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On GDPR, High Colonics And Opportunities For Founders

As an investor and mobile native, I talk to a lot of young founders. The energy and pure innovative spirit they exude is fuel for me -- I love it. One thing that bugs me, though, is how easily some founders can be dissuaded from following a particular path based on feedback from their influencers, or whatever the big, scary industry buzz of the day happens to be.

About two years ago, the boogie man in the advertising industry’s room was ad blockers. Everybody was talking about it, everybody was writing about it. Ad blockers were going to eat everyone’s lunch and forever change the face of advertising.

In the end, the whole thing felt more like Y2K -- lots of Chicken Little, not much meat.


I’d argue that ad blockers have proven to be a good thing by making the industry focus more on users than on ad units. I’m pretty sure the words "user experience" have been uttered more by advertisers in the last few years than in the preceding decades. So, in the case of ad blockers at least, the boogie man turned out to be a bit of a rainmaker instead.

The boogie man of today -- the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) --  kicked-off in spring of 2018. The buzz is that GDPR means instant Armageddon for those reliant on location sources and user opt-in. I don't buy it.

The GDPR storm won’t be a cyclone, and the advertising landscape will ultimately benefit as a result of its introduction. Frankly, the whole industry is going through a cleansing process, and GDPR is just the high colonic the doctor ordered. Why?

Anything that compels the people who buy, sell and exchange consumer data to more actively manage those workflows is a good thing for the health of the industry. It establishes a code of conduct, guarantees users a path of resolution and helps keep the bad guys out.


Bravo, truly. No legitimate buyer or seller of data should have a problem detailing its legal compliance, origin or composition -- you can’t even buy dirt from Home Depot that way.

As someone who invests in companies that do cool things with data, I am not dissuaded by GDPR. It excites me because I know the quality of the data available to work with is better than ever before.

Pretty soon, data might even be labeled like groceries, so marketers will know the exact composition and freshness of what they’re getting. That’s going to be an exciting (and emergent) marketplace, but that’s not the only business opportunity that will come from GDPR.

New solutions and services will be built to assist with GDPR monitoring and compliance. New technical and legal specialties will arise, creating educational programs, industry forums and specialized roles for skilled personnel. Venture capital dollars will flow to the best and biggest ideas, and winners will emerge.


At the end of the day, the quality of the data product making it to marketer’s hands will be much, much better. With the right marketing technology stack and a smart, agile hand on the wheel, a good marketer can spin that raw data into target-marketed gold. That’s a fact.

Typically it’s younger, hipper companies and people that clue-in to these kinds of opportunities first, which is why innovation in the face of looming disruptions happen so quickly: Fast-movers don’t fear change, they make it work to their advantage.

GDPR is great for users because it’s their data and they should get to decide what to do with it. It’s also great for an ad industry desperate to cleanse the worst elements of its inner workings. As an investor, I am tuned-in to founders with ideas to help each of these parties accomplish their goals and scale a business globally.

Being a brand, tech company or a founder in the advertising space looking for an idea and seeing GDPR as a risk baffles me -- it’s clearly an opportunity.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?