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Nick Halstead, founder and chief executive, InfoSum

Nick Halstead

Path to power

I’ve been an entrepreneur within digital industries for many years, with 12 years in the gaming industry under my belt before moving into data and analytics.

 

During my time as CEO of DataSift, we were the first to realise the value of social media data for understanding personal preferences, which we brought to market and successfully scaled to power over 1,000 social media companies and dealt with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

At the end of my tenure, DataSift had raised over $80 million, with 200 staff based in offices around the world. My personal highlight has to be inventing the “Retweet” button in 2008, which we eventually sold to Twitter.

 

Following on from DataSift, I founded InfoSum in 2016 to help publishers and advertisers collaborate with data in a privacy-safe way. The goal was to reinvent how the industry approaches customer identity through our platform, which has made significant headway in only four years. In 2019, InfoSum signed up The Telegraph, Infectious Media, and Immediate Media, and we’ll be announcing further partnerships in 2020.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

Being four years ahead of the market when we set out to build the InfoSum platform has to top the list. Prior to its creation, this type of collaboration around data was unheard of and unthinkable. It is a testament to the abilities of the team at InfoSum that we were able to design, build, and bring this solution to market within such a short period of time.

 

Who is your role model or the person you look to for inspiration?

I don’t stake much faith in entrepreneurial role models for the simple reasons that businesses operate in vastly different contexts and are subject to varying amounts of luck. I regularly mentor start-up leaders and encourage them to work things out for themselves, rather than act on business advice from others.

 

Did 2019 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

Thankfully a lot of my predictions for 2019 came to fruition or InfoSum would likely be in a very different position than it is now. However, my hopes for stricter regulatory enforcement weren’t met. I had expected 2019 to be the year industry bodies implemented GDPR more vigorously. But the penalties levied under the legislation didn’t even come close to reflecting the vast number of data breaches and complaints logged over the course of the year.

 

What do you expect 2020 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

I expect Internet browser companies to be more influential than government bodies in setting the agenda for data regulation in 2020. Radical action to limit the influence of mega-platforms – Facebook, Google and Amazon – is unlikely to come from above.

 

Instead, a defining trend will increasingly be control over first-party data, allowing brands to better understand their customers in a privacy-safe way, and hopefully resulting in more ethical practices when it comes to gathering and analysing personal information.

 

Data and technology are changing business, the economy and society – what do you see as the biggest opportunity emerging from this?

The biggest opportunity to come from new technology and data management methods will be the ability for publishers to compete with the mega-platforms of Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

 

There is a significant number of engaged customers and swathes of data in existence outside the walls of mega-platforms, and now there is the industry demand to harness this. Combined with the current drive towards decentralised technology, publishers and advertisers can increasingly co-operate better and provide an appealing advertising alternative to mega-platforms.

 

What is the biggest tech challenge your clients face in ensuring data is at the heart of their digital transformation strategy?

Siloes are the ongoing obstacle for the vast majority of companies going through digital transformation. Data can be so disjointed that employees don’t know how many customers they have. This isn’t helped by the fact companies are often simultaneously running distinct software systems to do the same thing; for example, a large business might use ten different CRM platforms. Knowing where data is located and being able to bring it together in a centralised location is critical to digital transformation and can determine the success of a company.

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