Digi.me merges with Personal

This post originally appeared on Medium and was co-authored by Shane and Julian Ranger (@rangerj)

With today’s announcement of the merger of digi.me and Personal, the personal data ecosystem takes a giant leap forward. (You can read the press release here.)

Personal and digi.me have each helped to define this sector — one that emphasizes individual control over the growing amount of data and analytics about people that fuels the digital world. We have done so by introducing revolutionary tools and rules for giving people control over their own social, personal, financial, health and other data while enhancing privacy, and by attracting world-class investors and some of the brightest minds in the space.

Since 2009, digi.me in Europe and Personal in North America have shared a common mission — to put people, rather than companies and governments, in greater control of their own data.

We have each made great strides, but we still have a long way to go. This merger will get us there faster and with greater force.

The timing could not be better — or the opportunity bigger. A perfect storm is brewing among rising consumer awareness, new regulations and increasingly grave threats to personal privacy and autonomy.

Shane, left, and Julian

Consumers are increasingly aware of the value that holding their own data brings and rebelling against others taking it from them without consent. For example, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s 2017 Global Consumer Trust study shows that when sharing data, 31% of consumers value personal data privacy-protection and access to it above financial rewards (29%) or discounts (22%).

Meanwhile, new legislation such as the European GDPR will deliver new consumer rights over ownership and use starting in May 2018.

And any citizen living in Europe or the United States knows that they are susceptible to various forms of government or corporate surveillance and data mining every day of the week. The vast quantity of data being collected and the deeply private insights from big data analytics and machine learning is accelerating geometrically, with users purposefully left out of the equation.

This collision of factors highlights the need for solutions like ours, but looking past the storm reveals a truly brilliant horizon. Indeed, the possibilities of what individuals and consumers can do when they control their own data are endless and powerful.

Users, businesses and governments all benefit when private sharing and consent access to personal data occurs.

With digi.me, users in Iceland, for example, can access their electronic health records and share relevant data with any medical professional who needs it through the Living Lab project — an example we intend to spread to other countries.

In finance, digi.me will be able to help consumers share their personal financial data with privacy and control with a banking or insurance company to help them get the best policy offer and reward their loyalty, but not by taking their data without permission and benefit for the consumer.

In education, Personal created a download app with the U.S. Department of Education to help make more than 100 fields of student financial aid data portable and reusable.

And a myriad of personal digital assistants and wearables will be able to arm consumers with the power of their own data just as they do for publicly searchable information like directions or comparison shopping for shoes or travel. Just imagine: You choose to integrate your personal data store with Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, say “Hey, Siri”, and all of a sudden you can access an image of your passport or get your bank account or health information served up to you instantly and ready to share.

There is a tailwind behind what both digi.me and Personal have been working on since 2009, and it gets stronger every day. The merger will allow us to expand quickly to meet this growing demand.

Personal has brought to market the world’s best product for individuals and small teams to create and collaborate on data needed for thousands of information-related tasks. It will be fully integrated into the digi.me app later this year. (Personal’s enterprise version of TeamData is being spun off as an information security and productivity company for businesses.) Personal’s development team is first class, and both digi.me and Personal have been pioneers in designing privacy and cybersecurity in their respective platforms every step of the way.

Our combined teams will hit the ground running. We are investing in expanding digi.me’s U.S. operation, which will now be led by Shane, and we are already beginning to work with major U.S. brands to partner with our apps and services.

On the development side, our teams in London, Sarajevo and the United States will work to expand the ecosystem of personal data API connectors to new third-party apps and services and will integrate with major brand partners in multiple countries around the world.

Welcome to the new digi.me — a powerhouse that will help consumers connect their data with companies and their governments to help them make better decisions and improve their lives!

Julian is the founder and chairman of digi.me. Shane, co-founder and CEO of Personal, is now CEO of digi.me’s U.S. business.

