MarTech Interview with Neil Sweeney, Founder and CEO at Killi

As marketers focus on implementing ethical data practices in line with changing data privacy norms, there are several factors that they need to keep in mind;  Neil Sweeney, Founder and CEO at Killi discusses a few:


Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Neil, tell us more about Killi’s story so far…what inspired the platform?

The story started as an argument I had with a publisher regarding licensed data and the publisher stating that it was their data. It became very clear to me that two things were happening. 

First, there is this black box of human arbitrage, which is the data market that exists today and you can’t create a business model like that in today’s environment, it runs against the way the industry is moving around consumer inclusion and transparency. 

And second, with the changes taking place in Europe and the new privacy laws being passed across the US, businesses can’t keep operating in the same vacuum because there is this huge shift in both inclusion and transparency. 

Most CEOs will want to mitigate risk and will be re-examining how they obtain and use data. At Killi, we set off to try and solve this issue because at the end of the day businesses will not stop using data, but they need to start using data with consent and compliance.

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How are you seeing trends change when it comes to the management of personal data, from the point of view of the end user and the marketer of today

The biggest shift is that the entire data market needs to find a new supplier and move from an unconsented data market with no consumer inclusion to a market that has consent and consumer inclusion. 

Every other story in the news has a flavor of data privacy and marketers are trying to balance personalized marketing and data privacy, but every company in the world has a dependency on data.

What are some top best practices that marketing leaders and brands need to be paying attention to, to adhere to safer/secure customer data practices today?

Stop using third party data. Period. 

There is some pushback in the market that there is value here (wrong) but this is like denying software updates on your computer – you are leaving a lot on the table and eventually it will come back to haunt you I have found in the market that price and being cookieless are more important to many marketers vs consent, but what they are failing to realize is that if you start with consent, you get everything else. Not the other way around. 

Yes, you need to be conscious of privacy policies but these are redundant if you focus on the source of the data and the mechanism of managing consent. When one of the biggest most respected companies in the world is doubling down on privacy, you would be a fool to ignore this. The smart marketers are going to realize this is how they will differentiate vs the boiler room shops that are chasing the lowest price (and by default the lowest quality).

How do you feel consumer privacy will evolve as online rules and restrictions influence the way marketers and advertisers run campaigns / source and collect data?

The entire data market is shifting to one that will require consumer inclusion. There is no doubt about that. Step away from the industry for a second and think about this as a consumer first. Where can you see your data? Nowhere. Where can you be compensated for your data? Nowhere. Where can you universally opt-out or control your data? Nowhere. This is insane. A $400B data market that relies on the consumer for input has zero transparency or inclusion in it. There is absolutely no way this will continue as it runs contrary to the way in which the world is evolving. 

Data and tech companies that fight this transparency are doomed and will be replaced by brands that have a relationship with the consumer. The data market is the WORST industry for transparency and inclusion in the world – and it’s not even close. Look around you, every day there is a new story about privacy, whether its consumers’ wariness about COVID tracing, Apple changing the mobile ID, Google removing the cookie, Didi and the Chinese government removing them from the app store due to not wanting the data to float into the USA.  Things are accelerating under the surface similar to a tsunami. When it hits land, which it soon will, the wave of disruption will be bigger than anything that the data industry has seen.  

As we continue to see evolving regulations in how customer data is gathered and used, it’s evident the entire data market will migrate from unconsented to consented data. The reason the data market is so vast is because it has excluded the consumer. Consumer involvement will have a significant impact on the market overall. Marketing will be laser focused on ethical data practices, so consumer privacy will evolve to require more consumer inclusion in the sharing and compensation of personal information.

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Can you talk about the biggest challenges in store for marketers in this evolution and how marketers can circumvent them?

The biggest challenge is where do you get complaint data at scale.  The industry is notorious for marketing that they are ‘CCPA’ compliant, but nobody knows how to determine if this is true or not. It’s a total shell game. It’s exhausting for companies to try and uncover what’s real and what’s not and in a lot of cases the agency isn’t equipped to really determine if what their provider is selling them is real or not. I also think the industry is still fixated on price which is a slippery slope. The margins inside of agencies are wired to chase efficiency, ’which’ gets passed onto clients who then expect consistent lower pricing. Here’s the rub: data costs are going up, not down, and they are going to go up materially. The going rate for an individual’s location data is less than $0.01 per month. No consumer would sign up for that trade, but yet the whole location industry is based on that. The going rate for your email? Less than .01. Again, no consumer would sign up for that. You also have 90% of people not wanting to be tracked as per ATT from Apple. So the math says you have a $400B dollar market that depends on tracking yet 90% of people would vend out if given the choice and even if they did, the pricing is so far off base that these people wouldn’t participate. Think of that again and tell me this isn’t going to blow up!

The biggest challenge will impact marketers solely relying on unconsented data, or unverified third party data. Markets that do not make the shift to protect consumer privacy and adhere to the ever changing privacy laws, will be left with limited data sources. Marketers that act now will experience a regulated disruptive migration and ultimately we will see many brands replace their current data provider to mitigate risk.

A few martech and privacy tools you feel marketers today need to integrate into their overall tech stack and why?

Admit whether you have the capability to evaluate data and quality or not. Stop pretending! A glorified excel spreadsheet where you answer questions is not data validation. If you don’t have the capability to do this then rely on others whose sole purpose is this. Companies like Neutronian and others were set up to do this. I always shake my head when someone sends me a ‘data evaluation form’ and I know full well that the person on the other end of it is not in charge of data.  

Marketers should begin to integrate analytics and automation tools within their platforms that will give consumers the option to opt out or ask for their data to be deleted. This along with flexible platform ecosystems will help to safeguard the consumer and put the consumer at the center of new privacy policies as they continue to evolve.  

Some last thoughts and takeaways for CEOs and business leaders to keep in mind through 2021?

The pace at which many industries change is rapid and I believe that continued evolution is the key to business longevity, you either innovate or die. Agility is also key. Operating on the edge and creating an agile company will provide you with the opportunity to adjust your product to the market so it fits. Getting a product to fit the market is all about listening to the industry.

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Killi is ​​a company driven by the evolution of consumer data and privacy. Killi offers compliant consumers and allows consumers to opt-in to share specific pieces of data with brands in exchange for compensation from the use of their data.

Neil Sweeney is the Founder and CEO of Killi, in his +20 years in the industry, Neil established an industry-wide reputation for his visionary entrepreneurship and his ability to develop bleeding-edge technologies before others. Innovations include the world’s first mobile advertising futures market, the creation of the largest beacon network globally, and a blockchain-based consent management system. Most recently, he founded Killi – a company that aims to democratize data for consumers by providing them access and control over their personal data that has been used without their inclusion for years. 

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