Data monetization solutions: build or buy?

Our CTO has recently answered an important question on Quora about build-vs-buy for data monetization solutions and we thought it was worth repeating here:

Monetizing data is a difficult technological and operational challenge. If your goal is to unlock your data’s full revenue potential, you need to be able to reach all possible data buyers and reach them efficiently, but doing so with an in-house solution takes a lot of effort:

For example, buyers who are looking for data that can be integrated into their own applications may prefer the data in the form of an API. Creating a best-practices API that conforms to all necessary standards (e.g. REST, XML, JSON) and has the right authentication / API key mechanism, the right metering/pricing mechanism, the right level of documentation, etc, is a difficult task in itself.

Other data buyers may be looking to download data in bulk, either in whole or in part (for example, to be analyzed in a spreadsheet). Here, one needs to create an online tool to select, pay for, download, and often re-download the right subset of data; The tool must have sufficient usability for non-technical data buyers, and must support all necessary data formats – again, a difficult set of challenges.

Regardless of how the data is delivered, a data vendor needs to provide a mechanism for data buyers to sign up and pay for data online in a self-service way. Mechanisms are also needed for data vendors to validate buyers and prevent fraud, to view reports/analytics on data purchase activity, to set up data pricing rules (which may often be fairly complex) or other access plans such as free trials and promotions.

Finally, there are the operational challenges: payments need to be processed from data buyers, payment issues need to be resolved, technical support must be provided (which is especially difficult in the case of buyers who access data via APIs), SLAs must be maintained, data needs to be hosted and continuously updated.

WebServius, as well as a number of other companies, set out to solve all of the challenges above. There are economies of scale at play here, and it is far more efficient for these challenges to be solved once for all data providers on a particular platform, than for each provider to reinvent the wheel.

For data vendors, we set out to offerr a true end-to-end data monetization experience: If you provide us with access to valuable data, we will provide you with a way to monetize it in a variety of compelling ways (APIs, bulk data download, etc.), without you having to worry about any of the difficult problems above, and with you staying in full control of the pricing, branding and terms.

An analogy here is the sale of physical goods: If you are selling physical goods online, it is often much more efficient to leverage an existing platform (Amazon Stores, Amazon FBA, eBay, etc.) than to build out an entire e-Commerce solution from scratch. I see WebServius and some of our competitors as the “Amazon/eBay of data”.

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