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Case Study

Creating Valuable Connections using Data Science

A new platform.

The Challenge

How to maximise positive interactions for over 700 people?

“Our first Icebreaker in 2016 brought over a thousand people together in an event that delivered an estimated $2.9 million in forward value for South Australia,” says Kathryn Anderson, former Deputy Director Enterprise and project lead at Flinders New Venture Institute (NVI) the award-winning entrepreneurial arm of Flinders University.

However, feedback from participants on the matching process highlighted some issues; random allocations, too many people from one organisation on the same table, ineffective rotation on each table, and mismatched industry types and sizes.

“Innovation is central to what we do at the NVI, so for IceBreaker18 our first question was – how do we improve? How do we harness information in the most sophisticated way to give participants the most valuable experience possible?” says Kathryn.

With this central question in mind, NVI engaged Spiral Data Group to develop a world first data-driven networking platform.


Serverless architecture, natural language processing, preference modelling and linear programming.

The Platform

Using data science to solve a human problem.

“Our role was to design a smart data-matching mechanism to maximise the networking potential of each individual on every table. This meant understanding and matching their underlying preferences and interests, not just matching by role and industry,” explains Kale Needham, CEO of SpiralData.

This was truly a big data problem the data equated to an 85 million cell matrix with thousands of decision variables and constraints.

To solve it, SpiralData built a profile of each and every attendee using structured data and unstructured data via natural language processing techniques.

Individual preferences were established between all attendees, ran through a simplex algorithm originally designed for military planning activities that delivered a seating plan optimised for individual networking needs across tables.

The Results

Valuable connections made for each attendee

“So much better than a random networking event, I was instantly grouped with meaningful contacts that have developed into working relationships that will certainly benefit my business,” Caspian Batory, Director at Ethos Media

“I found I was with the perfect people for my personality and business interests,” Rose Lacoon Williamson, Project Coordinator at the Don Dunstan Foundation

“With technology enabling everybody to connect quickly and share ideas it breaks down those barriers,” Edward Ho, Account Manager at Amazon Web Services

“SpiralData had a large impact on IceBreaker, [it] changed the discussion from a traditional networking event to a data-driven event that drives valuable connections. The future of SpiralData’s platform is not just for event matching but people-to-people, students-to-programs, programs-to-industry…. the possibilities are really exciting,”

— Matt Salier, Director at the New Venture Institute.

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