Evolution of a personal data start-up: the digi.me story

Digi.me has come a long way since 2009 – but how did our personal data journey of discovery begin?

It started life, as so many businesses do, as a lightbulb moment during a conversation our founder, Julian Ranger, was having with a board member at his innovation hub iBundle.

That colleague had a friend who had just lost three years’ worth of Facebook data after a glitch wiped his account while he was changing his password.

A conversation about what a shame it was to lose all those posts, photos and comments quickly turned into the realisation that there was nothing out there to help people back up their social media – so he decided there and then to create an app that did just that.

So SocialSafe (our original name) was born –  – a great and easy-to-use social media tool that allowed you to save information and pictures you had posted to your various social media accounts and search them and see the original comments and likes. Users could also make their own collections of content and export what they wanted, see their most popular posts and followers and much more!

Crucially, an early and key decision was for this data to be stored locally on the user’s own device, not on our company servers, ensuring privacy.

Julian hired a company to build the app, and it started getting users and traction, as well as some press from big industry names like Mashable and Hermione Way.

But, Julian being the entrepreneur he is, his attention was largely on other products and so this new app was little more than a hobby for the first year.

But then users started asking if we could include Twitter as well, and then if they could somehow view all of this data that they had gathered – and so we built a viewer that normalised and aggregated all the data together so you could look back across all your posts and photos across networks.

Next came the ability to search by date with the journal functionality, meaning you could find out what you posted on any given day across all your linked networks.

Demand came from users for back-ups for other social media networks as well, so we started adding the functionality for Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Viadeo and many more – and suddenly it became clear there was massive demand for this kind of service, where people could get their data back somewhere they could see it and then use it how they wanted.

For Julian, the defining moment came when he realised that what SocialSafe was doing was similar to what he had done for the military for 20+ years – bringing disparate data from multiple sources together, normalising and aggregating it and making it available for reuse.

With this lightbulb moment, SocialSafe started moving development towards the direction we are focused on now – which is gathering the data for the benefit of the user, but also helping them do more with it – and in the process help businesses desperate for accurate data to use for innovation and personalisation purposes too.

In 2013, Julian decided to focus full-time on building digi.me as a business, as it was clear that how people viewed personal data and how they felt about companies taking and using it for their own means was undergoing a seismic shift. He saw – as we all do – our app as an obvious solution to those privacy and data concerns.

Digi.me won the Le Prix d’Argent at the Le Web start-up competition later in the year from more than 700 entrants, and over time our Consent Access model, which is due to be released within weeks, allowing users to share their data on their terms in return for service, convenience or reward, was developed and evolved.

This impending expansion saw us change our name from SocialSafe, which was well-known but really related only to the (excellent) social media back-up element, to digi.me, which reflects the whole-person-and-life-data tool it will soon be.

Things began to snowball in 2015 as we started looking to the future, and what the personal data economy would look like in another five years. It was clear to us that there had to be a cultural shift, from individuals having things done to their data but unable to access it themselves, to becoming the centre of their connected world, back in control of their data and able to use it as they wished. That is the Internet of Me – and it is the future of the personal data economy.

Our new app will retain its social media back up and aggregation functions, but users will also be able to add their own data from other areas of their life, starting first with financials and health, and then moving on to other such as shopping.

The Consent Access aspect will then allow businesses, who want access to these rich, deep datasets that our users will soon hold, to approach them directly and offer them personalised offers in exchange for seeing some slices of that data.

Our product and profile continues to go from strength to strength, with partnerships with Lenovo, Western Digital and Evernote among others, and other exciting developments with major players in various industries including health, insurance, banking, telcos and FMCG.

So we’re very excited for the future and what it will bring – both for digi.me and ultimately for the benefit of all of our users and partners.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s