Data is the New Oil

By boris, November 21, 2017

In recent years “Data is the new oil” has become a frequently used phrase in tech and investor circles to describe the incredible rise in the importance of data for today’s economy. Some of the world’s most valuable tech companies are built on tremendous data network effects and access to unique data: Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.

For this reason, it should come as no surprise that many entrepreneurs are thinking about how to democratize access to data. This is partly because they believe that an individual’s data should belong to themselves, and partly because there might be a big business in this.

Previous attempts to democratize access to data have been rather unsuccessful. There have been attempts to build platforms for personal health data or exchanges for advertising data to compete with the big networks like Google or Facebook (e.g. BlueKai).

But to date, nothing has really scaled. Why? There can be too much friction – it’s not easy for consumers and enterprises to provide data into the network. There can be a lack of trust, particularly with healthcare data – what happens with my data and who will have access to it? And then, there haven’t been compelling financial and non-financial incentives to participate.

Over the past year, there has been renewed energy among entrepreneurs to figure out this problem, partly because of the promises of the blockchain. While using the blockchain to manage data networks might initially create even more friction, it can help address privacy concerns. It can also provide a potentially strong financial incentive as participants can earn tokens in the underlying network that appreciate over time as the data network grows and becomes more valuable.

It will be truly interesting to watch this space over the next few years and see how things play out. Will it be vertical (e.g. a platform focused just on genetic data) or horizontal approaches? Will exchanges be bootstrapped through data from individual consumers or rather large data sets from enterprises? What will be the financial or non-financial incentives to encourage participation?

If you are working on such a project, please ping Angela or myself – we’d love to hear from you.

  • Greg Caws

    Thanks for this great BLOG, Boris, and I completely agree. As you know there is an Innovation Supercluster Initiative being run by the Federal Government with $950MM to be distributed to 3-5 applicants. The BC led Canadian Digital Supercluster is centered in Vancouver and is a finalist in the competition. Our vision is: Unlocking the potential of the data-driven, intelligent enterprise. We have over 200 companies from very large to very small participating. We are unique because our technology stack of Data, Analytics, Visualization (or to extend it IoT, AI, VR/MR) crosses all industries and creates the jobs of the future. We are leveraging our complete ecosystem and the community has been deeply involved through our town-halls and outreach program. Our mission is: 1. The Digital Technology Supercluster focuses on data driven innovation, 2. Supports the development and commercialization of globally competitive digital process, product and technology platforms and 3. Uses advanced techniques with data, analytics and visualization. We welcome the involvement of all our community and especially Investors like versionone who often shoulder the burden of the risk. Cheers.

  • bwertz

    Great to hear!

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