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Data startup Narrative raises $3M more

Narrative, a startup that makes it easier to buy and sell data, is announcing that it’s raised $3 million in additional seed funding.

The round was led by Glasswing Ventures .  XSeed, Tuhaye and Revel also participated.

When I first wrote about the company two years ago, it had already raised $2.25 million, and its business revolved around a marketplace for data. Founder and CEO Nick Jordan told me that’s still what Narrative offers — but customers have also started using its software to manage data transactions beyond the marketplace.

“Buying or selling data sounds really simple — anybody can write in a board deck … ‘We’re going to acquire data, we’re going to distribute data,'” Jordan said. “But it’s much more complex. As a buyer you want specific records, you’re buying for multiple parties. Every seller sells data in a different format. Broadly speaking, there’s a ton of fragmentation.”

And yet, these transactions do happen, with or without Narrative . But Jordan said companies have “historically built their own systems out of duct tape and prayers,” and they often lack features that “seem incredibly trivial, like reporting how much data was sold or bought.”

With Narrative, on the other hand, businesses don’t need to spend the time and resources to create this infrastructure, and they get a tool that allows them to monitor, and hopefully grow, their entire data business.

As this happens, the broader landscape around buying and selling user data is changing, thanks to GDPRthe California privacy bill and the potential for more regulation.

Jordan acknowledged that when GDPR went into effect, Narrative saw “a fairly precipitous drop in data made available in the EU.” At the same time, he said, “The industry as a whole grew up a bit,” and that’s made the technology more appealing to some customers, because it provides “full transparency between the buyer and seller.”

“It [gives] you the ability to do your own due diligence and make sure the data you’re getting is compliant, based on your own reading of GDPR law,” Jordan said.

In fact, he claimed that Narrative really started to see a positive response from customers in the second and third quarter of last year — coincidentally or not, right as GDPR was going into effect.

“This money is really to show that we’ve found product market fit,” Jordan added. That means investing in sales and marketing — and if that pays off, Narrative can probably go out and raise a bigger round.

Narrative simplifies the buying and selling of online data

We hear a lot about our online data being bought and sold by advertisers, but Narrative founder and CEO Nick Jordan said the actual process remains “incredibly cumbersome.”

And he should know, since he’s spent years in the adtech world, most recently as an executive at Tapad. Jordan explained that from the data buyer’s perspective, you have to go out and strike “one-off” deals with a long list of different providers — as he put it, “There’s no one-stop shop.” And if you’re looking to sell data, you’ve got to figure out how to package and price it.

“There’s a pent-up demand for folks looking to buy data, and a pent-up supply of people looking to sell data,” he said. “For the data economy to have less friction, we need to give tools to both the buyers and sellers to help them find each other easily and let them easily integrate with each other.”

That’s what Narrative is providing, with a marketplace where data buyers can browse different sellers and bid on their data, and where sellers can manage all of their transactions.

The startup is announcing that it has raised $2.25 million across two seed rounds of funding, with investors including XSeed Capital, Kiwi Ventures, C2 Ventures, Amobee’s Kim Reed Perell and Adelphic co-founder Jennifer Lum.

“Simply put, trading on all types of data and streamlining the pipes between demand and supply is way overdue and will solve tons of pain points for publishers and advertisers,” C2’s Chris Cunningham told me via email.

Jordan added that Narrative is different from a data management platform, which packages data in a way that’s usable by advertisers — though he said the potential confusion is “one of the challenges for Narrative as a business.” So the company is currently describing its approach as “data commercialization.”

He also argued that while Narrative’s initial focus has been on adtech, the platform could be useful far beyond that industry. For example, a commercial real estate firm working with a brick-and-mortar retailer could purchase data that helps them choose where to open their next business.

Of course, privacy advocates might not be quite as excited about a company that makes it easier to buy and sell data. However, Jordan said Narrative performs a “pretty thorough review” to make sure the businesses selling data are following applicable laws and best practices. And whereas a traditional transaction might involve “a number of opaque intermediaries,” Narrative creates a transparent connection between buyers and sellers, so “much more rigor can be put into privacy and compliance.”