A New Round and Three Rock Star Board Members

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.
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I’m excited to announce that Bill Miller of Legg Mason has led a new $4.5 million round in Personal as an individual investor and will be joining Personal’s board of directors. On top of that, Esther Dyson and Jonathan Miller previously joined our board.

Bill is a legendary investor, best known perhaps as the only person to beat the S&P 500 for 15 years in a row. He has started a new streak: the Wall Street Journal survey reported last week that for four consecutive quarters in a row Bill and his Legg Mason Opportunity Trust have had the best 12 months performance of any mutual fund. His investment in CLEAR, the biometric secure identity management company known for speeding travelers through airport security, is well aligned with our mission of empowering people with the data they need to power their increasingly connected lives.

Esther is one of the most recognized angel investors and thinkers in technology today and has been a pillar in the emerging personal data ecosystem for a long time. She serves on the boards of global marketing conglomerate WPP Group, personal genetics company 23andme.com, and Meetup Inc., among others. She has focused on new business models and new markets, and does business as EDventure Holdings.

Jon is a leading digital executive, having served as chief digital officer of News Corporation, CEO of AOL, and President of Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. He’s currently a partner with media investor Shari Redstone in Advancit. Jon also serves on the boards of TripAdvisor (since its spinoff from Expedia) and Shutterstock, and was on the board of Tumblr until its acquisition by Yahoo.

Bill, Esther and Jon join our great backers to date, including Allen & Company, Eric Semler of TCS Capital Management, Steve Case’s Revolution Ventures, Grotech Ventures, Ted Leonsis and others.

What makes this moment special is the traction we’re getting with companies and organizations that understand the dramatic impact our user-centric model can have on their own success.

The model simply doesn’t work without trust, transparency, and, yes, privacy – or what I like to call “deciding who gets to see what.” We are building a bigger carrot, not a bigger stick, one that promises to allow more data, not less, to flow and be used with explicit permission by trusted third parties. We hope to catalyze a race to the top where companies compete for the privilege of partnering with individuals and their data.

I’ll finish by reposting these three quotes from our press release. I love the story they tell:

Bill Miller: “As a long-term investor, I have no doubt that Personal is building the most rational, sustainable model for the personal data ecosystem – one centered around the individual first and foremost. The fact that it is also so beneficial for use with trusted companies and apps – including improving their bottom lines, lowering their risks and enhancing their brands – really solidified my interest in investing.”

Esther Dyson: “To me, Personal represents the sea change from business-in-charge to consumer-in-charge – but with a business model that works. It requires not just vision but also scale and execution – and the ability to show a solid value proposition to both sides of the balance of power. I’m excited to help Personal deliver on its promise.”

Jon Miller: “Businesses, marketers and developers, especially those involved with digital media, are at a critical juncture where personal data is concerned. It’s one of their most vital assets, but current practices are not likely to be sustainable – and they are less compelling in any event than the promise of individuals bringing their own data to those experiences in a safe and convenient way. I am excited to help Personal go beyond being a productivity app into this new frontier of permission-based marketing and personalization.”

Check out our press release for more information.

Leaving Beta & Becoming a Paid Service

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

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Today is an exciting day for Personal. We’re announcing that we’re leaving Beta and will become a paid service.

We started Personal with a mission to empower individuals to easily and securely store, share and reuse their personal data. Today, thanks to lots of hard work and the help of many loyal Owners and supporters, we are making this vision a reality.

Recent improvements to our data vaults make them faster, more intuitive and easier to use. Our Fill It app is helping people save many hours filling out online logins, checkouts, applications and other forms. Companies across industries, as well as schools and other organizations, are partnering with Personal to empower their customers with these revolutionary tools.

The next step in this journey starts today, as we become a paid service. This will enable us to invest more in our growing platform of vaults, Fill It and other apps to make your information even more valuable and beneficial to you. It also shows that, unlike so many other online services, at Personal, you are definitely not the product.

