Tech Talk with Crisp CEO Adam Hildreth

“The biggest risks posed to enterprises are a variety of actors and groups, operating in real time across the world."

Adam Hildreth: Set up Crisp in 2005.
Adam Hildreth: Set up Crisp in 2005.

What is Crisp? Why did you start it?
Crisp is risk intelligence as a service. With the internet, how we consume media and content has changed dramatically over the last few years. It's brilliant because people all over the planet are consuming information they didn't have in real time and are generating that information.

But at the same time, we've seen a huge rise in bad actors who are exploiting this same platform to generate misinformation. The biggest risks posed to enterprises are a variety of actors and groups, operating in real time across the world. They can slightly twist the truth of what's out there, deliberately creating campaigns against brands. They generate threatening, damaging content and manipulate markets. They harm companies' reputation, financial positions and security.

What does Crisp do?
We provide the earliest possible warning when a disinformation campaign is being planned against a brand. Clients receive all of the intelligence, about where these issues originate from, who the actors and groups are, and their motivations. We're tracking and monitoring them in real time, so we can start to see the seeds that are developing and what they're doing. We can predict the next type of campaign and spot the very earliest signs of what a brand needs to know to prevent damage.

Who staffs your business? Who are your clients?
We combine human intelligence, including ex-military, ex-policing and security, who understand propaganda and digital warfare, and we coordinate that with a huge amount of AI, tech and analysis.

Our clients are a lot of big global brands. We help Coca-Cola and Disney make sure that their social media assets are not being targeted by actors, who are looking to amplify hate and harm.

Other customers include fashion company Ralph Lauren, and Brown-Forman, whose brands include Jack Daniel's, Herradura, Finlandia and Chambord.

With more than 200 employees, Crisp generated revenue of more than $36 million last year. But how did your company begin?
When I was 14, I founded Dubit, one of the first social networks in Europe for teens. But adults posing as kids infiltrated the space, trying to sexually exploit children. It became a massive problem.

We then had brands saying, "Hey, if this isn't safe. We can't be a part of it." That was 16 years ago.

I set up Crisp in 2005, originally focused on identifying these bad actors and their behavior online. We were extremely good at doing that. I helped the U.K. government come up with the first laws to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

But over the last 15 years, bad actors have spread beyond exploiting kids. Now, it's everywhere across society. I was one of the founders of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association. It's a group of predominantly U.K. organizations that develop technologies to protect people, brands and enterprises. It's about making the internet safe for everybody.

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