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SA’s top financial players invest in data privacy start-up

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 10 Mar 2020

Omnisient, a Cape Town-based start-up that specialises in secure data-sharing for businesses, has landed pre-Series A funding from Nedbank Corporate Investment Banking (CIB), Investec and Compass Venture Capital.

With the vision of democratising data, Omnisient’s platform enables businesses to unlock the benefits of data collaboration – while protecting customers’ data privacy and intellectual property.

Since launch, the platform has gained traction among South African businesses, including leading banks, insurers and retailers, says Omnisient.

“Nedbank CIB is at the forefront of investing in disruptive technologies that make a meaningful difference to people’s lives – including data privacy initiatives that leverage Nedbank’s strategy of being financial experts who do good,” says Janade Du Plessis, head of alternative investments and venture capital at Nedbank.

“Our investment in Omnisient will support the company’s scaling of their team to capitalise on their first-mover advantage in Africa. We are confident the platform will be beneficial to our corporate clients that are looking to monetise their data or improve unique client value propositions, in a safe and compliant way.”

“Consumers now demand speed, ease and convenience in every sphere of life – and businesses can only meet these needs if they have seamless access to data on consumer behaviour, interests and purchase decisions,” explains Jon Jacobson, chief executive and technology officer at Omnisient.

“The critical business challenge is that consumers want this convenience without compromising on privacy. At Omnisient, our platform follows the principle of ‘privacy by design’, which speaks directly to this challenge – enabling swift and affordable data-sharing while removing any trace of customers’ personal information from the process.”

In addition to propelling business growth through data collaboration, the Omnisient platform ensures customers remain compliant with complex data privacy regulations such as the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“According to a 2016 report by Forrester, up to 73% of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics. Leveraging and monetising this massive amount of data is what makes the difference between market leaders and laggards,” says Bastien Maucet, partner at Compass Venture Capital.

Investec’s mandate for emerging companies is to identify and invest in innovative, early-stage companies that demonstrate high growth potential.

“Our strategy is to invest in and enable the growth of established, reputable entrepreneurs,” says Akash Maharaj, of Investec Emerging Companies, an equity mandate, which forms part of Investec Private Capital.

“Our investment in Omnisient is informed by the strength of the team and the innovation we believe they will bring to the tech ecosystem and the increasingly important field of data protection and privacy. More importantly, our partnership seeks to leverage Investec Private Capital’s expertise and experience to empower Omnisient’s team in unlocking the potential of their unique vision.”

When investors conducted due diligence, they received compliance validation of the Omnisient platform from law firm ENSafrica.

“Ensuring that was compliant with POPIA and GDPR was a major concern to Compass as a Mauritius-based investor. Enforcing the highest security and privacy standards on the platform is paramount to driving its adoption amongst global companies operating from Mauritius,” adds Maucet.

Currently, South Africa’s information regulator is pushing for the remaining provisions of POPIA to be finalised and come into effect by 1 April.

After the commencement date, companies will have 12 months to get their systems and processes in place to comply with the Act.