Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
August 19, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Patrick Hunt says Lirio has “grown quite a bit”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“We’ve grown quite a bit,” Patrick Hunt, Chief Strategy Officer at Lirio, says of the West Knoxville company that specializes in hyper-personalized communications to influence individual’s decisions and actions.

To illustrate the point, he cites a staff level that is approaching 50 employees including six or seven based in Nashville, relocation of the corporate headquarters to the Cedar Bluff area where Lirio has about 6,600 square feet of usable space, and the recent addition of several key team members.

Those individuals include Chris Symons, formerly with Oak Ridge National Laboratory who now leads the machine learning team; Chandra Osborn, formerly on the faculty of Vanderbilt University where she was Co-Director of the Center for Health Education and Health Behavior; and Marten den Haring, new Chief Product Officer who previously held similar roles at Element AI and Digital Reasoning.

“All three are Ph.Ds, bringing academic firepower and thought leadership to our team,” Hunt told us.

As important as their academic credentials are, what is perhaps most significant is the combination that the three offer the company that traces its roots to Fiveworx, a start-up that Hunt helped launch before it was acquired in 2016 by Lirio.

“We combine behavioral science and machine learning to provide hyper-personalized messaging in order to get people to change their behavior for good,” Hunt says, emphasizing the last two words as he highlighted the respective roles of Symons, Osborn, and den Haring. “Our clients get economic value, but we would not be doing this if there was not value to the end user.”

Long-time readers of know we followed Hunt and Fiveworx over the years, chronicling the start-up’s efforts to help utilities inspire and encourage their customers to implement actions that reduced energy consumption. The work involved the preparation and delivery of emails carefully designed to cause a change in a person’s normal behavior.

Experienced entrepreneur Mike West serves as Lirio’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Joining West, den Haring, Symons, Osborn and Hunt on the company’s leadership team is George Harshbarger Jr., Chief Financial Officer.

Today, Lirio serves two industry sectors – healthcare companies and utilities.

“We have broader capabilities now,” Hunt says of the company’s expertise to serve utilities. “In the past, we were a one-trick pony focused on the residential homeowner. Today, we are working in several other areas to help utilities and have expanded into healthcare.”

The focus of those activities is on low and moderate income households and small businesses.

Lirio notes on its webpage that a utility’s customers are not the same, so the messaging should not be the same. “We help deliver the right message to the right person at the right time to drive better outcomes,” Lirio says in describing its work for utilities.

Today, the company also focuses on healthcare, serving hospital systems, large employers, and payers, to help them improve wellness and outcomes.

“We help increase participation (of patients) in preventative measures,” Hunt says, citing as one example communications that help motivate patients to get regular screenings when they otherwise would not. “We have developed a framework to deliver to a much wider audience. We’ve evolved our work to a more sophisticated approach called reinforcement learning.”

With domain and content expertise along with its machine learning capabilities, Hunt explains that Lirio is able to provide a level of personalized messaging unheard of just a few years ago. In the energy area alone, he says the company’s software can dynamically assemble over 200,000 unique emails that can be distributed to just the right customer.

“We understand behavior and behavioral issues,” Hunt says. That knowledge and an ever-increasing level of technological sophistication is clearly helping Lirio grow quickly. As it does, Hunt says Knoxville will continue to house operations, finance, project management and marketing, while Nashville with its healthcare reputation is home to the behavioral science, product management and content development teams. Lirio has data science and machine learning staff in both cities and more than a dozen software engineers in Knoxville.

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!