leeds.tech / features

Keeping brands safe with Tony Hobbs, Crisp

For around 14 years, Crisp has been a fixture of the Leeds digital scene. The company is affirming this by hosting a series of events at the Leeds Digital Festival this year. We spoke to Tony Hobbs, Crisp’s Head of Marketing, to find out more.

Crisp stands as an example of how varied the digital sector is in Leeds. When you think about tech jobs in the City, you might be picturing programmers and app developers. However, as one of the most established digital firms in Leeds, Crisp specialises in keeping brands safe from the risks posed online by things like social media.

“Our core focus is detecting online issues through user-generated content that could cause a risk to brand reputation,” said Tony. “We’re predominantly looking on social media and wider web sources, trying to find these critical issues, the single or multiple items that could cause a potential PR crisis or a serious physical threat to a business.”

This is quite a task, but it’s one Crisp has approached with innovative technical solutions. The company was created in 2005 when its founder, Adam Hildreth, recognised that the growth of social media and user-generated content was creating risks for both vulnerable people and larger firms. His solution required him to create an innovative artificial intelligence.

“Crisp is built on technology,” Tony said. “Our company started from tech that our CEO had built himself. We use a combination of Crisp-built AI and tech software to detect these issues online and then we apply a layer of human analysts on top to moderate that content.” This combination of technology and human skill has allowed Crisp to stay at the top of its game for around 14 years.

Leeds Digital Festival

With all of this expertise on offer, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see that Crisp is holding several events at the Leeds Digital Festival; although Tony was keen to note that Crisp will also be joining “as many of the other events as we can”.

First of all, on April 23rd Crisp will be hosting an event entitled ‘How Yorkshire-built technology helps fight the global exploitation of children online’, alongside INHOPE, a charity Tony said Crisp works very closely with. He said this would focus on how Crisp uses tech to protect young people, adding: “I think anyone with a dev background would find it interesting how we’ve developed our software to do that work for us.”

On April 29th, the company is hosting ‘Enabling rapid response to brands facing a social media crisis’, which will be jointly hosted with one of Crisp’s clients and will focus on the firm’s brand safety services. “I think anyone in digital marketing or pr in the local area would find that interesting,” said Tony.

Finally, on May 1st, Crisp will be holding a discussion with Google about cloud storage and how it’s enabling tech, called ‘Scaling your applications in Google Cloud’. This is something recommended for developers and infrastructure assistants.

So why is Crisp so involved with the Digital Festival? For Tony, the answer is simple: “Crisp is involved with the Leeds Digital Festival because we’re Leeds-based and Leeds through and through.”

He added: “Our CEO is from the area, set up the business in Leeds, and we’ve been HQ-ed in Leeds since 2005. Our staff are predominantly based in Leeds. We have teams globally, but our HQ is here. We don’t want to leave here; we want to grow our business within Leeds and see Leeds grow with it.”

The future of Crisp

“The future of digital in Leeds is open and massive,” said Tony, and Crisp intends to be a part of it, not just in the City but also around the world. “Our plan as a business is to take what we do in our tech and our services globally,” Tony added. “We already have clients that are all over the globe, but we really want to stretch our capacity, grow as a business and become a truly international company, but based in Leeds.”

It’s with good reason that the company doesn’t want to stop being based here. As Tony said: “Leeds has really been leading the way in the North, and probably the whole country for digital for eight or nine years. It’s already ahead of the game.”

And things look set to be even more exciting in the years to come. “I think we’ve got a young generation coming through that’s learning that trade as a core skill from the start and not picking it up later in their careers. So I think there’s a whole generation that’s going to come through and grow that digital industry within Leeds even more,” said Tony.

With digital thought leaders like Crisp based here, it isn’t hard to see how the digital industry in Leeds is going to go from strength to strength. You can find out more by attending their events at the Leeds Digital Festival.


Details of all of Leeds Digital Festival’s events can be seen here.