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Meet The Company That Is Giving Consumers Back Control of Their Own Data

Jocelyn Aspa Jocelyn Aspa, The Market Herald
5 Comments| May 12, 2021

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With offices in Toronto and New York, Killi Ltd. (TSXV: MYID, OTCQB: MYIDD, Forum) is a Canadian-based data company focused on data protection and privacy by allowing consumers to take back control of their data from those who have been collecting and selling it without their consent.

Founded in 2018, Killi is the first and only company that allows consumers to view and control what data they want to share with others. Additionally, the company’s fair-trade data supports compliant marketing while also redistributing wealth back to owners of the data — for example, being compensated in cash by Killi.

Stockhouse Editorial’s Jocelyn Aspa recently caught up with Killi CEO Neil Sweeney to discuss the company’s product and why ownership of one’s data is so important.


SH: Can we start off by you providing us with a little bit of information about yourself and the history of the company?

NS:Yeah, sure. So as mentioned, I'm the founder and CEO of Killi Ltd, which as you mentioned trades on both Venture and the OTCQB under the symbols MYID, and in the US there's an “F” on the end for “foreign.” Killi’s been around now for a few years and was incubated inside of my previous company, a company called Freckle, which not coincidentally was incubated inside of my last company, a company called Juice. There tends to be a bit of a Ukrainian doll sort of syndrome here where we're constantly looking to innovate and build what's coming next. The creation of Killi really was to solve a pretty massive problem in the global data ecosystem. As you quite simply put it in the introduction every consumer on the planet over 16 is a digital being collected and sold. We all know this, because this is why ads track you on various platforms.

It's why you sometimes think that your phone is listening to you because you'll say something, and things will kind of pop up. The reality is, it is listening to you. And what we found was the gap in the market was that there were a number of factors that were taking place. The first is: where can you as a consumer go to opt into this data, opt-out of this data, see this data, be compensated for this data. All of the above. The answer is nowhere. And considering that all data is really a manifestation of consumer identity, we just felt that that was backward. And what's been driving the changes around the world have been privacy regulators pretty much in every province, state, and country around the world have identified that there is this pervasive collection on consumers that's taking place. Consumers have no idea what's happening in the background, and there are literally billions and billions of dollars being made, none of which, which has been redistributed back to the consumers. Privacy laws are changing around the world, forcing people to include the consumer. What we're really doing here at Killi is really trying to create a destination for consumers to rally around to first and foremost, really take back control of themselves. And as a by-product of taking back control of themselves in ciliary, things that you could do with that such as opt-out, be compensated, sign into platforms is really kind of endless. We sort of see a future data market that has the consumer at the center of it. And that's literally the opposite of what well, what happens.

SH: Killi is driven by the evolution of data and privacy. What makes it so important for consumers to having ownership over their data?

NS: Well, I mean simplistically because it's yours, and I think what we all know especially in today's environment consumers hate being taken advantage of, and the data market is really this legitimized silk road. It's a perpetual black box of human arbitrage that's been going on and there's literally nothing ethically right about that. What we just believe is that, of course, you, as a consumer should have control of your data or have some transparency around your data because it's yours. It's not all the companies that are actually collecting it. As a lot of companies will say, “well, you visited my site, therefore I have your data.” That's fine. That’s a very simple linear transaction that is for access to content. You're getting data. The problem is, is that that is increasingly becoming not the norm. What's happening is all the data is getting arbitrage and sold out the back door. And we're not even talking about the companies who have no publishing assets whose whole purpose is to be a data broker who's with the sole purpose of collecting and selling data, really unbeknownst to the consumer. We just think, simplistically it's, it's the consumer's property. As a consequence of that, it should be underneath your control, or you should have some say over how it's being used.

SH: Killi just made a big announcement where it is unveiling data on 320 million Americans. Can you elaborate on this news for our audience and investors who are watching?

NS: Yeah, it's big. I'd say that the first one it really ties back to what we were discussing before is that there's already a pre-existing profile on every single adult American who has been in the data market now for 20 years and really working with kind of the fortune 500 as well as sort of the biggest data platforms in the world. We're well aware of the people and the places where this data is being collected. What we looked at in the market was the traditional sort of thinking here around a lot of these consumer-facing brands is, “look, if I'm a grocery delivery company, I have to market to you to bring you in the front door, get you to sign up for the service.” Congratulations, you now have one active user that's kind of relevant to us because the way we sort of look at it is that we don't need to bring anybody in the front door, quite candidly, because everybody is already in the data ecosystem, the gap here in the market, isn't about adding people through the front door of the killer ecosystem.

