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Making connections with Ivan Lian from AI mobile event networking platform Grip

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 06 March 2017

Head of technology Ivan Lian at artificial intelligence mobile event networking platform Grip on making connections

Grip logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there for Grip?

Ivan Lian (IL): I am Ivan Lian and I lead the engineering effort at Grip as head of technology. With the help of my merry team of engineers, I shape all aspects of Grips technology stack from code to infrastructure and drive partner integrations. I even manage to dabble in product development too!

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Grip

IL: Grip is the worlds first AI powered mobile event networking solution empowering professionals to achieve their networking potential. We are the first and only event-focused app solution for networking that uses artificial intelligence effectively. Grip uses state- of- the-art technology to help people make meaningful connections through its AI software which employs clever use of social and behavioural data. Using advanced algorithms, Grip recommends the right people and presents them on an easy-to-use swiping interface.

Photograph of Head of technology Ivan Lian at artificial intelligence mobile event networking platform GripSMP: Who are your target audience and why?

IL: Event participants are our main focus when it comes to the app but we also support the entire events industry by providing powerful analytics and business intelligence to event organisers.

SMP: When was the company, how many people work there and how is it funded?

IL: Grip was launched in April 2015. The networking app was originally devised by Tim Groot, Daniel Bk and Andreas Rasmussen whose joint goal was to find the best way to meet interesting professionals at events. Jay Patel, Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox had also launched the artificial intelligence start-up Intros which specialised in providing an intelligent event networking engine. Both companies were devised out of the frustration with networking at events and the difficulty in meeting the most relevant people. In January 2016, Intros acquired Grip to combine their unrivalled matchmaking engine with the easy-to-use mobile application of Grip. At present, we are a tight team of six but the company is steadily growing and Im sure we will be seeing new faces join the team soon.

SMP: How does artificial intelligence (AI) help event management?

IL: Grip does all the heavy lifting at events by identifying the right connections for delegates without the hassle of maintaining yet another social media profile. It takes the stress out of networking at events finding the right people to connect with no longer seems like a lottery with Grip.  Our AI helps facilitate the right professional connections between delegates that otherwise may not have happened.

SMP: How have the clients you have been working with been using your products/services?

To ensure that customers make the most out of our product we offer both custom community groups within our Grip app as well as white label events apps for our clients. We also provide an API for clients which already have their own apps but wish to add our services to them. We have also recently launched a registration API which makes the process of registration at events much more straightforward for event organisers.

SMP: How is AI connected to this, what does it do to assist event organisers?

IL: Through our platform we are able to provide detailed attendee networking insights to organisers as well as sponsors of events which choose to work with us. We provide forecasts about planned events and make suggestions about potential sponsorship deals. These insights help organisers evaluate their events and plan ahead for future ones.

Grip homepage image

SMP: What are the challenges that youve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at Grip?

IL: The biggest challenge I have encountered so far is how to interpret usage patterns and signals. Every subtle action on the app conveys some information that may or may not be valuable to our AI-powered matchmaking engine. The challenge for us is to be able to sift through this stream of data and pick the right signals to learn from. I believe we are moving in the right direction as we have observed the number of yes (or interested) swipes rapidly climbing during an event as our matchmaking learns about participant preferences in real time. With each subsequent event we see substantial improvements in engagement over past ones.

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

IL: I am the newest member of the team, having joined in October, and this past month has been extremely exciting all round. I previously worked at Yahoo, and have particularly enjoyed learning about the events industry and how were helping to improve networking at events, enabling delegates to create long lasting and meaningful connections.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities for your sector and the competition that you have?

IL: The ability to provide event organisers, sponsors and participants added value in planning their events and to be able to accurately measure the improvements. The market is full of event apps but not many have gone beyond simply being a listing service like we have. From a technology standpoint, the challenge would be to provide a richer and more context aware experience by means of continually improving our AI and its natural language processing ability.

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding event management software for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

IL: Artificial Intelligence of course! I think the increasing acceptance of intelligent virtual personal assistants will make events more rewarding and productive experiences for all involved. Progress in natural language speech and processing will also be an area to watch.

Grip homepage image

SMP: What are your top predictions for event management for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

IL replies with:

  • Meeting the right people will be less of a serendipitous event, as more and more participants and organisers become equipped with smarter matchmaking aids like Grip.
  • Virtual PAs. Having to juggle multiple meetings at an event? Why not have someone else do it?
  • Big events continue to get bigger. People enjoy a good show, and big events always put on a good show.
  • The long tail of small or niche events will start to get more love. As costs go down, even the smallest of events can start to embrace events technology.

SMP: What are your top overall event management tips and why?

IL: Use the plethora of tools that are readily available to you within the industry. Tools such as MailChimp, Eventbrite and the Grip app will make managing your event that much easier!

SMP: Is there anything else we should know, or is there anything that youd like to share?

SMP: Best way to contact you and Grip?

IL replies with:

Twitter @GripNetworking

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

IL: At the moment I always eat bagels for breakfast. Its a new habit Im trying to cultivate.

SMP: Whats the last good thing that you did for someone?

IL: I made a small donation towards the building of a well in Nepal. I dont think Ill ever know who it helped.

SMP: If you werent working at Grip what would you be doing?

IL: If I wasnt working at Grip I probably would have gone on to do a PhD in artificial intelligence-related research.

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

IL: For my last holiday I bought myself a round-the-world ticket and had a fantastic few months in the sun in America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

SMP: Whats the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

IL: I have a pretty long commute so its almost always a large mug of coffee.

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