Big Data

Data Acquisition And Distribution Made Easy: Interview with Nick Jordan, Narrative’s founder & CEO

Data Acquisition And Distribution Made

Narrative is the world’s #1 data commerce platform, making buying and selling data fast and easy. Founded in 2016, Narrative simplifies the buying and selling of information by eliminating the inefficiencies in data transactions that hold businesses back from maximizing the success of their most important data-driven initiatives. Innovative brands and direct-to-consumer companies leverage Narrative’s technology to fuel powerful data strategies, build data monetization businesses, power growth marketing, and inform product development. In this Interview with TechBullion, Nick Jordan, Narrative’s founder & CEO talks about all things data.

Please tell us a little more about yourself?

I started Narrative about six years ago. Prior to starting the company, I had been in product management related roles, largely at companies that were focused on data. I experienced first hand a lot of the problems that Narrative sets out to solve, largely that buying and selling data was so difficult. I was at a company called Tapad, which was acquired by the Norwegian telecom company Telenor and has since spun off into Experian. Prior to that, I was at a company called Demdex, which was acquired by Adobe. Before that, I spent about five years in Silicon Valley, most recently working at Yahoo.

What is Narrative, could you give us a walkthrough of the major services you provide and how they work?

We operate a data commerce platform. The shorthand is we make it easy for companies to buy and sell data to and from each other. We largely have two sides of our platform. We have a buy side set of tools that allow mostly big enterprises to come in, discover, compose, transact on, and ultimately have delivered to them, data across a variety of different asset classes. We also operate a sell side platform, which we refer to as our Shopify of data, or data shops, which allows any company that has any data that they would like to bring to market and monetize to spin up a go to market operation  through technology in as little as a couple of days. 

What are the top 5 data trends for 2022, including how companies MUST be in the data business to succeed?

1) Artificial Intelligence Gets Smarter: Techniques such as reinforcement learning and distributed learning are creating more adaptable and flexible systems, so organizations will be able to handle more complex business situations using AI. 

2) Rise of Self-Service Analytics: As businesses look to new ways to make data-driven decisions, we expect them to start turning to self-service analytics tools that allow non-technical users to securely access and gain insights from data, creating more efficiency, reduced costs, and ultimately, better decision making.

3) Predictive Analytics Increase Customer Personalization: Modern predictive analytics allow companies to make confident predictions about what may occur in the future. This enables organizations to increase their performance by identifying customers’ next move before they even do it, and provide a superior customer experience. 

4) Data Marketplaces Ensure Competitive Edge: Gartner predicts that by 2022, 35% of large organizations will be sellers or buyers of data. These marketplaces make buying and selling data more accessible, cost-effective, and scalable and enable organizations to generate new streams of revenue and acquire valuable data. 

5) Increased Shift to Cloud: As the Cloud becomes more flexible, immediate and innovative, organizations will continue to take advantage to cut IT costs, provide more flexibility, increase efficiency, improve security, and provide more potential for innovation.

How is the changing data landscape impacting all industries from healthcare to retail to marketing/advertising?

I think a lot of them are just trying to keep up with data. I talk to a lot of CMOs, CIOs and CTOs and in some ways, they feel like they’re drowning in data from all angles. So I think the initial impact is an internal one where companies are really trying to reorganize around data and make sure that they have their data governance and their data platforms in place. From there, I think a lot of it goes into automation and the personalization of the customer experience. You’re not personalizing your experience if you’ve got 10 million customers by hand, you’re doing that through the use of automation in AI and ML. In healthcare, we see a lot of diagnostics that are starting to be done by computers. 

So whether it’s a computer looking at an MRI or an X-Ray and trying to diagnose a condition before a doctor’s even looked at it, I think a lot of these industries are taking humans out of the decision making process. That ultimately makes them more efficient, and makes them able to scale faster and provide better outcomes for their customers. But there’s obviously some danger in that as well. I think the next couple of years are going to consist of people figuring out where their line is in terms of what the computers can do and what the humans have to do.

