Ripping It Up

Ripping It Up 991 622 StJohn Deakins

The Transcript from StJohn talking on the RipItUp – Start Again | Episode 1 yesterday.  A new monthly TV show from Disruptive.Live about Entrepreneurs who are reinventing marketplaces with technology.

I love the Internet.

In the 90’s I helped international newspapers and companies like British airways and T-Mobile shift to digital. In the noughties I helped the last billion people get on the mobile Internet in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

So in 2011 I’d just sold a mobile internet business and had two young daughters and asked myself “ok, what’s the BIGGEST problem that I can help solve that will have a positive impact for my daughters through their lives – the next 10,20, even 70,80 years.

First I looked at green tech, climate change is a huge threat for us all and and there are some awesome things that can be done which will help, but it’s not my core skill set (yet).

So, what is my core skill set? The Internet is what I know. I had the time to look at the deep underlying fundamentals of how the Internet works and how it’s very likely to evolve – how it will work in future – and quickly realised “oh man this is so screwed up!”

Here’s the thing: we’ve already entered a world of seven billion humans connected – the majority of us on social media, sensors everywhere, hundreds of connected “things” in our homes, augmented reality and – of course – the arrival of AI in pretty much everything. OK, so how is all of that fuelled? Well, by all of our collective personal data. Ok, so how does that market work? Oh crap, it is completely broken. Which means the Internet is kinda broken too. And it’ll get worse. 

Shit. Do we need to rip it up and start again?

Well, yes and no.  We can evolve it.  If we can give us all control of our data – we can make the Internet work far, far better for everyone. For humans, business, governments, everyone. And that’s what CitizenMe is about.

There’s a trillions dollar marketplace that we all participate in – but none of us see the value from.  CitizenMe is about giving us all control of the value of our data. Enabling us all to participate as equals. Creating a better, more valuable Internet.

So, we started building.  In 2014 we built the first version of the app – got great international press: Wired, The Guardian etc – and 14,000 downloads in a few weeks. Version one of CitizenMe was all about showing us what was good and bad about the apps on our phone – and the ability to deep-link through to the rights place in an apps settings to lock stuff down – for example who can see your photos in Twitter or Facebook. BUT, despite initial user enthusiasm, when we looked at retention it was poor. People don’t want more admin in their lives, they want ease and value.  They want control and ownership, but they want a trusted agent to do the heavy lifting. 

So we ripped it up and started again. And this time we did huge amounts of consumer research, deep behavioural research on the ways that we all interact with our data, we iterated and iterated until we created an experience that people love. And that’s the platform that’s available today. 

We still have plenty to do, we’re only just getting started, but we now have over 100,000 Citizens, are doubling monthly revenues, and the community can grow at between 3% and 5% per week. 

And all because of understanding that something important to us all is broken and deciding to fix it. Failing fast, learning and iterating. Ripping it up and starting again.

You can watch the full recording of Rip It Up – Start Again | Episode 1  here:


StJohn Deakins

StJohn founded CitizenMe with the aim to take on the biggest challenge in the Information Age: helping digital citizens gain control of their digital identity. Personal data has meaning and value to everyone, but there is an absence of digital tools to help people realise its value. With CitizenMe, StJohn aims to fix that. With a depth of experience digitising and mobilising businesses, StJohn aims for positive change in the personal information economy. Oh… and he loves liquorice.

All stories by: StJohn Deakins

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