Hi, Michael. Welcome to the MarTech Interview Series. Please tell us a little bit about your role at Cirus Foundation and how you arrived here.
I am the co-founder of Cirus Foundation, a multi-layered solution combining hardware and software to help individuals take control of their digital assets and leverage them as a digital currency. I am an entrepreneur currently based out of Toronto, Canada. At Cirus Foundation, I focus on developing bridges between the futuristic decentralized world and what can be done now to enrich people’s lives by furthering the (data) ownership economy.
Before Cirus Foundation, I founded two highly successful ventures in health technology and decentralized assets.
What is the Cirus Foundation? What are your offerings to the targeted markets and customers?
Cirus Foundation is the development team behind the Cirus Ecosystem, an easily accessible onramp designed to accelerate the adoption of Web 3.0 and the Ownership Economy. This consists of the Cirus suite of tools, the Cirus Core, and the Cirus Confluence Network, which work together to provide users true ownership over the data streams they generate.
We are building the backbone that will foster a new online era, where people own their data, earn value from it and can experience new forms of financial freedom.
Could you please explain what zero-party data means and how it has emerged as a game-changer for the current data marketplaces?
Zero-party data is information (data) customers intentionally share with organizations they proactively engage. Essentially, it’s when consumers conscientiously opt-in to sharing specific information. The newfound focus on zero-party data is being fostered by a few specific internet regulations around data ownership and overall privacy – ultimately bringing a new level of education to consumers. The culmination of regulations like GDPR, CCPA, the depreciation of cookies and IDFA are laying the groundwork for much less new consumer data to emerge.
This puts previously non-existent power in the hands of consumers. Brands will need to re-learn how to operate with less granular insights, and find new ways of engaging their existing or desired audiences. It will present a fundamental value shift – where brands need to reward, or fundamentally pay, consumers for the necessary information to engage them with marketing materials.
So much has changed around data privacy and compliance. Why does ethical data matter so much and how do you ensure this is complied with?
As it stands today, data is the backbone of our global economy.
The amount of data available grows every second – bringing both immense opportunities to help people or optimize experiences. However, the other side of the coin is laden with detriments around privacy and mis-alignment of revenue to consumers and the online experiences they participate in.
The notion of data ethics is critical, particularly as data oligarchs collect oceans worth of consumer information. Typically, personal data is sold to companies to use for marketing engagements or special social media experiences. However, data breaches stand to cause harm to consumers, leaving us all open to privacy violations, fraudulent charges, and identity theft.
Who are the data oligarchs? Can these oligarchs contribute to zero-party data?
In reality, it’s the largest companies in the world with the broadest sets of consumer data. A few examples include Apple, Amazon, Meta, TikTok, Twitter, etc.
Why is it important to involve the end consumer in the use of their data?
It’s important for transparency’s sake. Involving consumers through means like rewards or incentives, is a major benefit as well, in addition to simply affording them the opportunity to choose how and who can benefit from such a highly monetizable asset.
Consumer inclusion could be an important factor in improving how the data management environment works. Who stands to benefit the most from a data ecosystem that’s inclusive of the consumer?
Aside from the aforementioned data oligarchs, everyone stands to gain from a more inclusive data system.
Consumers getting paid for their data, as a standalone is great, but what’s potentially even better would be the ability for them to pool earnings from their data and redirect it causes they believe in. Imagine if there were a catastrophic weather event, and everyone who owns their data decided to collectively funnel these earnings for a period of time to the Red Cross in that community. This has the potential to generate a sizable amount of aid. Just imagine the good that could be done if we could seamlessly redirect billions of dollars away from the oligarchs into various causes?
What other opportunities, outside of money, can owning data unlock for people?
Aside from earning money, one of the biggest opportunities here is simply providing long overdue privacy and consumer choice for how this information is being used.
What’s the biggest hurdle to consumers owning their data today?
A few things need to happen for consumers to be broadly educated on the use and ownership of their data. The biggest hurdle is around brands accepting reality and moving away from the current data model. Notably, a few things need to happen:
- 1) The cookie must finally crumble – Google’s new eta is the end of 2024, based on their most recent post
- 2) A sizeable advertising company would need a big enough dataset of users to move the needle for brands
- 3) The value-relationship would have to be really understood
The core focus for Cirus is to close the gap on the value-relationship, employing the brand to better value customers through multiple ways, zero-party is just one aspect of this. If brands really understand how Web3 plays a role in growing digital communities, loyalty, and better serving the customer, they may be more inclined to adopt new data-serving platforms.
What’s the biggest opportunity in Web3? Ethical data?
We believe one of the largest opportunities in Web3 is empowering the approximately 1.7 billion people who are currently unbanked. One third of these people cite costs, distance to a physical bank, documentation requirements, and distrust in the financial system as main reasons for being unbanked.
If this large set of people found a secure and frictionless banking solution, global economies would benefit and many regions would experience societal evolution historically wealthy nations provide. Web3, when married with the Fintech industry, could provide an answer by reducing friction to banking tools, lowering costs and innovating online banking services.
What do brands need to consider as they start developing Web3 marketing strategies?
Brands can effectively be a part of Web3 by creating truly valuable relationships with consumers – not from the generic marketing perspective of making ‘valuable relationships with customers’ but by literally sharing earned value with them. For example, a CPG brand can partner with a digital wallet, and if so, can give the customer a few dollars back off their purchase. The customer can then use that however they want – they can spend it on other goods, or purchasing another item from the CPG brand immediately.
Additionally, if given access, the CPG brand can understand how the consumer chooses to spend that kickback, helping them market better to that consumer in the future. This can be done just as it is today – for example evolving creative in real time based on user insights, or providing different types of rewards based on the consumer’s shopping preferences, etc. The critical thing is, all of this is gleaned through a valuable exchange of currency for data.
In the event that we enter an era with less data available for brands (based on consumers likely not sharing the same data that’s available today), will this encourage brands to adopt a more probabilistic approach?
Of course. In the likely scenario is that less consumer information will be available to brands based on opt-ins, so they will have to adopt more wide-reaching strategies. This is not to say it won’t be without friction at the start, but it’s almost certain that brands will eventually have to find new ways to operate with less access to information than they’re accustomed to. Additionally, there will be new demands put on finding more inclusive approaches to reaching people.
The Cirus Foundation is the development team behind the Cirus Ecosystem: The Cirus Web3 Wallet, and associated applications, which work together to give users true ownership over their data, and leverage its real-world value.
Michael is the Founder of Cirus – the web3 wallet that pays you. Michael has founded multiple companies in health-tech and blockchain. From launching Toronto’s first smart meal delivery company based on biometrics to developing new Stablecoin initiatives for brands – Michael has led major projects and won several awards for emerging tech start-ups. Since 2017, he has been focusing on developing Web3 solutions that unlock the new financial freedoms for people around the world.