Datanoos is a committed startup that plans to turn the personal data market upside down by giving the consumer back control of their data. “Digital for All, Now” also means being able to make informed decisions on how to use data. We met Agnès Jbeily, founder and CEO of Datanoos.
You worked for companies, leaders in Big Data, mobile solutions and IT services, before you launched Datanoos. How did you develop your startup?
When I was in charge of “innovation solutions” for Ingénico, I discovered the world of data and targeted advertising during a conference organised by Criteo. It was a revelation: I got a better idea of what goes on with data, from collection to analysis and monetisation.
The data market concerns both tech giants with billion-euro revenues and startups who make millions. So we decided to break into the market by offering consumers something new: control of their data.
“We decided to break into the market by offering consumers something new: control of their data.”
We got support from the ENSAM (an elite school for engineers, Ed) incubator. I trained as an engineer and I needed new skills, particularly in management and business development. A friend who worked in one of the ENSAM’s research laboratories came on board: the incubator was the ideal place to start our project, not just in terms of proximity, for the support it gave us.
What’s wrong with the way personal data is managed today?
Giants like Facebook and Google have networking websites or platforms that are ostensibly free but most of them collect our data. These are websites we use every day, it’s difficult to do without them. The problem is we have little or no control over the process or the way these companies use our data. Our platform, on the other hand, is designed with users in mind and ensures greater control and transparency. They can analyse themselves by collecting their own data – thus seeing what sort of data is produced by their online activity – and decide whether or not to monetise it. Where companies are concerned, our platform gives them visibility of active, connected consumption and allows them to target their offerings.
What sort of obstacles did you come across when creating the startup?
The first obstacle was a financial one. Our aim was to set up a platform as quickly as possible. In the beginning we invested a little capital and the banks trusted us. Then we won first prize in a competition to help set up innovative technology companies. But our project requires substantial and long-term investments.
“Founding a startup is also working experience”
There are a number of organisations to support startups when they’re starting up but not many to help them expand in the long term. We’re in a critical phase now: the platform has been developed but it doesn’t have enough users to generate fixed income. So we have to prove our worth in order to get new funding. I think our project was two years ahead of its time: now the market’s ready. So by working tirelessly on the product, so that it appeals to people, gains credibility and gets naturally adopted, we’ll get there.
“So by working tirelessly on the product, so that it appeals to people, gains credibility and gets naturally adopted, we’ll get there.”
The second difficulty was in terms of human resources. When we started out, I had some of the typical faults of someone used to working in a big group where an ambitious idea can be developed easily because you have the right resources. In our case, we needed to hire people, particularly engineers, to do it. And that’s not always easy, especially when you have limited financial resources.
The third problem was in terms of visibility. We try to develop communication strategies to raise our profile, by getting involved in awards, competitions and events. Winning the Excellencia prize (awarded to women in the digital industry in France, Ed) for example, helped put us on the map.
What does a company today need to be agile?
I set up my own company because I didn’t feel at home in large corporations. To set up a startup, you don’t just need to want to create something: it’s also a working experience. I’m very much in favour of new ways of organising companies, especially ones which flatten the hierarchy, encourage autonomy and get people to work towards a common goal – the company’s goal.
What does “Digital for All, Now!” mean to you?
“Digital for All, Now” is a new way of offering hyper-connected services. The mobile revolution is transforming the way we devise and deliver services. Just look at education and healthcare: these industries are on the brink of radical change. Digital technology will allow us to have a 360° vision of symptoms, for example. With the Internet of Things, patients can self-monitor and send the data to a specialist who can then focus on prevention and monitoring. Payment is also being completely transformed and the arrival of new players in this area is revolutionising the banking industry.
Photo credits: System Lock by Yuri Samoilov (Flickr / licence CC by 2.0)