Sam Jones, the Founder of digital data company Gener8 tells us who he admires, and what defines her way of doing business.
What do you currently do at Gener8?
At Gener8, we build digital tools that enable people to control and make money from their data. Our core product is a browser extension that enables people to monetise their own data whilst browsing the internet. Users are earning £5 – 25 per month on average just by going about their usual online routines.
We tailor all of the banner ads that you see online, so that they’re based on the preferences you’ve given to us. You just select what you’re into; whether it be sports, fashion, television etc, and we’ll ensure the adverts you’re seeing suit your tastes. You’ll then receive points every time you see an advert on any web page you visit, or any time your data is used by a third party. Points can then be exchanged for products in our marketplace, gift cards or you can even donate to charity.
It takes two seconds to install and every user has their own profile which they complete in no time at all. After this, we just sit in the background whilst you browse the internet. As well as shape all of the banner adverts a person sees to fit their interests, if the user opts in, we’ll anonymise their browsing data and use this for custom research.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I remember the moment that I realised our entire digital lives are being tracked. Most of us don’t know this is even happening. We mindlessly click ‘accept’ on the cookies popup that gets in the way of the article we’re trying to read. But the reality is, that split second tap of the mouse is – more often than not – opening a gateway for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of companies to start tracking, sharing, and profiting from your online activity. In fact, it’s said our data is worth around $289 per individual each year.
But this is our information, it’s our data and under GDPR legislation it’s legally our own property. So I asked myself: ‘Why are strangers making money from my time spent online? And how can I share in the money that’s made from my own data?’
Consequently, I left a role I loved – as Global Brand Manager at Red Bull – because this issue was something I was passionate about tackling. I had a vantage point over the global advertising landscape for a long time and watched as it grew and changed. I could see the trends within the industry, and time and time again I saw that too many companies were taking advantage of people’s apathy towards their personal data – and there was a total lack of transparency surrounding this.
I knew that people needed to be made aware of this issue and given more control over what their data is used for. We should be able to share in wealth that’s created from our data.
Who do you admire?
I think that what Brian Chesky and his team have built at Airbnb is remarkable – in particular what they accomplished in the early days whilst the world was very much against them. Their tenacity to continue through adversity – launching multiple times to try and attract users and battling consistent rejection when raising capital. Today the fact that they have 150M users and will be going public with a market cap of over $30 billion is a great example to all early stage founders.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
One of the biggest lessons is that I would bring all functions in-house as early as possible. Whether it’s engineering or marketing, you need to have the talent internally so that you can move fast and adapt in real time.
What defines your way of doing business?
Listen to users; move fast; break the mould.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Action always wins. So do it. Whatever ‘it’ is, if you want any chance of succeeding you need to move from talking about it to acting on it.