For $29.99 (about $2.50 per month, or the price of a nice cup of coffee), individuals will be empowered with the best data vault and automatic form-filling tools on the market, including:

  • Private, secure web and mobile vaults synced across your devices
  • Unlimited data storage and secure sharing
  • 50 MB of secure document and photo storage as well as integration with Dropbox for additional secure storage
  • Fill It app for automatic form-filling

As a thank you to our early Owners, we are keeping Personal free for anyone who has already signed up. Nothing will change for them.

New Owners, starting tomorrow, will be able to enjoy a 30-day free trial. If a new Owner does not subscribe after the free trial expires, they will still have a free Secure Data Viewer,  so they can view the information they have entered and any information that others have shared with them, even after the free trial expires. More details about the Secure Data Viewer will be coming soon.

Finally, I want to thank our loyal Owners and supporters. Without them, we could not have reached this exciting place. We look forward to more great things to come.

For details on how the paid service terms will work, click here.

Data With Benefits: Our Open Beta Launch

This post was originally published under the same title on the Personal blog, A Personal Stand.

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I don’t want to overplay the significance of today’s date, or the fact that our web and mobile web service went live in open beta at 11:11 am GMT and was announced on Twitter for the first time at 11:11 am EST. What matters is that after two years of hard core work on a totally new kind of platform, we’re out there.

Our Android and iPhone apps will be launched later this month. We will be promoting our launch in the coming weeks once the mobile apps are out given the importance of the full mobile experience to our personal data vault and private network products.

We also have a new web site and an updated look to our brand, thanks to our new marketing team.  In case you missed it, you can read about the team, which includes former execs from Nike and AOL, and a new advisory board member from Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, in our announcement.

We really appreciate all of the people who signed up and used Personal during our closed beta. Your engagement and feedback was awesome! Among the improvements you’ll see are:

Countdown clock–  More ways to easily import data, including community gems created by Personal owners and partners. We are especially excited about what community gems can do to allow people to share knowledge and structured data with each other. You can read more in the gemware section on our site.

– Personal network snapshots for every contact and gem so people can quickly see who has what data in their life, and what they’ve received from others. This is like your personal data graph, so you can quickly and easily see all of your data relationships in life.

–  Our “Form Killer” app to instantly fill out forms online and off. This is the first true app built on top of our platform, and we think it can be huge. Imagine not having to fill out any more forms. Our developer program will be launched soon and more apps are on the way.

–  Identity management gems to help people control how others know them in Personal and elsewhere. We are excited about being a leader in this growing area.

We really liked this article in AdAge Digital yesterday called “Personal Data is the New Oil.” It’s not surprising that those in the advertising world are among the first to get how disruptive – and ultimately beneficial – Personal and companies that believe in a people-centric data model can be to creating win-win outcomes for commerce and advertising.

We can’t wait to hear what you think about the new product! Tell us at feedback@personal.com.

Shane & the entire Personal team

Washington, DC & Sarajevo

Personal Receives pii2011 Innovator Spotlight Audience Choice Award

When you spend almost two years working on something, and you show it for the first time to a room full of 250 experts, you start to reconnect with long-forgotten anxieties from, say, your first day at a new school. And when the internet connection for the live demo fails, albeit momentarily, you are right back on your first date trying to remember even the most basic details about your life.

Thankfully, Personal’s debut at pii2011, the Privacy Identity Innovation conference, was well received by a patient and supportive audience, who selected us and PassTouch (a super cool visual touchscreen login app) for the Innovator Spotlight Audience Choice Award. Given all of the thoughtful people and companies in the room working on this historical shift towards a user-centric data ecosystem, we are thrilled to get this recognition.

I have a lot of competing reflections from the conference. At times I have complete confidence that the company-centric data ownership model will change quickly now that  public awareness is growing so fast and real alternatives are emerging. But I also appreciate how hard it will be to align all of the good intent from so many different players, some of whom are still thinking too incrementally, while the current model continues to accelerate wildly (I couldn’t help but notice LinkedIn’s meteoric IPO updates while listening to the speakers).

