Áine Kerr: Kinzen’s higher purpose

Áine Kerr of Kinzen talks about her second start-up journey and the value of the Going for Growth programme to Ireland’s women entrepreneurs.

Going for Growth, a programme jointly run by Enterprise Ireland and KPMG, assists ambitious women entrepreneurs to achieve their growth ambitions.

So far more than 850 Irish women entrepreneurs have participated in the award-winning programme, including Áine Kerr of Kinzen. The 14th cycle of Going for Growth reported significant results for its 57 participants. Combined turnover increased from €35m at the start of the cycle to €43m by the end, a 23% increase in just six months.

“The first thing was finding my tribe; being surrounded by people that have a sense of purpose and who want to do something important and are willing to take risks to do that. They were my accountability buddies”

Going for Growth is now inviting ambitious women entrepreneurs to take part in its 15th cycle with the deadline for applications set for Friday 18 November.

Journalism in the digital age

Journalism and technology have always been an integral part of Áine Kerr’s career so her second start-up– Kinzen – is a natural progression of that journey.

A former journalist, Áine first went into the start-up world as managing editor of Storyful, Ireland’s first social media news agency. In September 2017, she joined up with Storyful founder Mark Little to create a digital technology company, Kinzen.

Last week it emerged that global audio streaming giant Spotify was acquiring Dublin-headquartered Kinzen for an undisclosed sum.

In between the two start-up ventures, Áine spent almost two years in New York as Global Head of Journalism Partners at Facebook. “Myself and Mark always said that we might start something new – if we had the right idea. While I was at Facebook and Mark was at Twitter, we started talking about how to play our part in rebuilding trust in quality news and information and mitigating against misinformation and disinformation, how we might play our part in this information crisis,” says Áine.

Kinzen has since developed a unique technology, particularly optimized for podcasting/voice-dominated social platforms, that helps companies analyse large volumes of audio and video content. The company combines human expertise and machine learning to analyse misinformation and hate speech in multiple languages and countries.

Headquartered in Dublin, it has 22 full-time employees and works with experts all around the world. “The higher purpose in Kinzen is to protect the world’s public conversations from information risks. We use a blend of human skill and scalable technology which enables trust and safety professionals and policymakers – inside some of the world’s biggest platforms – to get ahead of emerging threats, detect policy violations faster and take the proportionate and appropriate action.”

Kinzen, Áine says, came to realise automated moderation can’t cope with the human nuance of harmful conversation but human moderators can’t tackle the scale of harmful content without the help of machines. “This is the problem Kinzen is working to solve,” she says.

Áine is a member of the Going for Growth community, having participated in the Starting Strong programme in 2018 with Susan Spence as her Lead Entrepreneur. “When I joined the programme, I was starting a new business and that can be a lonely place. There are so many different layers to the support I received from the programme – both functional and emotional takeaways. The first thing was finding my tribe; being surrounded by people that have a sense of purpose and who want to do something important and are willing to take risks to do that. They were my accountability buddies. Knowing that you were going to be meeting regularly with like-minded people who were going to question you and help you find answers was invaluable”.

“Running a business sees you spend a lot of time in the trenches, concentrating on the day-to-day. The beauty of the programme was allowing you that opportunity to step out of the trenches, draw a breath and give yourself an opportunity to look at the business six years or six months down the line rather than six weeks – or six days”.

“The programme gets you back to the fundamentals of your ‘why’ – reconnecting with the sense of purpose and ambition that drives you, constantly honing and reimagining the problem you’ve fallen in love with, giving you a much-needed energy transfusion to dig deep and keep going!”

The call is open for applications from female entrepreneurs who would welcome peer support to take their businesses to the next level by taking part in the Going for Growth programme. This is the 15th year of Going for Growth and more than 850 female entrepreneurs have so far taken part in the programme. Sixty places will be available for the 15th cycle of Going for Growth, which will run from January to June 2021 and the deadline for applications is Friday 18 November 2022. There is no charge for those selected.

Anyone interested is encouraged to register on the website goingforgrowth.com

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