Imagine a world where rich customer data is available to business – with complete privacy to the individual. Julian Ranger says his company, Digi.me, can make this happen. And it’s game changing, he explained to MEF Minute…

Julian Ranger has the cards out again.

He is talking about his start-up by dealing, cutting and turning over 52 playing cards.

It’s an unusual way for a tech entrepreneur to pitch his business idea. But Ranger is not a regular tech entrepreneur. Sure, he has impeccable geek credentials. But he’s also a showman. And he’s hit on a novel way of explaining the concept behind his current venture, Digi.me.

Good job too. Digi.me is one of the pioneers of the idea Ranger calls ‘the Internet of Me’ (aka the API of Me, M2B, the personal data economy and more). It’s a big ground-breaking idea, once you get your head around it.

Trouble is, not everyone can get their head around it.

Why? Because the Internet of Me is often described in evangelical or conceptual language. Its central notion is this: let’s return the ownership of personal data away from corporations and back to users. This excites idealistic people who distrust big business. And they don’t explain it very well.

Ranger sympathises with the evangelicals. He recognises there’s a trust issue out there among consumers. But he doesn’t think distrust will drive the Internet of Me.

In fact, he doesn’t think customers will drive the idea at all. He thinks the idea will only fly when businesses see the upside. So he spends much of his time selling it to them.

Which brings us back to the cards.

Ranger originally used a handful of printed business cards to explain Digi.me. The tactic succeeded in holding the attention of listeners who could otherwise be distracted by their emails.

So he went further. “I’d seen a viral video featuring a guy who told a funny story through cards, so I devised a story using 52 cards and rehearsed it,” he says. “Then I got some cards, laminated them and practiced on my friends. It really worked. People listened and were fascinated.

“Before the pack of cards, I’d say 50 per cent of people in meetings ’got it’, Now it’s 100 per cent. They can’t help but be engaged and think about their own use cases.”

You can see the video here.

What the cards say is this: people have their data spread across multiple locations – Facebook, Spotify, bank, doctor’s surgery etc. This information is incomplete, siloed and non-transferable.

This has led to some familiar and depressing problems. Organisations lose the data. Or it gets stolen. Meanwhile consumers go from account to account entering the same information every time. And then forgetting passwords.

Far better to have a one place for all your stuff. But who can you trust?

There’s only one feasible contender: you. If you could own your data, you could share it on your own terms with trusted brands/agencies. These parties would get information that was accurate, rich and bang up-to-date.

Even better, they would not have to host it themselves, with all the costs, compliance and security risks that go with it.

Needless to say, Digi.me wants to make this scenario real.

The trouble is, it’s too big an idea for the average punter. And Ranger himself agrees that concerns about privacy won’t be enough to make people embrace it.

That’s why Digi.me keeps things simple. Its app doesn’t sell a big vision. Instead it offers a simple tool for doing one thing: managing your social media accounts.

People will download the Digi.me app because it offers universal search across all their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (etc) content. They can add local content (photos etc) into the app too.

Of course, this is a trojan horse. In time, Digi.me will offer the ability to add health and financial data and shopping transactions too.

unspecified-1Eventually, when users are accustomed to having one place for all their stuff, Digi.me will bring in the companies. And then the magic will begin.

Ranger gives the example of how an insurance company might engage. “This could transform on-boarding and claims. Take a medical claim. At the moment you have to send your claim to the insurer, who send it to your doctor, who charges £100, who sends it back to the insurer. It takes ages and it’s expensive.

“With our system the insurer’s app asks your Digi.me app for the information, fills out the form and it’s transferred in seconds. And the important thing is, we never see or hold your data. This is game changing.”

There’s a good reason why Ranger chooses an insurance example. When Digi.me raised £4.2m ($6.1m) in Series A funding, the round was led by global re-insurer Swiss Re.

At the time, Daniel Ryan, head of digital analytics catalysts at Swiss Re, said: “People want to be in control of their data, and many have strong views over what they are willing to share and what they want to keep private. We’re excited about digi.me because it will enable people to go one step further, and provide full transparency over how they can use their data to access services and benefits.”

Ranger stresses that companies like Swiss Re will be able to do more with Digi.me than just speed up processes. He believes they have a chance to start new conversations with customers.

“If I’m a brand and I’ve just done a really fast and efficient transaction with you – and I haven’t got your data so know one can hack it – the chances are you’ll do more with me. I might be able to offer you a health app that can sit on your phone and look at your data and offer advice. Again, all done without me or the healthcare company seeing any of your private data.

“There’s a real first mover advantage here. Once I start a conversation with you, that will be hard for other companies to interrupt.”

If the opportunity is huge for companies, it goes without saying it’s huge for Digi.me too.

Ranger says he will charge third parties 10c per interaction with a user, capped at $3 per user per year. Clearly, if he can get tens of millions of people using the app many times a year, that’s a significant sum (there are around 400,000 users now). And, as he is keen to point out, that’s without Digi.me handling any storage or bandwidth or processing. That all takes place on the phone.

He says: “We’re bringing the processing to the data. This is so important. We are your librarian and your postman, but we don’t ever see, touch or hold your data.”

Despite the support of Swiss Re and Ranger’s focus on major brands, he believes every business in the world could ultimately benefit from the Internet of Me concept.

He says: “A two person business could ask for your data, and it would be richer and more accurate than Google’s. The data advantage will go away and the competitive advantage will be what you do with it.”

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