Consciously or not, there’s a kind of deal we make when we use many online services — in exchange for free access, we accept ads and give up some of our personal data. Now a startup called DataWallet is planning to make that exchange a little more rewarding, with real cash.
Brands often want access to this kind of personal data, and DataWallet founder and CEO Serafin Lion Engel argued that there are consumers willing to share it: “There’s kind of an open-mindedness involved in the notion of being able to monetize the data yourself.”
So DataWallet can plug into various online accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Eventbrite, Spotify, Airbnb, Uber, Amazon and more. Brands can specify exactly what kind of data they want and how much they’re willing to pay for it, then users can decide whether or not they’re willing to share. Engel said the data is anonymized, with users given a preview of exactly what will be sent to the buyer.
You can expect to make between $3 or $5 for each data sale, Engel said, but the sales can add up to hundreds of dollars as you sell the same data to multiple companies, and as those companies continue to pay you for access to new data.
“The interesting thing is that our platform will allow [buyers] to layer any one of these [data sources] on top of one another,” Engel added. “This will create a very holistic overview for the buying companies since they will get insight into consumption behaviors and trends among a variety of different platforms. … The more data sources get layered in any given data sale, the higher the payoff for the user.”
For example, Engel said an apparel company might want to do research for an advertising campaign aimed at college students on the West Coast. So it could use DataWallet to ask those students to share information such as their Facebook Likes and their purchases on Amazon. (There will be a minimum number of participants required for each data sale to actually take place.)
All data shared through DataWallet is encrypted, and consumers can choose to opt out of a sale at any time with the click of a button, Engel added.
He developed the DataWallet idea while participating in venture capitalist Tim Draper’s entrepreneur training program Draper University. Draper and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff each invested $150,000 in the company, and it also raised $50,000 as part of the Alchemist Accelerator for enterprise startups.
“I love Datawallet,” Draper told me via email. “It creates a whole new marketplace — one for data. All these people are starting ‘big data’ companies, but there is no place to sell it. I believe that Datawallet allows easy trading of data, and turns the market for data upside down.”
The company is currently accepting sign-ups for its beta program.