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Machines know what humans want

Frank Thelen, celebrity investor in the TV start-up format "lion's den", has invested in an enterprise utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) to add a personal touch to events.

ou're known as investor in the Mytaxi-app, you support a science-fiction-inspired electrically-powered aircraft … what made you decide to invest in the event management platform "Doo"?
"Freigeist" is above all focused on investing in start-up personalities with visions and the ambition to make these come true. What makes "Doo" even more interesting is that the founders are active in a very exciting market with lots of space and options for innovations. In comparison with online marketing, event marketing still has a lot of catching up to do. That clearly shows the considerable potential here and also gives us investors an idea about where all this is headed. Doo also opts for new technologies such as machine-learning, a domain in which we have already achieved very positive results with 42Reports and Lilium.

Is artificial intelligence (AI) being applied here?
Even if Doo is still in the initial phase, they are already trendsetters in their market: they apply AI for scoring attendee data and in pattern recognition and clustering of segments. Furthermore, Doo through the platform integrates third-party suppliers, who make new technologies available with the help of machine-learning, e.g. facial recognition, chatbots or intelligent matchmaking in networking.

What can machines do better than humans?
They can accurately process hundreds of thousands of datasets in real-time. Even the most minute deviations can be identified with the help of pattern recognition. As a consequence, the machine is faster, and it operates more accurately.

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... is a European entrepreneur, tech-investor and TV celebrity based in Bonn. Since 1994, he has been founding and managing technology and design-driven enterprises. Thelen is the founder and CEO of Freigeist Capital.

You analyze and exploit data to improve the attendee journey. Will the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impair or limit options?
We need to deal with this issue in almost all our investments. The new GDPR is not per se aimed at enforcing stricter rules for data processing, it merely gives users more rights and provides for much stricter penalties against businesses acting in violation of these regulations. As long as we make transparent to all users how we use this data and obtain their approval, we don't have a problem. However, we as Germans and Europeans must be aware that much stricter unilateral data protection laws put us at a competitive disadvantage. Yes, the EU also wants to have an impact on companies based outside its borders, but each member country will have its own methods and approach. Ultimately, Google and other players in that league will again gain an advantage over our tech businesses.

Apart from pre-event organization, do you see any opportunities for using AI in this business?
Absolutely. It's all about personalization. Millennials aren't the only ones who want customized arrangements and insist on being at the center of attention. Owing to ever-increasing competition in global markets, only those suppliers to the market will be successful who succeed in making their customers feel happy. To do this, organizers need to understand exactly what attendees really want, and valid data is the essential basis.

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The term "artificial intelligence" has become almost a buzzword – are we actually talking about a new and revolutionary technology?
The term artificial intelligence in its present use is pure marketing speak. Machines are not really intelligent, instead they imitate and duplicate human decisions through trained behavioral patterns. But they do this at a breathtaking pace. And this pace is what will let numerous applications run automatically without human interference. Just imagine that one day we will no longer need to browse online but can instead interact verbally with the Internet and other communication partners. It won't make any difference if the dialogue partner is human or a machine as long as he/she/it can help us. So it's still a bit premature to make any authoritative forecasts, but yes, man-machine interaction will actually lead to revolutionary changes. We must not underestimate that developments in this realm will not be linear: to double the development status, I will no longer need double the time. This development will much more proceed exponentially, which will bring disruption for all existing markets.

Why should event organizers listen carefully when AI is on the agenda?
As we go forward, attendees will attach much more importance to their own specific requirements and will presort the available programs – including the event market – with the help of intelligent services. Anybody not capable of exactly fulfilling their attendees' needs and wishes will be at a disadvantage and will lose visitor volumes and brand strength. AI provides organizers with two strong tools: for one, they will be better able to analyze user data in order to improve their own programs with the help of intelligent algorithms and for the other, participants with the help of bots will be able to directly experience the events and/or have them communicated. That means that participants will get exactly the event they need. CHRISTIAN FUNK