It's actually about creating visibility and unveiling the data that is already available out there in the market on them. There’s this announcement which we just put out is really to tell Americans or adult Americans for the first time ever, legitimately ever. You can actually see all the data that is being collected and sold on you on the web, no company on the planet has ever done that before. There has never been a destination where people can go and see their data. There's never been a destination where you can opt-in, opt-out change and, or be compensated for your data. The consequences of kind of going out, getting all this data, bringing it to the platform, forcing consumers to validate that they are the actual, the owner of that particular profile, which we do. You can't see everybody's data; you can only see yours.

Then unveiling that, we think that is transformational, and is the foundation for what we believe is going to be a bigger movement. First and foremost, what we need to do is consumers need to have access to the data - consumers en mass need to have access to the data. We've done that. And now the question will be with 320 million Americans inside of this ecosystem with control, how much pressure does that put on the companies who are trying to sell that data without the consumer inclusion? We believe the short answer is it's over. You won't be able to, because that data has lower fidelity than the data that is controlled by the consumer, which is first-party consented, transparent, and not to mention ethical.

SH: What kind of response have you received from shareholders regarding this announcement?

NS: I think the reception has been great. I mean, those who've been close to the story have known that we've been working on this for quite some time, and we've been pretty public about how we've been increasing inclusion in consumers. I think there's a bit of a “whoa” type moment amongst the consumers, which is like, “wait a minute, what just happened?” Like, “Killi there are 320 million people inside of the killer ecosystem?”, the answer's yes. I think it's not a trivial thing to kind of put together. I think it's not an easy thing for everybody to digest. I think just this notion of having - when you have the entire adult population inside of your ecosystem, I would ask anybody who wants to benchmark us against those other data companies to say, do they have a, every other adult American in their platform?

I think the answer is no. When you have this type of scale, what is the downstream impact of this? I mean, for us, as you look at the data markets, it's a $250 billion a year market in the US alone. Huge. What is happening with that data is people are buying that data. None of which includes the consumer, literally zero. Our whole philosophy here is okay, “well, if we have an ecosystem that represents the entire adult population, and we know that everybody who buys data today is required by law due to privacy changes such as the California Consumer Privacy Act or Prop 24 or in Europe, GDPR, or in Canada, the Digital Privacy Charter, as you can see this, this, everything is moving towards having the consumer involved. If you're the person that's actually purchasing data and you know that you actually have to ensure that it's compliant and consented, are you going to go back to the source that you historically bought data from in the past? Or are you going to go to the ecosystem that is run and controlled by the individual consumer?”

We like to believe it's the latter. We believe that Fortune 500 brands, CMOs are going to look at this and say, “there's absolutely no way we're going to go down that road and buy data from, without consumer inclusion and or compliance.” The reason for this is as much as we think it's an ethical movement it's a liability. The part that's really important for people to understand when they're thinking about the data market is if you ingest data into your company today, you are ingesting liability. Period. If you do not get consent underneath the data that you are adjusting into your company, congratulations, the more data you adjust, the more liability you're going to take on.

Now, you just go down the list, whether you're the trading desk, Oracle, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, a hedge fund, every single one of these industries is literally powered by data. Every single one of those industries is now looking at the market and saying, “wait a minute, we need to make sure that this is compliant. How do we do that? Well, if we actually work with a company like Killi, we're actually checking the box, not only on consent fidelity but also compliance.” What you get downstream is this market shift where a hundred thousand dollars that used to be in the opaque black market now moves over to Killi and another a hundred thousand dollars moves over. And what happens is we slowly but surely cut off the oxygen of all the data brokers that are selling data without the consumer involved, which means at some point the $250 billion market moves to a region that is controlled by the consumer. We think that we're the global leader in that space. That's the upside.

SH: Is there a regulation currently in place to tackle the privacy laws to protect the consumer?

NS:There're pros and cons to this one too. I think everything that's happening right now globally really is a by-product of the implementation of GDPR that took place in Europe a few years ago. That's the General Data Protection Act. At the core of that, it really means that if for you to use data from consumers, you must have explicit consent. Failure to garner explicit consent results in fines of up to 5% of top-line revenue and a whole bunch of other things – so, bad. In short, make sure you have consent or you're going to have a problem, is what's happened with that. And they're sort of - in North America there's been a very sort of flippant attitude around GDPR in North America, where it was, “look, that's in Europe, we don't operate in Europe, therefore it's irrelevant to us.” That's just ridiculous.

