“Anything Is Possible. The Biggest Companies In The World Started From Nothing”

5 Startup Strategies With Adam Hildreth, CEO And Founder Of Crisp

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Adam Hildreth (right) with Senior Developer, Tom Parrish

5 Startup Strategies With Adam Hildreth, CEO And Founder Of Crisp

I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Hildreth, CEO and Founder of Crisp, who says his biggest accomplishment is using tech to benefit the world — keeping people safe both online and offline.

Yitzi Weiner: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I never set out to run a business or had any end goal — it just happened. Aged 14, seven friends and I started a project called ‘Dubit’ as part of the Young Enterprise charity in the UK, which helps schoolkids to set up business.

Dubit Limited was a virtual world and chat room for kids and we managed to make it into a real business that worked. It took over my spare time and my school time too — I was pretty much expelled from my Business Studies class for continually walking out to take business calls.

Aged 15 I became the youngest ever registered managing director and at 16 I left school to build Dubit into a successful youth market consultancy firm. We saw the challenges that were happening in the online world. We had massive advertisers on Dubit so we had to keep the kids safe. But it was costing a fortune to moderate the site — we had more people moderating than doing anything else. I had the same problem then that most businesses have now.

At that time, Facebook and MySpace weren’t invented and there were no laws to protect children online from sexual predators. So still aged 16, I worked with the UK Home Secretary and the child protection taskforce to establish laws to protect young users from online grooming.

I had bigger ideas on how companies could protect kids online and I wanted something of my own, so I left Dubit in 2005 to set up Crisp, aged 20.

I was pretty much expelled from my Business Studies class for continually walking out to take business calls.

Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

A guy came for an interview with me and all was going well until he said “you’re great, but when do I get to meet the people who run the business?”. Having interviewed him for an hour, he thought I was the owner’s son!

He didn’t get the job — not because of that, more because his skills weren’t what Crisp needed then.

Yitzi: So what exactly does your company do?

Crisp provides complete online brand safety for some of the world’s biggest brands. We have an incredible team who’ve developed sophisticated AI (artificial intelligence) and an expert team of Risk Analysts. We combine these to protect brands on social media from seriously damaging risks such as PR crises, brand attacks, data breaches, physical attacks and much more.

We work with social platforms to help them identify extremist content and we continue to protect children online. By working with big-name kids’ platforms and apps, we keep young users safe from the likes of cyberbullies and groomers — we’ve blocked more than 10 million attempts by sexual predators to date.

Yitzi: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We simply can’t make mistakes or miss things. What we’re detecting for our customers has real-world impact. We tell clients when serious things are happening, so we’re phoning people — it might be a major broadcaster — saying there’s someone in the audience that’s threatening to stab someone. We’re detecting when people’s lives are at risk or, if brand reputations are threatened, then their livelihoods are at risk. That’s the kind of job we do on a day-to-day basis at Crisp.

We simply can’t make mistakes or miss things. What we’re detecting for our customers has real-world impact.

Yitzi: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I wouldn’t say there’s one person in particular, but I’m grateful to anyone who’s ever challenged my ideas — people who’ve not taken what I’ve said as gospel and challenged what I was doing. The ‘yes’ men or women don’t have any impact on me.

The biggest thing that an entrepreneur or business owner can do, is challenge themselves. Don’t work out why something’s going to succeed, but why it’s going to fail. Solve all those problems and it should work. So you need people to highlight why it won’t work.

Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We do a lot for charity, but it’s also the real-world impact we have for our clients every day — whether that’s keeping children safe in online games or protecting users from seeing bad and toxic content online. We’re using technology to solve some of the biggest issues social media is facing now, so it’s positive for everyone.

Yitzi: What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

  1. It’s OK to get things wrong.
  2. Your job is not to do the job yourself but to empower others to do their job.
  3. It’s critical to find a team of people you trust, and give them your trust.
  4. None of us are perfect, if something goes wrong — it’s not necessarily your fault.
  5. Anything is possible. The biggest companies in the world started from nothing.

I’m 32 and 50% of my life I’ve been running a business but I still remind myself of these things today.

Yitzi: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Donald Trump… so I could hear what he really thinks and feels about big topics. When there’s no media around I would love to ask him face-to-face what he really thinks about the big issues impacting the US right now.

Originally published at

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