Cash for your credentials
Tired of companies alone profiting from your personal information? A Johannesburg start-up wants consumers paid for their particulars. By Craig Wilson.
A new Johannesburg-based start-up, MiName, has been established to connect consumers with brands they actually want to hear from, while rewarding them at the same time for accepting to be marketed to.
Users decide who can market what to them, and if they subsequently make a purchase from one of MiName’s partners, they are rewarded with cash.
Based in Sandton, MiName was founded in 2012 by Gaurav Nair (25), Derrick Hyde (27) and Lawrence Joffe (30). Hyde and Nair met while studying actuarial science at Wits University and were introduced to Joffe by a mutual friend. They say the “injustice” of cold calling prompted them to start MiName.
“People’s information is being used without their knowledge,” Hyde says, referring to the practice of selling databases of consumer details. “We’re fed up with it. Instead, we’re saying, ‘come to our site and you can get the value out of your own information’.”
MiName was launched in December and will promote its service using online advertising. Advertising is one component of the company’s strategy to build awareness and drive sign-ups; the other involves social networks, where users can post about a completed transaction and get rewarded for doing so.
“Our values are transparency, user control, privacy and fairness,” Nair says. “If you do something that’s valuable, you get something out of it.” Users will also get rewarded for referring friends to the service who then go on to make a purchase.
There is another side to the company: raising awareness about the misuse of consumers’ data. “Lots of people don’t realise why they’re getting cold calls,” Nair says. MiName is considering flighting ads that highlight the ways in which databases are sold and the fact that consumers are missing out on the value attached to their personal information.
There’s also a plan to offer a place where users can rate and review the companies with which they’ve engaged. Joffe says this is important for building trust in the service and its partners.
The start-up has already signed on bands such as Planet Fitness, CSS Tactical, Chubb, Standard Bank Insurance, Travelstart (where MiName redirects traffic to the travel service in exchange for an affiliate or lead fee), McCarthy Call-A-Car, Auto Pedigree and Adrienne Hersch Properties. MiName charges companies only for successful referrals, making it a low-risk move for them to sign on.
Users create an account using their e-mail address or Facebook credentials and are rewarded with R40 for doing so. They’re also encouraged to fill out a personal profile, with R2 being paid to them for each item of information they supply. Thereafter, they’re also rewarded for completing product forms indicating the type of products and services they’re interesting in.
“If you want a cellphone you need to look at different networks and see what they’re offering you,” Nair says. “We want to turn that around. We want our users to be able to outline what they’re looking for. This information can then be sent to the operators nominated by the user, who can come back to them with recommendations.”
The incentive fee paid to users for completing product forms and making purchases through MiName’s partners varies depending on the product in question. “The amounts are linked to the amount you’re spending. In the case of a car, if you make a purchase you’ll be rewarded with 1% of the car’s value,” Nair says.
MiName regards itself as a kind of concierge service, in that it gives brands the details of interested consumers making a sale far more likely.
Though the company’s targets for the next few months are modest, Nair says it wants 50 000 people on the platform before the end of the year. Although MiName is starting with large partners it hopes to expand to include even individuals like plumbers and other professionals and small retailers.
The three founders also have ambitions of mobile applications for the service, support for feature phones, and possible expansion into other emerging markets.
There are also plans to allow users to redeem their rewards in various ways. At present users need a bank account to receive payments but MiName wants to make it possible to pay out rewards using mobile payment services or even using products like mobile phone airtime.
Asked whether consumers can sign-up and withdraw their R40 reward immediately, Hyde explains that the sign-up fee is held until the user completes their first transaction to prevent people from “gaming the system”. Similarly, if a consumer purchases a product with a cooling-off period, like an insurance policy, the reward for doing so will be held back until that period expires.
Hyde says that the biggest challenge the company faces is getting users to trust the service and to want to use it. “Once it starts working and people trust it, then we’ll start getting the mass audience,” he says. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media
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