First of all, every global platform today is not about to kind of carve off 25 different privacy policies. If you're Google - and we'll come back to that - or Apple or any of these other platforms that're operating in Europe, you benchmark your privacy policy against the most onerous privacy policy, and as a by-product of that, it trickles into every other country that you serve. The tentacles of GDPR have been felt for already over two years. Additionally, for every privacy regulator in various countries and Canada, this has happened where they've changed the digital charter here to make it more consumer-focused. It's also happened in the US the biggest change in the US is sort of twofold. First, it kind of came ashore, and I've always used this metaphor, this analogy that GDPR has kind of like the tsunami it's come across the ocean underneath the surface and crests, right when it hits California. And it manifests in the form of CCPA and most recently, prop 24, which is important because there have been no changes in privacy regulation in the US in the last 20 years, but in California, which is I think the fourth-largest economy in the world. There are two privacy changes in the last 12 months not to mention the data market of the United States is by far and away from the biggest data market in the world from a volume and a monetization point of view. The last important piece about this specifically about the United States is that, unlike Canada and Europe, there is no federal law. GDPR is this overarching privacy law, which impacts every country in the EU. That's not the case in the US, it's state-driven, which is another word for chaos. Every state has different privacy laws.

Just think of the complexity and chaos that comes with you having to manage 50 different state-driven privacy laws. It's hard. By far, in a way, I think the one that's the most popular has been California and what's happened is that the recent iteration of prop 24, which came out just around the US election has made it increasingly more onerous. The takeaway here really is that every country in the world is increasingly moving to their privacy policy to be reflective of what's happening in Europe. The US market is more complicated because it's state-driven, but the challenge with the US market is because it's, it's so fractionalized and it's so big there's a ton of liability there. We've often predicted that the big, huge companies that are data companies in the United States are targets for litigation and not only targets from class actions from consumers, but rather from the individual States. You need to get compliant real fast in the US unless you want to stare down the barrel of 50 individual class-action lawsuits from each of the individual States.

SH: What is Killi’s business model and how do you make money?

NS:The model is simple. We provide a connection from those that want to purchase data directly to the individual consumer. It's a one-by-one connection when you're buying data at Killi, you're buying it directly from the consumer. The by-product of buying data directly from the consumer is you're redistributing that wealth back to the consumer and away from the company that was buying or selling that data without you involved, we work on a 50 50 rev share specifically with the consumer. For building the software and building all the interconnections if a dollar was purchased, the consumer would arbitrarily get 50 cents and we would get 50 cents and then we'd move on to the next transaction. That aligns with our model of really trying to tie the buyers and the sellers of data.

We often use the analogy of fair trade, where you can see through the value chain of exactly who you're buying. We think that that's important, and we've seen that in coffee and people buy fair-trade coffee because they know that the farmer is being equitably compensated for the actual work that they'd done, that doesn't exist in the data market. We've introduced that through Killi with this notion of fair-trade buying, where when you buy data, you can look through the value chain and know that you're buying it from the individual source and vice versa. Right? As a consumer, that there was nobody in the middle, and that this is going directly to the buyer. The model is simple. The more data you sell, the more money you make, the more consumers you have, the more the opportunity is to generate demand and around and around we go.

SH: The company is positioned for growth this year. What will the company be doing to meet demand?

NS: Working hard? I mean, we're running around with our hair on fire pretty much 24 hours a day, seven days a week here. We have, I mean, I'm clearly biased because I'm the founder. I think we're the most ambitious company in Canada by far. Like we are literally from Toronto trying to solve the challenges as it relates to the entire global data ecosystem. If we get it right, it's an absolute monster. I think we've been executing quite well. The challenge for this business has been, as I mentioned before, it was incubated in the prior business. We sold that business about a year ago to focus entirely on Killi. That was always the plan when we started to focus on Killi, that's when COVID started. And so, no point in kind of trying to run around and sell the product at that time, what we did was really “let's just put our head down and crank away on product and make sure that we're making the product as good and as scalable as possible.”

There was a big, very, very big focus on product and software. At that time, we did that. We scaled the actual audience or the size of the people inside of the product. Only towards the end of last year, did we start turning our attention really to the monetization engine? For us, from a scale perspective, I think if you asked me a year ago, would we have gone from tens of thousands of users to 320 million? I'd say no, but I think that's pretty indicative of our ability to be pretty creative and to grow fast. We've gone from zero integrations into 12 of the biggest data platforms in the world or adding one to two platforms pretty much every month, we've gone from arguably zero people in our ecosystem to half a dozen countries, 320 million people in the US from zero countries and zero people. That's been pretty big growth. Now what we've kind of turned our attention to is how are we going to tackle the revenue line? So I had a pretty good track record in driving revenue. I think all things being considered when you have scale distribution and uniqueness of your data in a multi, in a $250 billion a year market of which we believe we are the market leader, the opportunity is pretty massive.

