Interview with Sebastian Probst Eide
Sebastian is the Co-Founder and CTO of Aircloak, a Germany-based startup that "allows for immediate, safe and legal sharing or monetisation of sensitive datasets." Aircloak's core anonymization technology can be used in scenarios ranging from banking, to medical research, to the monetisation of geological data, and many more. Their unique technology protects the privacy of users while providing high–quality data analytics.
Before co-founding the startup in 2012, he attended the University of Cambridge and interned at Google.
Check out our exclusive Q&A session with Sebastian:
Aircloak aims to protect user data stronger than ever before and wants to provide valuable insights to enterprises at the same time. Sebastian, how careful are you when it comes to protecting your very own data?
I think when it comes to protecting my own data, I’m a realist I would say. I, for example, use all of the services offered by Google, knowing that, by doing so given these services are free, Google will amass a ton of data about me. They will then use this information subsequently tailor advertising towards me. And in this case I find this to be a worth-wild trade off. The value I am getting out of these services, at least at the moment, seems higher to me than the intangible cost of giving them my data. And in particularly in the case of these larger organizations, my confidence is pretty high in the way they treat their data. And restrict access to it and limited exposure to third parties. However, when it goes to giving third parties in particularly smaller less known entities access to the data, these larger corporations (hold about me), for example, apps that want access to my facebook profile or my google data. In these cases I am a lot more cautious and really look into what data they need access to and try to restrict it as far as possible. And in fact also when there are good alternative services that can be paid for with money that is rather than with data, I usually go that route as well. Thus said, I find this to be a worthwhile tradeoff. The benefits I’m getting from these services, at least at the moment seems higher to me than the intangible cost of giving them my data. And, particularly in the case of these larger organizations, my confidence is pretty high regarding.
When Aircloak claims that it wants to provide valuable insights to companies – what kind of insights are we talking about?
Our main product offering, Aircloak Insights, should rather be thought of as a tool that allows an analyst to access the insights they need, rather than a set of predetermined insights. So, as a user of Aircloak Company Insights, you still need the data you want to analyse but usually this is data that you otherwise wouldn't be allowed to touch or work with it at all. And then using our product, an analyst can work with the data as if they were just working with a normal database, and then our system transparently assures that whatever insights they generate themselves are in fact safe and well protected.
You and your business partner Felix Bauer both graduated from Cambridge University. How strong is the entrepreneurial spirit at one of the world’s leading universities?
The spirit of entrepreneurship is relatively high or, at least, the university would like it to be. If you look at the track record, it is actually pretty good, there is quite a large number of relatively prominent companies that in one form or another have spread out of the university or have their roots there. And they certainly have societies focusing on entrepreneurship and classes: in my course we had business classes focusing on how to start, run and plan a business. There are investors and seed capitals around the area of Cambridge. All that being the way it is, there is still only a very small number of people going out and starting their own companies, right after their studies. I think, in my year, of of maybe a total of 400 students, there were only a small handful of people that actually started their own business. There is definitely a room for improvement, and I think they are working on making it easier and building a better supporting network for people to start their own business. So, I would say that spirit of entrepreneurship is definitely quite high.
Looking back, could you tell us what sparked your own entrepreneurial spirit?
In my case, I don't think there was a single thing that sparked my entrepreneurial spirit or that caused me to want to run a business. In fact, even as a small kid I knew I wanted to run my own businesses and I started plenty of them while I was still in school. I started a business with a friend making explosives, I ran a newspaper with ten or twelve subscribers, I had a web design and programming service, I ran a tiny iOS agency as well when I was at university, so it's really something I've been doing all along and knew that I always wanted to do. For me it’s been a pretty clear choice, I have never seen myself as part of the larger corporate and my experience in these it is in fact very limited, I have only been doing internships in large enterprises and as cool as they might be, I really prefer working in smaller, more nimble, organizations. What causes my desire to run businesses? I have no idea, it’s certainly just always been there.