Manuel Martínez Chamorro is a computer scientist, originally from Spain but now based in London. While studying in London, Manuel met Alex Franch and they decided to start a business focused on staying in touch with people without relying on companies that sell our data, like Facebook. That was how, along with his co-founder, Alex Franch, he was on a mission to make the internet a safer and more transparent place.
“Believing that it was our duty to protect our users, we discussed data privacy and data security early on.”Manuel Martínez
However, shortly after, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into the spotlight, which provided the pair’s ‘light-bulb moment.’ Manuel remembers thinking: “Great, we wanted to do it. Now we have an actual reason to get to it!” However, it was anything but a straightforward journey to make the idea become reality.
As a young tech company with few resources and no legal background, Manuel and Alex found the entire process extremely confusing and time consuming. Also, since existing solutions were designed for big companies and often relied on consultants, they were way out of their budget and this led to much frustration for Manuel. Nevertheless, it was at this point that they decided to change paths and create Privasee.
“It felt like it was easier to look the other way than to do things right.”Manuel Martínez
The very first version of Privasee was a B2C platform that allowed people to regain control of their data. This was done by storing information in an encrypted vault and conditionally choosing which companies could access it and for what purposes. With that point clear, they focused on making it easier for companies to protect personal information and to be transparent about how they use it.
“We have always believed in giving data ownership back to people, and it was difficult for us to see that the market was not ready for a B2C data vault, and that it was up to companies to take the first step.”Manuel Martínez
During this time, Manuel and Alex also took part in the Kings 20 Accelerator program, which chooses the best 20 companies among students, staff, and alumni at King’s College London every year. This process highlighted the importance of validating assumptions and made it a core part of their business.
“Before building our minimum viable product (MVP), we reached out to almost 300 founders and privacy experts. We then started working in 3-week sprints. In the first week, we would conduct five demos with potential clients and evaluate their feedback to improve our product during the following two weeks.”Manuel Martínez
It was through this process that Privasee won its first client. However, shortly after it started trading, a client experienced a security incident. Luckily, they had used the Privasee platform to map all of their data and create a Data Breach Policy to follow in such a situation. Using the data map, they were able to quickly see what information could potentially have been leaked, what it was being used for, and who it was about. The policy also told them what to document and who to notify the breach to.
“For us this was a huge moment. It proved to us, and our client, that understanding your data and having the right processes in place, even as a small company, can turn a critical situation into a manageable one.”Manuel Martínez
According to Manuel, the most challenging but also the most rewarding part of the journey is on the personal and emotional side of things. This means that you are going to have to learn how to deal with stress and impostor syndrome, how to keep your ego in place, and program your brain to see failure as an opportunity to improve. Of course, while these personal challenges are being faced and overcome, there is also the very important task of developing and growing a business.
“As an entrepreneur, you are going to have to put in long hours, make difficult decisions, and make many, many mistakes.”Manuel Martínez
Manuel also identifies the rewards from meeting people from all over the world who are willing to share their failures and experiences with you and who are keen to see you succeed. This is also something that Privasee has applied to its recruitment strategy, since according to Manuel, they have managed to put together an amazing team of people who, like them, feel passionate about making the internet a safer and fairer place, who are experts in their field, and who are looking to learn from each other.
“It’s often easy to think that you have to know everything, or at least appear to do so, but the reality is that entrepreneurship is extremely collaborative and it’s by reaching out for help that you will learn and grow the most”.Manuel Martínez
Manuel is also keen to share his advice with anyone whose entrepreneurial adventure is just taking off: “validate, validate, validate.” More specifically, if you are at the idea stage, he recommends reading books like The Mom Test or Talking to Humans, and to get as much critical feedback as possible.
“If you already have an MVP, try selling it and see how the market reacts. If you already have a product out there, give your customers a phone call—try to understand if there is anything from your product that they didn't get or that got them frustrated.”Manuel Martínez
Seeing things from your client’s perspective is vital, according to Manuel. Many founders, and especially if they are technical founders, just want to ‘build stuff,’ so they put on their blinkers and they get to it. The problem is that in most cases you are not your customer, so the features you might think they want or choose to prioritize might not be the right ones. In Manuel’s view, the closer you can get your clients to the development process, the fewer mistakes you will make and the quicker you will be able to grow.
In Manuel’s opinion, the data privacy market has long been dominated by lawyers and consultants who would charge somewhere in the range of £1,000 per hour and rely on tools like Excel sheets to do their work. Since the GDPR came into force in 2018, there has been a surge in new companies starting to automate processes to increase self-sufficiency. But, so far, they have mostly focused on helping big enterprises —leaving SMEs out.
“From our point of view, there is a lot of interest and the market is growing at a huge speed, mostly because consumers, after many privacy scandals in recent years, are starting to realize that their privacy is important. The way we see it, data privacy is on its way to becoming a ‘must’ for any company, similarly to network security six or seven years ago.”Manuel Martínez
That was the reason why Privasee decided to take part in the Santander X Global Challenge | Helping Businesses Prosper, the global entrepreneurship community of Banco Santander, where it beat more than 20 finalists and 700 participants to become one of the four winners.
Initiatives such as these are key to many businesses being able to adapt and thrive, according to Manuel. In addition, he explains that they act as a bridge between new and innovative businesses and a large pool of companies that are looking to solve an issue but don’t quite know where to start.
With their solution and Santander’s X support, over the next 12 months, Privasee plans to help over 100 clients across the UK and Europe, to grow its team, and to expand its framework beyond GDPR compliance. This will allow SMEs to have a single platform from which they can tackle multiple regulations and certifications, such as ISO27001, CCPA, or the Brazilian and Colombian GDPR. Since many of these regulations share principles and objectives, the platform will ensure they don’t have to do the same thing twice.
Banco Santander, through Santander X, supports entrepreneurial initiatives that contribute to the progress of society. It is a platform that aims to promote talent by creating a global network in which entrepreneurs can give visibility to their projects, get in touch with other members of the Santander X ecosystem and find new opportunities, collaborators and mentors to help them in developing their project.
Furthermore, initiatives such as Santander X understand that innovation isn't just about entrepreneurs; it’s also about the people their solutions serve. By empowering companies to grow, Santander is directly impacting the lives and businesses of its customers, providing new marketing and revenue generation opportunities that, without this challenge, would not otherwise have been accessible.
If you are a startup or scaleup that has an innovative idea that helps people, businesses and governments implement sustainable solutions to build a better future, sign up for Santander X initiatives and turbocharge its development!
Manuel Martínez, Co-Founder at Privasee.