SH: Is there anything else this year or moving into 2022 that retail investors should be watching out for?

NS: Yeah, I mean, I'd say like from the revenue side of the equation, I wouldn't focus so much on the dollars and cents. I mean, I think, look, we're not a washing machine company where we're trying to grow 5% for the quarter. We're trying to grow the top line as fast as possible. The thing that I would say to any investor here is focused on the growth, ultimately, we believe that the privacy, the privacy market, or that data market is a secular trend, is the same way that we've seen people looking to participate in the reopening trade or the cannabis trade in the past. If you have an interest and you believe in this as a consumer, I would encourage investors to look around the market, see if they can find another publicly traded company that is doing what we're doing and is further ahead.

I think the answer's going to be no, but I'll leave it up to them. If you want to participate in this, you can do that. I think you just take it from the idea that we have a very differentiated product at scale operating internationally, and we're focusing on growing the top line as much as possible. Those are big ones from kind of a product announcement, point of view. The most recent announcement is we're introducing crypto into the product. Not small. Again, let's just kind of clear up a couple of things: We're not Coinbase. We're not an exchange. We're not Kraken. This is not a place to come in and sell different tokens. That's not what we do here. When we introduced the Killi paycheck and the paycheck is a weekly guaranteed paycheck for consumers for the use of their data, right?

You guys are consumers when you're part of the ecosystem, you get a guaranteed paycheck. We're the only company in the world that does that - that pays consumers, guaranteed income for the use of their data. We've taken that model and we've expanded it a little bit to say, “well, now you don't have to get paid just in cash. If you choose to, you can get paid in either a Bitcoin or Ethereum.” I'm pretty sure that we're the only company that is paying people guaranteed crypto for the use of their data, pretty much on the planet. There're companies like Basic Attention Token, and that’s a different model. I mean, you're getting paid for actually toggling on the web. For us, our model is different.

We think that this notion of introducing crypto is pretty foundational. It very much aligns with what we believe is where the market is going, where the thought from consumers that they're mistrusting a big tech and that they want to have control. There's a lot of similarities between the themes of what we're trying to drive in. The data market is very similar to the themes that are happening in that crypto market, and we’re not a crypto exchange. It's just reiterated that I don't want anybody to get confused on that, but this notion of aligning our user base and the redemption process in line with what we're finding millennials aspire to is pretty exciting.

SH: Finally, if there’s anything I’ve overlooked or that you’d like to discuss, please feel free to elaborate.

NS: I would just reiterate my previous point, which is it's early days in this company, but we think that the growth is pretty explosive. We aspire to be in every country in the world. Why? Because every single person over the age of 16 has the potential to not only be a client but also being an investor. We look at the market today and what we find - let's just use Coinbase as an example as something we can draw. Coinbase is a company that has kind of planted a flag in the ground to try to become a rallying point for education and awareness, as it relates specifically to crypto. A company like that has done a good job in educating consumers. Then, “oh, by the way, once you're comfortable with crypto, you can use our services.”

If you look at companies like Wealthsimple, Coinbase, even companies like Warby Parker and Acorns, and others, these are very clean, clear consumer stories with very simple user experiences on the front end that are more often than not kind of upsetting traditional businesses that are a bit legacy. Wealthsimple was trying to upset wealth management. Acorns are trying to upset traditional savings. Robinhood is trying to democratize trading.

If you look at that market, no company in the world is focused on being that flag bearer for consumer data. You asked me, what's our goal, that's it. I'm trying to run out into the middle of the field and plant a giant flag and say, “you, consumer over the age of 16, who's having their data sold for over $6,000 per year with no inclusion, this is the spot for you. You come here to rally around what we're doing, and we will create a revolution around data that will includes you and every other person over the age of 16.”

We think it is aspirational, ethical, but also fits into the capitalist model, which is, you can't just wish and hope that things are going to change. You have to build a better model. If you build a better model, the world will change with you. That's kind of our philosophy. We're building a better data model. This data model is better because it's more consenting, it’s higher fidelity, and it includes the consumer. That's our philosophy. We’re pretty excited about where things are going. We've got a ton of work to do. But what we look like in a year's time is going to be fundamentally different than what we look like today.

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FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a paid article produced by Stockhouse Publishing.

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