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Social Media Portal - Profiled - Andrew Lintell - Crisp Thinking

Staff (Social Media Portal) - 22 May 2009

Profiled - Crisp Thinking - Advisers of the dangers of online grooming and internet bullying within a child's online world

An Interview with Andrew Lintell, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Crisp Thinking

Social Media Portal (SMP): What is your full job title and role at Crisp Thinking?

Crisp Thinking logoAndrew Lintell (AL): Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

SMP: What made you start Crisp Thinking?

AL: In 2005 Adam Hildreth, Peter Maude and I had the realisation that web2.0 fundamentally changed the way children use the internet - but parental control solutions had not evolved as fast. Young people today use the web as another communication medium, fully embracing its interactivity – but too often without a sufficient safety net. This is a key family issue, often where two worlds collide – we believe it is possible to provide safety to children allowing parents visibility, when its needed, without invading kids privacy.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building the company and its service?

AL: Bringing the issue of genuine child safety to the surface within the industry – and challenging old perceptions on what is considered “safe”. Crisp are pioneers in online child safety and believe in producing powerful, easy to use, effective technologies to allow a child free and safe play on the internet.

These tools, in combination with education, can create the necessary safe environment for children to enjoy all the best bits of the internet, whilst learning all about it. Like with all pioneers, it takes a lot of energy, enthusiasm and hard work to change ingrained perceptions, especially within the industry, whilst raising awareness in parents – I am fortunate to have a highly dedicated team within Crisp to help address these issues.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

AL: Ultimately, our target audience is the kids themselves – providing safe online environments wherever they hang out. With Crisp, the children themselves can be allowed to play safely, knowing that should any contacts or relationships they have online be of concern, Crisp will be there to help.

In terms of how we reach this audience, we have multiple products for every area a child spends time online. From online games providers (Crisp® NetModerator™), to Schools (NetModerator™ School Edition) and for parents in the home, (Crisp® imsafer™).

SMP: How did you initially attract stakeholders to what you do, and how do you do it now?

AL: In the early days, it was all about highlighting the changes that have occurred in the web2.0 market and how, by turning the problem on its head, Crisp is addressing these challenges. Having a team of highly energetic, committed young people at the top of their game, means that conviction runs through Crisp like a message through a stick of rock. This, combined with rock solid analysis and technical expertise, makes for a compelling statement. Smart stakeholders sense this – and take action, by choosing Crisp.

SMP: What have been the low moments of what you have been doing so far?

AL: Dealing with widespread apathy can be an extremely frustrating process, but by believing in the principles Crisp was founded on, we have gradually brought the duty of responsibility to protect children online, to the fore.

SMP: What have been the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

Photograph of Andrew Lintell, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Crisp ThinkingAL: The result of all conviction? Signing agreements with some of the industry’s biggest names, to bring Crisp products to the widest audiences internationally. By having belief in our vision, and endorsement in Crisp’s expertise, these global brands are demonstrating how seriously they are addressing the issue – this is a very satisfying feeling for us. We still have much to do, but our first customers have made a formidable step to creating world class safe environments for children to enjoy.

SMP: Now that you are established, what do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

AL: Our biggest challenges (and opportunities) are to continue to educate all the sectors we service - online games, social networks, education and parents – of the importance of awareness, communication with children on the issues and the use of effective tools to help.

It is our belief that Crisp represents the next step in the evolution of security online – except, instead of protecting devices (with anti-virus and malware software), we are protecting the person behind the PC. There is a vast opportunity to allow child safety to catch up with the evolution of social media, and not let it stifle the development of the market – if anything I feel this could actually enable a lot more services. Protect the user, protect the brand – everyone’s a winner.

SMP: What are the next moves for Crisp Thinking?

AL: To continue to grow our customer base, partnerships and capabilities as the leading dedicated child safety vendor. There are a lot of additional content areas that we feel would benefit from Crisp’s approach and we are making positive steps to help a new strata of social media clients provide the safest experience possible. There are a lot of exciting announcements to come over the next few months – and we can’t wait to take the covers off!

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks?

AL: In my view, increasing interconnectivity from network to network. There is a lot of potential in allowing the networks to become more porous – this has to happen as people tend to focus on building one or two (possibly three), but no more. A lot of personal attention and time is spent on building these networks and, naturally, people will become resistant to joining new ones. By connecting them, the industry will enable wider interaction and unlock a great deal of untapped value for the user.

SMP: Child protection online seems to be a massive issue to address, what is that Crisp Thinking does to help businesses, children and parents understand their role?

AL: Crisp is built to provide effective, real-world solutions to a complex issue. Our sole mission is to help social media businesses, schools and parents provide a layer of protection to children, from simple profanity through to cyber bullying and predators.

The Crisp Global Safety Network analyses child messaging traffic from every area that we cover – over 700 million lines so far – from online games and schools to hundreds of thousands of homes. From this traffic (the largest body of online child safety knowledge globally) we are the first to see the way use of language, tactics of bullies and the activities of online predators evolves – learning from every line in order to provide the highest level of safety back to our entire customer community.

The more people who join our network, the more we are able to learn and higher the level of safety we are able to provide – all without spoiling the fun for kids.

We believe that effective use of groundbreaking tools, like Crisp’s products, combined with positive education, is the best way to help deal with this growing issue.

SMP: What are the major hurdles you are facing right now?