Finally, please check out Personal’s new web site and videos at www.personal.com to let me know what you think. We spent a lot of time and effort trying to make our product and vision accessible to people who are not experts. They are the ones who have to buy in to this model for it to ever have a chance of succeeding.

Personal Series A Financing

Personal (www.personal.com) just posted an announcement on our Series A financing round, which was led by Grotech Ventures and Steve Cases’s Revolution LLC, and joined by Allen & Company, Eric Semler of TCS Capital Management, and other angel investors we have known from our days at The Map Network. You can read the announcement at: http://www.personal.com/news

Raising money is never easy, especially for a big, disruptive idea. Making sure those investors truly believe in your idea — and have the passion and commitment to help you see it through — adds even more of a challenge. I think we found exactly the right financial partners, partners who welcome, rather than fear, the challenge of turning the current model upside down and doing right by consumers. I hope people will look back in a few years and have a hard time believing the idea of companies owning and controlling our data was ever seriously considered a viable model.

We had some truly amazing meetings during our fund raising process, including many who flat out opposed our vision or else thought the horses were already out of the barn on privacy and consumers controlling their data (some even had a hand in opening the barn doors). We also heard from a number of investors and senior executives who found the task of changing the current system daunting, but who readily acknowledged that our vision was generally how the world should work. We look forward to helping them be part of the solution.

S.

Getting Personal…With Your Data

Welcome to Getting Personal, my first public blog. I will share my views in their raw form around what I believe is a historical opportunity to empower individuals with one of the most precious new resources — their data. I’d like to invite you to add your voice in rich commentary, so please sign up to receive notifications whenever I post.

I’m passionate about building new technologies, business models and even social paradigms that are designed from the ground up to put the individual’s interests first when it comes to their data and their time (that other precious resource we don’t protect enough). If data, as companies exploiting it today are fond of saying, is the indeed the new oil, well it seems to me we are each sitting on top of our own massive, untapped reservoirs.

To help make some of these ideas a reality, I left Nokia subsidiary NAVTEQ with an entire team that has worked together for a decade in data, technology and media to start Personal, based in Washington, DC. We have been working for a year on what the Washington Business Journal recently called a “mystery personal service.”

We have not been trying to be mysterious on purpose — we just needed some time on our own to work through the multitude of technical and business model challenges required to bring our vision to life. We are, first and foremost, building a platform and a company for ourselves, our friends and our families to trust and use for the long term to own, organize and manage the rapidly expanding mass of data about each us – the Digital You and Me.

I am certainly not the first to think about many of these ideas. In the late 1990s, John Hagel III and Marc Singer defined the concept of an “information intermediary,” or “infomediary,” and predicted the revolutionary potential of such a company if enough individuals trusted it with their personal information.

A number of good faith (and not so good faith efforts) have been made since that time to build infomediaries, but none have succeeded. I’ve had the chance to learn from some of these early pioneers. Their failures, along with the growing success of companies whose only business model is collecting and selling data on each of us, have greatly informed my thinking about Personal and how to build a company worthy of such trust.

If we get this right, Personal and its community of Owners (we try not to use the enterprise-centric words “users” or “consumers”) can help ensure that the there will not be a John Rockefeller and Standard Oil that come to dominate this exciting new world of data. We can all be tycoons of our own data and time and enjoy the incredible, life changing benefits that we believe will result. (But more on that in subsequent posts.)

I look forward to hearing your candid thoughts and reactions, including your concerns and worries about the business. As convinced as I am in the ultimate rights and power of personal data belonging to individuals, I think we are entering a period every bit as messy, complex and challenging as the early days of our American experiment with democracy. No one has ever governed a society where the Digital You and Me exists alongside the real you and me. And certainly no one has ever dealt in a world where their digital self becomes the lifeblood and currency of how we live and interact with everything around us. Exciting? Yes! But also scary and entirely unknown.

For those who are interested, sign-upto receive and invitation going out later this fall to join our beta community.

S.