to create amazing technology and an amazing service,” says Hildreth. “Just because we’re here, it doesn’t mean we have to sell here – we’ve always had a global mentality of selling to whoever we want to – whether that’s Jack Daniels or Gucci.”
Hildreth offers straightforward advice to founders looking to sell to corporate clients overseas for the first time.
“All you need to do is ring them up, say you’ve got a brilliant solution that solves a massive problem, tell them why they can’t solve it, then tell them what makes you better and why you can solve it.” he says. “I talk about this so much – getting on a flight to America is probably about as expensive as getting a first-class ticket down to London on the train.”
Unlike a flight or train ticket, a global brand’s reputation is invaluable – and it’s for that reason that Crisp’s services will be enlisted for some time to come.
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