AL: The challenges of managing a business that is growing so much, vs. the realities of the global economy, certainly presents some interesting times. Thankfully our biggest challenge seems to be finding the brightest minds to help support Crisp’s growth, and this environment helps as these personalities tend to welcome rapid change and seize opportunities.

SMP: What can content creators, publishers and social networks do to help make web and related technologies a safer place?

AL: In my view – to never forget who the audience is. In our space, it is important to let children be children, to have fun and enjoy the experience. This means providing them with engaging features, allowing them to interact and not “talk down to them”. Children are web savvy, so should be allowed to make full use – providing there are state of the art protection safety devices in place to catch them should they fall – and don’t think that this leading technology is expensive, we provide a version of our consumer product, imsafer™, to parents for free.

SMP: Top five things that parents can do to make a safer online environment for the children?

AL: Top five tips:

  1. Talk to your children openly – make online usage it part of the family agenda. Denying access will not solve the problem, and not addressing it will create more.
  2. Get the right tools – busy parents have enough to do as it is, rather than spend their evenings trying to become an online child safety expert. Tools like Crisp imsafer™ are now available, simple to use, and can provide parents with the assurance they need - without spoiling the kids fun.
  3. Look for games providers and social network environments that have Crisp installed and encourage your children to choose them when selecting where to spend their time. There are some very cool games out there, from both household names and new companies, that use Crisp so children can play safely and have fun.
  4. Set some house rules for the family being online – a simple setting of expectation on what’s considered acceptable to the family will help promote a trusting, open and positive relationship between the younger members of the family, and the adults. This will also help to not drive the issue “underground”.
  5. View the online environment as you would any other for your child – it is not something to be afraid of. The right tools can help you see what you need to see, without spying, and help extend your “parental intuition” into this key area.

SMP: Is the internet more or less safe for children since the proliferation of social networks, instant messenger et al?

AL: Social Networks, Instant Messenger and Online Games are great places to have fun, hang out and meet new people. However, like with anything else in life, it should happen in the safest possible environment.

Kids have to learn, but they are also vulnerable whilst they are learning – despite what they might say themselves. Fact is the ability for people, both known and unknown, to communicate with our children online is easier than ever before - so its common sense to take a few minutes to ensure they are safe whilst using them.

The worst thing to do is to pretend that it won’t happen to your child and do nothing – with luck it won’t, but why take the risk?

SMP: What have been some of the milestones in protecting children online?

AL: For Crisp, the creation and release of our safety products – the culmination of 3 years R & D and millions of pounds of investment. The independent report from Cambridge University into the effectiveness of our technology to detect inappropriate relationships – with an accuracy rating of 98.4% - has to feature for me. This is a major step forward to protecting children effectively.

This, with the signing of major industry players, the widening of the environments we protect, together with the simple note of thanks we receive everyday from formerly exasperated parents, to name but a few.

SMP: What still needs to be done?

AL: Recognising there is no “silver bullet” (is there ever, really?) – it is only by combining smart tools with education can we hope to improve this situation. There are an awful lot of “top 10 “ rules that try to have parents teach their children to behave like a 30-year-old. This is as unrealistic as it is ineffective.  Awareness-raising to both parents and family, together with action in the form of proactive tools has to be the way to create the necessary culture.

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology throughout 2009?

AL: The increase in the number of environments available to children – from more specific and relevant social networks to combined education based games. The increasing connecting of these networks will provide some fascinating opportunities for children.

SMP: What impact is the global recession having and what do you think the best way is to manage it for businesses such as yours?

AL: Traditionally, entertainment (especially home-based) is a fairly recession proof business and I don’t think this recession will prove to be much different. Spending time online is a relatively cheap source of entertainment for children, as well as playing outside when the good weather arrives, so there is still a lot of activity from publishers. Good, sustainable businesses with a great idea will continue to grow provided they manage their cost bases effectively and focus on their core goals.

SMP: How does this fit into plans at Crisp Thinking?

AL: Crisp have built and proven solid technologies that, currently, are the only ones of their kind in the world. By becoming the global leading online child safety vendor, we will continue to focus on our core objectives – steadily adding more customers to our network, knowledge to our service and increase the level of safety for our users. By using a Crisp product you are contributing to a worldwide community who, in turn, help in providing you the highest level of protection available for your child. This will continue to be our path as we move forwards into 2010.

Best way to contact you?

AL: Email at andrew.lintell @

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

AL: Yoghurt and an apple – the breakfast of champions 

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

Bought an airline ticket for a friend who missed their flight because we were having a coffee, laughing at how funny it would be to get to Heathrow so early in the morning and still miss your it turned out, not so funny.

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

AL: 80-plus generally

SMP: If you weren’t running Crisp Thinking what would you be doing?

AL: Starting up another company – there are so many opportunities online for B2B and B2C services, it’s difficult to know where to start! As a management team we must have 2/3 fantastic ideas a week.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

AL: Easter skiing in the Alps with friends

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

AL: Sit down with my co-founders Adam Hildreth, Pete Maude and CFO Brendan Doherty with a large mug of coffee – there is always a list to discuss a mile long.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

AL: To be able to fly – it would save me a fortune and a lot of time.

SMP: Are a corporate or personal blog/s we should know about (if there is, you should add this to SMP also)?

AL: We are looking to publish blogs amongst a few of the team on the website in next three months or so.

Crisp Thinking for the corporate site. Imsafer for consumers.

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