Personal data technology platform Dataswift raises US$2mil seed funding

  • Funding will allow team to roll out new personal data infrastructure globally
  • Seeking forward looking developers to build ethical, useful, data-rich websites & apps

Cofounders, Paul Tasker (seated left) and Irene Ng (seated 3rd from left) with Dataswift personnel in the garden of their Cambridge-based office.

[Article updated for clarity.]

Malaysian born researchers in England are making waves. While Dr Serena Nik-Zainal of University of Cambridge’s Academic Department of Medical Genetics has been showered with plaudits since being awarded the Dr Josef Steiner Cancer Research Prize 2019, another researcher, Irene Ng, Professor of Marketing and Service Systems at the University of Warwick is beginning to create ripples with her startup, Dataswift - a Cambridge-based company that enables individuals to own and use their own data. Irene, who is the CEO of Dataswift is one of seven cofounders, most of whom are academics.

Last month her startup raised US$2 million (£1.6 million) in seed funding. The round was led by Cambridge based IQ Capital, with participation from Pacific & Orient Properties Ltd, a subsidiary of Malaysian company Pacific & Orient Bhd and Alphanumeric Corporation, a BVI company that is part of a Saudi Arabia family office. Listed in Malaysia’s stock exchange, Pacific & Orient is a financial services and information technology company.

Dataswift’s platform enables consumers to interact with companies’ apps and websites using their “personal data account,” storing all the sensitive personal information that would otherwise have to sit on other company’s servers. Individuals can decide what personal data they want their ‘HAT’ (Hub of All Things) account to hold, and are able to deal directly with apps and websites, removing their dependency on third parties brokering their personal information fairly and safely. In other words, they do not have to create user accounts on websites and apps anymore.

In light of the regular data breaches occurring globally, not to mention the massive data breach Malaysians suffered with a reported 46 million accounts breached in 2014, Dataswift’s solution is addressing a major society pain point. And, according to a UK government report, it is also a lucrative opportunity for the economy, estimating the impact from productivity and competition benefits enabled by personal data mobility to generate a US$36 billion (£27.8 billion) increase in UK GDP. At the same time, it predits the contribution to GDP that digital innovation enabled by personal data mobility, is likely to be significantly greater.  

Individual HAT personal data accounts improve market access to ethical and consentful user information, streamlining the production of apps and websites, and reduce the overall incentive for cybercrime. Consumers have never been able to ‘speak’ data - they have always had to rely on companies to store and share their personal information for them.

Those companies in turn have always had to rely on the stale, out-of-date user information sitting in their corporate user accounts – information which is increasingly difficult to keep compliant with new regulations.

There are pervasive and societal issues of ethics, transparency, and user control in personal data today. When these are resolved, personal data in the online economy will power numerous advances in healthcare, finance, communications, commerce, and artificial intelligence. But for these advances to materialise, users need to maintain some form of control and legal rights over the use of their data.

Dataswift’s new funds will allow the team to roll out the new personal data infrastructure globally and will empower apps and websites to upgrade their company-held user accounts to HAT personal data accounts. Beyond expanding into new markets, the funding will also enable Dataswift to continue to invest in its technology, working with the ecosystem of 10 universities and 30 independent partners that have been implementing its approach to personal data technology for the last six years.

Commenting on their first institutional financing, Ng said: “Personal data account technology should be an essential part of a developer’s tool kit, as they build ethical, useful, and data-rich websites and applications. This investment comes at a critical time, as tech companies battle privacy concerns with their collection and usage of personal data.”

She adds that Dataswift welcomes forward looking developers to build ethical, useful, and data-rich websites and applications to a pool of global HAT owners.

Daniel Carew, Principal at IQ Capital said: “We are excited to be a part of Dataswift’s mission to revolutionise the management of personal data and we believe they are laying the groundwork for a whole new generation of personal computing applications. Dataswift’s approach elegantly addresses one of the fundamental issues with the architecture of the Internet today, and we are glad to support their global rollout.”

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