2016 – Data Republic CEO address

Often as Christmas approaches, I’m struck by two opposing thoughts;

1) How much ‘stuff’ we all have that we don’t need or use. This usually comes from trying to buy presents for people and thinking there really isn’t much more that they (or me even) want, let alone need.

2) How easy it is to buy things now. Transaction friction is decreasing every year. As a board member of TradeMe in NZ, I’m acutely aware of the technical and market evolutions which have led to this, but as a consumer, all I can see is how much easier it is to pay for products (vastly improved mobile payment platforms), simpler online and offline customer experiences (UX) and immediate access to funds (mobile wallets, Afterpay, Klarna, etc).

Invariably it’s the second point that I ponder the most and I often end up thinking;

“Why do shopkeepers/vendors ‘trust’ that when I tap my mobile phone on a POS terminal and buy a gift, that real money will end up in their bank account, matching the exact value that the gift was worth?”

We all just take this innovation and transaction liquidity for granted. The fiat monetary system is nearly the definition of liquidity. But, as we have spoken about before, money is now mostly just data. For an increasing number of us, ‘notes’ and ‘coins’ are fast becoming history.

So why is there no ‘trust’ in data? Well, unlike with money, this innate trust doesn’t yet exist in liquid data systems;

  • Consumers don’t wholly trust companies with their data, but are happy to trade it for increased utility or services. They haven’t quite assigned or understood the true value of it.
  • Businesses think of data as a proprietary asset, but often don’t treat it like one. They may leverage it internally but rarely externally. They can’t trust in the value of the asset and therefore fail to overcome utilisation hurdles.

If data were to be valued like money, I believe we’d see a rapid change in our behaviours:

  • Consumers value their data before they hand it over so easily.
  • Businesses collect and store it like they would money.
  • Businesses and governments unlock untold social and consumer benefit and productivity via more accurate insights.

Two years ago we wrote a plan to attempt to remove these transaction frictions around data exchange, to build ‘trust’ into a system that so badly needs it. We spent our first year (2015) in preparation, defining the multi-lateral legal framework which would underpin our technology and ensure a level, legal and privacy compliant environment for our participating companies. This year, our second year, was more productive. No longer just a concept, we have become an operational business.

Having now ‘got our hands dirty’, I want to share with you some of our achievements and lessons from 2016.

Here’s what a small team of passionate people can do when they believe they are trying to change the world for the better. 2016 saw Data Republic accomplish the following;

  • Raised $12M dollars from 3 of Australia’s highest regarded firms, Westpac, Qantas and NAB.
  • Launched our technology in beta – A platform to securely manage data exchange and governance.
  • Partnered with Westpac to launch a world first in the banking of data – a Personal Information Databank.
  • Initiated and co-founded (with ADMA) Data Governance Australia, an association to help Australian industry jointly manage and self-regulate ethical data governance.
  • Launched our Open Data Marketplace – A world first secure marketplace and data exchange portal.
  • Founded a data-for-social-good Not For Profit; – The Minerva Collective, to connect social impact organisations with access to data and analysts to help them solve social problems.
  • Fostered engagement and participation in our data exchange ecosystem. Leading into 2017, we have 100’s of users on platform, over 40 Certified Partners building Data Products and over 100 data sets from 15 Data Contributors.

BUT, it’s important for me to acknowledge that accomplishments never come without mistakes, and we have had our fair share of ‘learnings’ this year;

  • We’ve learnt first-hand through project negotiation that the process of data sharing between two organisations is a conversation, not a simple request form.
  • And that the process of data discovery can be as valuable as the data insight itself.
  • We are learning that trust is critical between parties, and that context and information are critical to its development.
  • We have learnt that even though we spent a year developing our legal framework, we need to continue to iterate on it, like we do with our software development.
  • We are continuing to learn how to align responsibilities with what our people can control.

Like all start-ups pushing into execution, this year has been a bit of a roller coaster with huge highs and its fair share of frustrations and lows, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have been on the journey with us this year. Our partners, staff and shareholders – all of whom I don’t take for granted, all of whom are taking some form of risk by working with us on this mission.

I’m grateful to share this ‘arena’ with you.

Very much looking forward to what 2017 brings us.

Happy New year