Big tech has been monetizing user data for ages. Reza Naeeni of Swash aims to bring back ownership of user data back to the users themselves. Learn about how users could profit by installing the Swash browser extension, the type of data they collect, and their plans for the future here.
- One of the Co-Founders of Swash
- Grew up in Tehran, Iran
- Have always been around computers. Both of his parents were in the software industry
- His background is pretty varied — spent some time in Malaysia, went to Belgium for his studies, worked for an enterprise software solutions company in his mid 20s
- Used his salary from his corporate job to fund his startup ideas:
- Two of his startups failed
- Had one startup he could exit from — a job search app
- Came across blockchain in 2017. Did a feasibility study and was fascinated by the tech
Why Did They Start Swash?
- Had thought of doing something at the intersection of blockchain and data
- His Co-Founders and himself had a good sense of the importance of data rights and ownership
- There are changing trends as to how people look at data:
- Data-related regulations like GDPR, etc.
- Data scandals like Cambridge Analytica
- Wanted to use decentralized tech to give back ownership and control of data to people
How Does The Swash App Work?
- Started as a data monetization web application in form of a browser extension
- Kept it super simple – onboarding is less than 2 minutes
- The app will automatically create a crypto wallet for users
- Users will surf the net as per normal and earnings will accumulate in their wallet
- Users will be able to transfer their earnings or to exchange it for ecosystem benefits
How Did They Convince People To Grant Them Access To Their Browsing Data?
- It was a technical experiment. They did not have a strategy for this
- It only hit them when they started trying to tell people about their product
- Made it clear to users the kind of data they collect. Allows users to have an opt out option
- Incorporated the latest privacy measures to ensure that users’ privacy are not compromised
What Happens With The Data?
- They do not create profiles for specific individuals
- They anonymize and aggregate the data
- The value comes from extracting insights from aggregated data
What Type Of Browsing Data Is Collected?
- Non-personal, non-sensitive data
- Consists of websites you visit, search keywords, your path to purchase, and basically any data that the user allows them access to
- Have a few categories of data buyers:
- AI and machine learning startups
- Market research
- Data analytics companies
- Hedge funds
How Much Are People Earning From This Each Month?
- It depends on how much the token that they’ve earned is priced on the secondary markets
- Most of their users are earning $5-10 a month
- From their research, the industry standard states that you need to have 100,000 active users within a specific geography/industry, before it reaches a turning point in terms of the value of the data you provide
Did They Focus On The Supply Or The Demand?
- They focused on the supply side — getting the initial user base
“Our messaging in the early days was focused on the social aspect of Swash and telling people look, we’ve come up with this solution. And if enough people join this data union, it might start making a difference.”
– Reza Naeeni
- Tokenisation helped as well
- Once they collected enough data, they started approaching data buyers, data aggregators, and data scientists. At that point, they started focusing more on the demand side
To What Extent Was Crypto Involved As A Friction Point In Onboarding Data Buyers?
- It is still a friction point to convince data buyers to pay with crypto
- Have to educate data buyers at the beginning
What Is A Data Union And How Does It Function?
- A data union is a framework that allows people to earn the value of their data
- On the tech front, it would be a set of tools or applications that users can join
- Growth of data unions is one of the emerging trends in Web3
“There are more data unions growing these days. I would say it’s one of the emerging trends in Web3. And it’s a promising one because it’s appealing to people and mainstream, and it’s really solving a real issue, and it’s creating real value.”
– Reza Naeeni
How Different Is A Data Union From A DAO?
- Not every data union is a DAO
- There are different ways to design economic incentives and redistribution of value through a data union
- In their case, they redistribute 70% of the value generated from the data union back to people
- They are not at the point where they can decentralize the governance of the data union because they have to work with data buyers and advertisers in the traditional world
Donating Your Data To Social Causes
- There’s a search engine called Ecosia that plants trees for searches made through it
- Wanted to enable people to donate their Swash wallet earnings to a social cause of their choice
- In their next version, they will implement a feature for users to donate to the social causes of their choice
- Need to find progressive charities that would be open to receiving donations in crypto
What’s In Store For The Next Year?
- They started with a data union
- Their next step would be to productize that data to buyers through their sIntelligence platform — an intelligence platform providing unique business insight to businesses
- Will have sApps, which are a set of tools and development environment for developers to build on top of Swash
- This is followed by sCompute — a computational environment where data scientists or companies can run their algorithms on their data to extract insights
This podcast summary was prepared by The Reading Ape in collaboration with Outlier Ventures. The Reading Ape is a humble servant of the written word.
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