Digi.me was founded by Julian Ranger in 2009, looking to address concerns over individual data privacy and use of personal information in business.
Based near Farnham in Surrey, digi.me has grown to 16 employees, having been funded initially by Ranger's own money he made from selling a previous business.
V3 first encountered Ranger at the Digital Catapult where he was showcasing digi.me's potential to be part of the Internet of Things ecosystem.
To find out more about digi.me we put Ranger under our Startup Spotlight.
If you want to take part in the V3 Startup Spotlight contact Roland Moore-Colyer.
Previous startups under the spotlight have ranged from cloud computing services firm Fedr8, to public sector website developer DXW, customer feedback system provider truRating, and online car repair marketplace ClickMechanic.
Tell us about digi.me
Digi.me enables individuals to own all their own data, for their own benefit, and it allows individuals to control data sharing with businesses, allowing companies to have greater knowledge, innovation and trust, leading to higher engagement and value to businesses and consumers.
It aggregates all a user's data, such as social, financial, health, purchases, position and more, into a single local library under the user's direct control and ownership on their devices and personal cloud of their choice, which makes their library 100 percent private to them.
The software provides an interface for the user to manage their own data. They can view, search, create collections, export and do more with their data, which means they have an immediate benefit from owning their own data.
Digi.me also provides a Permission Access capability where businesses can request, through digi.me's unique certificate system, data from the user. If the user agrees, digi.me will pass the data to the business, third-party app or website.
This allows a business to access 'rich data' which is wider, deeper, accurate, permissioned and efficient, while meeting all current and projected data protection laws.
Why did you develop digi.me?
As individuals, our data is spread over other multiple sites owned by others. We lose data, are unable to access most of our data and cannot collect it, reuse it or benefit from it.
That makes no sense in the digital age. Having provided a service for data management and aggregation for the military, and seen that similar services exist for businesses, it was a simple step to consider doing the same for individuals, especially when it became obvious that the simple case of the individual owning and controlling their own data would solve the problems for individuals and would allow businesses to do so much more than they can do today for us.
Tell us how you got your business off the ground
I funded the business from my own resources for the first few years, and also recruited initial staff from projects I previously worked on. We have since raised £2m from various private investors to expand digi.me's services and reach our vision.
What technology do you use?
The simplest technology we use is recognising that the data needs to be held locally by an individual, not through a separate software-as-a-service. Processing happens at the edge of the network not the centre.
This requires various data normalisation and exchange techniques that were first implemented for the world's military in my previous business.
What level of funding have you received so far?
£2.6m including founder and external funding.
What challenges have you encountered to date?
To achieve our vision, individuals have to care about their data and about owning it, as if you don't own your own data you cannot subsequently control the sharing of it with others.
This meant that we had to provide an application that allowed users to benefit from their data themselves. We have achieved this with digi.me, but of course working on this has taken time to ensure it is easy to use and provides immediate benefit and engagement.
Thereafter, distribution and making people aware we exist is an issue, as it is for all new businesses, and explaining our vision in a simple way, which we think we now have using a deck of cards (video below).
What's been the biggest highlight of your business to date?
Having people understand, buy in and help to refine our vision, whether that is our hundreds of thousands of users, or world experts such as Gordon Bell.
Having an idea is one thing, having others take that idea, run with it, help you develop it and make it a reality makes every day interesting and enjoyable, and helps the whole team overcome the regular challenges that face any new business.
What does your company do to relax or have fun after a busy day?
Go home to our families and friends, occasionally via a bar. We believe in working hard during the day, but balancing that with a full home and family life in the evening and weekends, though we don't always live up to that ideal when the pressure is on.
What did you do before starting digi.me?
I started life as a farm labourer, bar man and hotel manager before getting an Aeronautical Engineering degree. Then I worked on the Tornado F3 fighter aircraft, before starting a military systems business in 1986 which I sold to Lockheed Martin in 2005.
I then semi-retired and went round the world for 18 months and became an angel investor in businesses such as Hailo, DataSift and Astrobotic, before then starting digi.me.
What are your favourite and worst things about running your own startup?
Trying to change the world from a zero start is the most fun you can have in life. It's challenging, but never boring, and each step forward brings an internal smile.
The worst thing is knowing that everything is finely balanced with regards to money, time and capability. Can we do what we want and convince enough people of what we're doing in each business cycle to ensure we survive to the next stage?
The uncertainty is what makes being an entrepreneur rewarding and fun, but it's also the downside. We're living on the edge.
If you could emulate the success of another startup, which would it be?
We believe we're unique, of course, but I would love to hope that our users would regard us as highly as Apple users regard Apple.
Do you work remotely, in a shared environment or have your own office space?
In a shared office and remotely as I'm often on the road.
Back to the early days of aviation with the likes of Sopwith, Mitchell and, more recently, Burt Rutan.
They weren't one-trick ponies, but knew a lot about many different things. They had to design whole aircraft that worked as fully functioning systems of systems. We can be over-specialised today and not broad enough in our thinking.
Smart or casual?
Coffee shop of choice?
Beverage of choice?
A pint of mix: half and half Greene King Abbot and Greene King IPA.
Plume and Feathers in Crondall.
gReader Pro. It allows me to catch up on all my reading offline.
Do you benefit from startup communities and related networking?
Yes, undoubtedly so. Learning from others, sharing experiences, helping each other, developing relationships that lead to partnerships and more, all come from engaging with others on a regular basis.
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