Future-proofing and securing data collaboration with DataCo

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Dataco founders Michael Bridgeman and Danny Tyrell

Future-proofing and securing data collaboration with DataCo

The words ‘data sharing’ and ‘data security’ are hot topics right now, and probably not for the right reasons. However, DataCo Technologies aims to challenge that by providing secure and efficient data collaboration and analysis.

The company began inside the Business Creation Lab of 1835i, the external corporate venture capital and innovation partner to ANZ Bank, with Co-founders including Danny Tyrrell and Michael Bridgeman developing something they’d “always wished for”.

Tyrrell explains “the DataCo Collaboration Platform is a solution that enables organisations to securely match and connect their customer data, and then perform things like reporting or analytics on that joint data for a variety of use cases, from co-marketing opportunities through to customer breach notifications…but also things like M&A (mergers and acquisitions analysis and the like”.

“This initiative, when we first started a few years ago, was focused on understanding the space [and] understanding what to do. We were trying to understand how we best solve our problem with what was in the market. What we found were bits and pieces of really good technology and partial solutions, but nothing that met what we needed end-to-end.”

“So, we made the decision to actually build the solution that would deliver the workflow and the end-to-end processes you need to do for data partnerships, by taking the best and greatest technology and assets that we could find  and making this into a complete , usable, easy solution that could be accessible for everyone.”

And the uniqueness of the industry at the moment is not lost on them.

Bridgeman says the idea for the data collaboration platform came about because “we know businesses today are challenged by a number of things around increasing consumer expectations concerning personalisation and the products and services they offer. Data collaboration  can unlock huge value in that space by helping organisations understand more about their customers  to present them with more relevant products and services."

“At the same time as the organisations are trying to improve products and services, they’re also challenged increasingly by evolving data and privacy regulation, and the expectations of their consumers to keep their data secure.

“Our platform enables them to do that. We leverage a lot of the latest and greatest privacy enhancing technologies, which means that you don’t actually have to share your information with your partner. No analysts are looking at data that’s not protected or hidden, but you can still derive all the right insights to create value for customers.”

The DataCo Collaboration Platform was built with future-proofing in mind, reflecting recommendations from leading global regulators. It also seeks to connect customer consent to enterprise data sharing, so customers are always in control of how their data is used, by whom, and for what purpose. The platform works by transforming sensitive data, such as customer names and email addresses, into non-sensitive data before organisations share it.

“What our platform allows organisations to do is to transform that data into a state that it’s no longer personally identifiable information (PII), and then do a statistical match on that data, to understand who the common customers are. All of the processes that we’ve put in place mean that there’s the right controls, so you’re not exposing this PII, not exposing yourself to things like data breaches like we’ve seen come up too often recently, but also lets you then explore what the possible value is between two organisations,” says Tyrrell.

DataCo itself is not a services provider; we are the infrastructure to enable the safe and secure collaboration between two parties,” says Bridgeman.

“On the platform, once you’ve gone through that initial customer match, that’s the start of the process. We enable a number of cool things on the platform. We can generate synthetic data assets so you can do some quite advanced modelling on data that won't compromise consumer privacy; we leverage a technology called Secure Multi-Party Computation so, again, we can build some very sophisticated personalisation engines; or you can do some more simple things … [to] measure the effectiveness and the value you’re creating with your existing partnerships.”

Part of this future-proofing setup also includes what Tyrrell calls 'the future of consent'. “[It’s] something that’s becoming more and more topical. What our platform allows organisations to do is securely explore what the opportunity is [and] what the value is, without exposing any customer data, but then actually go back and get the right levels of consent with their customers, and send it through to the platform.

“We have a capability that allows consent enforcement at the point of activation, so only customers who have actually given their consent to be involved in data sharing get  included… The product is not meant to be a ‘take your data and share it for whatever reasons’ - we’re really trying to set up organisations for the future of consent, and the future of data sharing in general.”

Another intention was for the platform to be a simple solution, accessible by data scientists  or non-technical staff, rather than requiring extensive installation of SaaS solutions or other lengthy setup processes.

“Part of our model is that you can be up-and-running within minutes on our platform. You can actually run all the concealing of the PII data within your location. Once that’s all done, you’re on the platform and you’re up-and-running and understanding those initial data points around overlapping customer bases very, very quickly. This can all be done by data scientists running through Jupyter notebooks in their native tools, but it can also be done by digital marketers just using our web-based UI,” says Bridgeman.

Since the company’s official launch earlier this year, they’ve found that their initial idea of being a solution just for banks has changed. Tyrrell says, “we’re talking to a number of organisations saying ‘No, no, no, this isn’t just the bank. This is the telcos, this is the airlines, this is the energy companies’. Everyone has a similar  view on the importance of privacy and security for their data, and they know the need for this solution.

“The other things we’re seeing coming out of the recent weeks is actually, even though these data breaches are happening, they’re not necessarily making people scared of collaboration, it’s just reinforcing the need to say, ‘don’t share your PII data - limit the data which is actually being exposed’ and that’s really at the heart of what our solution’s trying to achieve.”

It also seems to be a way for small and large businesses to come together, in a way they couldn’t in the past. Bridgeman says, “we have Australian 'scale-up stage' start-ups working with some of the largest enterprises in their respective sectors, whether that’s an energy retailer, whether that’s a loyalty platform working with a bank, there’s a number of examples where that can happen.

“Having worked in and around the financial services innovation space for a number of years, that was always a challenge we faced, where you have a young company that’s got a great customer value proposition and ideally they’d like to plug in and work in partnership with one of the big banks, but ultimately it’s just so hard to overcome the different tech stacks, the legals, whatever it is. We’re really, really excited about the fact that we may be able to unlock some of those opportunities in the future.”

Even on a personal note, Tyrrell and Bridgeman “compare notes a lot” - both being dads of young children, and spending what spare time they have with their families.

For Tyrrell, that also meant getting more in touch with his wife’s Mexican culture. “I’ve been learning Spanish for the last couple of years… I’m getting there in terms of my understanding, my proficiency. We speak Spanish at home as much as possible, but I’d love to go and immerse myself for a longer period of time at some point.”

For Bridgeman, between work and watching episodes of Bluey with his two kids, stress relief comes in the form of martial arts. “I do like to partake in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m definitely a relative beginner in the space. It hurts a lot, but it’s a heap of fun and it’s a good way to clear the head before you come into the office in the morning.”