Posted on February 2, 2017 by staff

Why Manchester entrepreneur parked ‘scary’ profiling tech


The Canadian entrepreneur behind Personalyze says he was forced to park the company’s “scary” profiling technology until now because it was two years ahead of its time.

Andrew Ko’s TopicDNA tech can decipher a person’s interests, behaviours and passions from their social media handles within five seconds, while MobileDNA can assess personality from music listening habits.

“It’s quite scary,” he told a packed audience at ‘The future of Manchester’s digital tech scene’, an event held by BusinessCloud jointly with Business Growth Hub.

“We developed this [MobileDNA] two years ago and it was too futuristic for anyone to get a grasp on, so we parked it.

“We go three or four levels deeper than any other analytics company. The others don’t profile people to an individual level – they do it on a group level.

“They’ll say ‘20 per cent of these 10,000 people like sports, 20 per cent of them like music and 20 per cent like technology’. What is sports? What does music mean? And tech?

“We tell you which sports, which teams, which athletes in those teams… we can tell if you’re impulsive in the morning, for example.”

TopicDNA won a prestigious Northern Stars award last year and has attracted a lot of interest from brands and advertisers.

“As an advertiser, it is a tremendous opportunity,” continued Ko. “We created the technology from a consumer standpoint: I’m a consumer and I hate getting irrelevant ads.

“It’s 2017 and there’s so much data out there that you’d think they’d be able to use it to give you something relevant, but they honestly don’t know – and we’re here to solve that problem.

“If you’re Topshop and you have a flash sale going on, you don’t want to send it to all 100,000 of your mobile customers. You want to send it to the 10,000 people who are impulsive in the morning at that time, and you’ll convert more.

“You might convert 95 per cent of them rather than sending it to 100,000 people and converting 5%. It’s hyper-targeted.”

Ko completed his doctorate on how music connects people socially at the University of Manchester in 2014 and immediately set about commercialising his findings by founding Personalyze. That research is what MobileDNA is based on.

“Amid the current economic uncertainty in the world, most really big ideas will come from universities,” is his view.

“It’s really important that the entrepreneurial community keeps those ties with education and try to commercialise promising academic research.”

The founder and CEO of Manchester start-up Gama told the audience how he found it easier to gain funding in Africa than the North West.