Former RTÉ journalist Mark Little and Áine Kerr, a one-time political reporter with the Irish Independent, have sold their media startup, Kinzen, to music-streaming service Spotify.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Little declined to disclose the value of the deal, which he described as “brilliant”.
Under the terms of the acquisition, co-founders Mr Little and Ms Kerr will become executives in Spotify, which will maintain the Kinzen office and its staff of 22 people as an internal unit based in Dublin.
"This is recognition that Dublin is increasingly becoming the online safety hub of the world,” said Mr Little.
“I think it was actually much easier for Spotify to see a Dublin-based company in trust and safety as a natural fit.
"I think it says something about the centrality of Dublin and Ireland to the ongoing effort to create more online safety.”
Spotify said Kinzen’s technology and expertise will help it more effectively deliver a “safe and enjoyable experience” on their platform around the world.
The music streamer faced a massive backlash earlier this year, when rock legend Neil Young pulled his vast back catalogue off the platform in protest at what he called misinformation being spread by Spotify’s biggest podcaster, Joe Rogan.
During the Covid pandemic, Kinzen was hired by the Department of Health to monitor and advise on the spread of misinformation about the pandemic and on efforts to curb it.
Mr Little said Kinzen mixes advanced technology with being “the human in the loop” for online trust and safety issues facing big platforms.
‘This is recognition that Dublin is increasingly becoming the online safety hub of the world’
"We have a growing engineering and product team that has been building really advanced technology to analyse content – particularly podcasts and audio,” he said.
“We have a network of people, including experts in 26 languages, who cover pretty much all the continents of the world. And we have built proprietary technology that allows the analysts to go into vast quantities of audio content and much more accurately pick out the stuff we need to review.”
Mark Little was a senior on-air journalist at RTÉ for two decades before striking out to build Storyful – a media business that verified material shared on social-media platforms. In 2013 he sold the business to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp for a reported €18m.
He was also head of Twitter's Irish office for a brief spell.
Áine Kerr was a senior member of the Storyful team and the two launched Kinzen together in 2017, initially aiming to provide tailored news feeds drawn from multiple publishers to clients.
The company focus subsequently shifted into the developing area of monitoring and countering online misinformation.
Spotify said the Irish company’s unique technology is particularly suited for podcasting and audio formats, “making its value to Spotify clear and unmatched”.
“We’ve long had an impactful and collaborative partnership with Kinzen and its exceptional team,” said Dustee Jenkins, Spotify’s global head of public affairs.
“Now, working together as one, we’ll be able to even further improve our ability to detect and address harmful content, in a way that better considers local context.
"This investment expands Spotify’s approach to platform safety – and underscores how seriously we take our commitment to creating a safe and enjoyable experience for creators and users.”
Kinzen has been working with Spotify since 2020, initially focusing on the integrity of election-related content and later to target misinformation, disinformaton and hate speech.
While financial details of the acquisition weren’t disclosed, Kinzen’s initial investors include Mr Little, Dublin-based entrepreneur Ray Nolan and Derianto Kusuma, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Indonesian-based flight-booking firm Traveloka.