What’s the Right Model for Personal Data Stores?

This post was originally published on Ctrl-SHIFT

Last week the US based personal data store Personal announced it was moving from a free to a paid for service. We caught up with co-founder and CEO Shane Green to ask him about the background.

1. What does this move from Personal suggest about the evolution of the PDS market as a whole?

I think it signals the emergence of a robust, stable business model that both consumers and companies already understand – you pay for a service or product that is valuable.

We believe the heart of the current PDS or personal data vault market opportunity is around productivity and convenience, in the vein of Evernote or Dropbox. While we see incredibly interesting VRM-type opportunities on the horizon, we have found that people immediately understand the value of a PDS if their lives are made easier and more convenient by it.

For that reason, we’ve priced our core service – $29.99 per year – at a price point that individuals are already paying for similar type services. And given the sensitive and private nature of certain data in a PDS, we have also found that people have more confidence in the privacy and security protections offered when there is a cost associated. And, of course, they don’t have the lingering suspicion about “being the product” that is being sold as can be the case with a free service.

I would add that we have also found a meaningful appetite among companies in certain verticals, such as banking, insurance, health and education, to help pay for such a service if it brings value to their customers. The fact that they are willing to pay for the service while respecting the integrity and sanctity of an individual’s control over a PDS is a huge step forward for the industry as a whole.

For more background on our announcement, please see these two links:
http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/techflash/2013/06/personalcom-is-now-charging-but-its.html?page=all http://blog.personal.com/2013/06/leaving-beta-becoming-a-paid-service/

2. What are the particular things that you think people will be prepared to pay for? (is it safe storage of my data, easy form filling etc.)

As I mentioned, it all starts with productivity and convenience that is demonstrable in their lives. Our paid service will give the user a number of benefits: secure storage of and constant access to important data, notes and files; secure sharing of this information with other people, apps and organizations; easy reuse of data through automatic form-filling; and easy imports of information and documents from companies and organizations they do business with. In addition, we will charge for additional services and benefits around security and other functionality. Stay tuned for details.

While our initial go to market partners see this as more of a value added service to offer their customers, what will take the paid service to the next level is evidence that connecting with customers via a PDS and private network can impact both their top and bottom lines.

3. It’s often said individuals are not prepared to pay for services like these. Is this conventional wisdom wrong? If so, why?

I think conventional wisdom reflected a certain reality that is changing. Quite simply, PDS services have not delivered enough tangible value to date. They have been too limited in the benefits they delivered, and most have been quite a lot of work to make useful.

But all of the hard work by the current wave of PDS providers is paying off, both because the products are delivering more value, and the macro trends could not be coming together more powerfully, whether it is the pervasiveness of smart phones in our lives, the explosion of connected devices and the data they generate, or the privacy and security discussions now dominating headlines.

Organizations like Ctrl-Shift, the World Economic Forum and the Aspen Institute have all been documenting this shift recently, including focusing on big companies and governments (such as the US and UK) that are innovating around ways to give data back to people. It all points to the fact that the concepts of data vaults and individuals gaining greater control and value over their information is becoming mainstream. Previously, people didn’t have the technology to properly leverage that information. That has changed with the emergence of a number of start-ups, including Mydex, Paoga, Qiy, Respect Network, and Personal. But this trend is not limited to start-ups. The World Economic Forum’s recent report highlighted Fortune 1000 companies that are also providing products and services that empower people with their information.

4. What areas will Personal be looking to develop with this new investment?

Our main focus is on making our PDS available when and where it is needed in a person’s life. We are super focused on the different contexts where people need data – or are creating data – and how to make the PDS seamlessly integrated while maintaining user control with privacy and security.

Ironically, many of those contexts involve companies, organizations, schools, hospitals, government agencies, apps, sites, etc. – third parties of all kinds. There is just no reason people need to manage such data interactions separately across what we call their “personal data graph.”

Just as the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement was inevitable, we believe the Bring Your Own Data movement is just an inevitable. But a BYOD world requires new kinds of permission and trust, and as that happens, I think you are going to see a wave of BYOD apps that are a magnitude better than current apps that either track us or require social data sharing. We are excited to help catalyze that ecosystem.

Note

Ctrl-Shift’s Personal Data Store report analyses the growth of the PDS market, while our Breakthrough Efficiencies research look at some of the benefits organisations can reap by linking to new personal data management services.

Author: Shane Green

co-founder and CEO of Personal and TeamData. Focused on empowering people and teams with data. Previously The Map Network, Nokia, NAVTEQ, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. rshanegreen.com and @shanegreen

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