Online data commerce is empowering companies to buy and sell data as easily as any other product, what role is Narrative playing in this?

I think that’s really the space that we pioneered in, in a lot of ways. We are entirely focused on making that data transaction across companies seamless, easy and powerful. A lot of the folks in data commerce think that their sole function is to facilitate the transaction. So, where the rubber meets the road, or where the buyer buys something from the seller. But we actually see the problem a little bit more holistically, all the way from the back office functions that are associated with buying and selling data, legal and finance, through to the fulfillment and making sure that the data’s actually getting to the place it needs to go in the format that it needs to be. We like to think of ourselves as building the connective tissue around data commerce versus just focusing on the transaction or the marketplace aspect.

It seems companies don’t need a gatekeeper such as Apple or Google to buy data these days, what is your comment on ths?

Apple and Google certainly would prefer if everyone had to go through them to get the data. Arguably they’ve used that as their competitive advantage for decades, in the case of Google, for Apple, it’s a little bit newer with the advent of their App Store. You can almost see the proof in that, in that these companies often open source a lot of their technologies that allow them to process the data or to make sense of the data. You know, Google is famous for open sourcing a lot of their machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. I think the dirty little secret behind that is if you don’t have the data that Google has, those technologies aren’t nearly as useful as in the hands of Google. 

I think the market is wised up to this fact. And I think people are looking for ways to not have to go through these gatekeepers or through the walled gardens in order to get the information they need to run their business. That being said, I think Facebook, Google, Apple and companies like that are pushing back pretty hard through their policies and arguably even through their lobbying to make sure that they continue to be the gatekeeper. It’ll be interesting to watch over the next three to five years to see who wins out in that battle. 

The legality of buying and selling data is still very controversial, what legal and security measures does Narrative have in place for both data acquisition and distribution?

I don’t know that I would say it’s controversial. I would say it’s ever evolving. To the extent that a lot of these things haven’t been adjudicated in the court, there’s still some gray areas as to what the regulations actually say and what governance needs to be in place at an organization. Our role for our customers is largely as a software platform to enable them to buy and sell. We tell each of our customers that we are not a silver bullet for, “you can now go do anything that you want, forget regulations and laws.” We try to remove some of the friction by passing metadata about the data itself, along with the transaction, such as how it was collected under which circumstances it can be used, which jurisdictions may apply for, for some of the data regulations and data governance. 

I think anyone that’s dealing with data across almost any industry, obviously consumer data is a hot topic here, but I think there are various regulations when it comes to financial data and healthcare data and a variety of others. I think every company needs to have someone internally like a Chief Data Officer, whose role it is to really understand what the regulations are, how the data that they’re collecting falls under those regulations, how the data they would like to potentially procure or acquire falls under those regulations, and then make the right business decisions to minimize any risk when it comes to those things. Then I think when it comes to the regulators themselves, a lot of them are getting better at this. There needs to be better definitions when it comes to some of these regulations, because having read GDPR front to back and CCPA front to back, and some of the newer laws and regulations, there is a lot of ambiguity. There is a lot of gray area. I ultimately think the companies just want to do what’s right. They want to be compliant. They want to follow the letter of the law. The letter of the law isn’t always as crisp as they might like it to be.  

Do you have more information for our readers?

One thing I would share is that historically there’s been three foundations of productivity. It’s capital, people, and resources. For people you have a chief people officer or what we used to call human resources. For capital, you have a CFO. For resources, you have either a COO or depending on the type of business you’re running, the head of supply chain or a similar role. I’ve seen a number of people refer to data as sort of the fourth foundation of productivity for the modern economy. I think as part of that, you need someone in the organization whose purview is data because it’s become such an important piece of the overall foundation. Data is separate because it’s so vital to your business. It’s information in some ways. Data is your ability to make decisions, more than the raw materials that go into whatever your decisions happen to say.  

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