The marketplace for business data

How We at Think about Selling Data

Posted 2015-07-30 by Jacob Ablowitz

Summary / TL;DR is the first data marketplace designed to help small & medium Data Aggregators do business more effectively and efficiently. In our model we don’t compete with Aggregators: you sell directly to buyers via our platform (no reseller licenses), and we don’t touch your data – you use your existing delivery systems. Our fees are only 10% of the value of each transaction, there are no listing fees (so we make money only when you do), and we cover the cost of payments to keep things simple and straightforward. Sign up now and you can post your first listing in just a few minutes! If you have a number of listings you wish to post, please contact our supplier account management team and we can help with the data entry.

Data Commerce – an Enormous Opportunity

Nate and I co-founded this company with a simple goal – to make it so much easier to buy and sell data that we enable an explosion in data sales, which we think are only a small fraction of the potential. We got there after identifying a few business ideas to mash up data from a few interesting sources from multiple industries that could identify insights in another industry and realizing that those ideas weren’t feasible simply because the companies who have that data presently don’t sell it. As we learned more about how the business of selling data works, though, we realized that one of the biggest reasons data isn’t getting sold right now is just that it’s so difficult to buy and sell data, and that the best thing we could do would be to help existing sellers reach more buyers, particularly from other industries, and to help buyers more easily discover what data exists and compare the available options on an apples-to-apples basis. From there, we worked closely with a number of different data sellers across multiple industries (real estate data, marketing data, oil & gas data, legislation data, and others) to figure out how we could help sellers reach more buyers.

This blog post, plus a few others to come soon, is an attempt to distill some of that research and learning into a summary that can help data sellers considering listing on dmi to understand how we can help you, how we view our relationships with data sellers, and our vision for the future of the business of selling data.

A Marketplace Tailored to the Needs of Data Aggregators

Early in our research, we noticed that while some prior data marketplaces had built impressive catalogs of free data gathered from across the web, they all had very few or even no listings of data for sale by companies whose core business was selling data. As we explored further, we realized that these marketplaces served consumers of data to varying degrees, but none appeared to be a compelling channel for small & medium Aggregators. From our research into what has been successful with other kinds of marketplaces – everything from commodities exchanges in the 1800s and early 1900s to ebay in the late 1990s – it seemed that the most successful marketplaces initially focused upon building a strong and effective supply base. Based upon that and other research, we believe the best way to attract lots of buyers to a marketplace is to have lots of great stuff for them to buy. The best way we see to assemble a great supply of data products, then, is to bring small and medium Data Aggregators – that is, companies that specialize in selling data as a core business – to sell on our marketplace.

As a result, we’re building to be the first data marketplace designed specifically for the needs of small and medium Data Aggregators. In our view, we must create a consistently profitable environment for data sellers now and into the future. To make that happen, we’ve worked hard with the sellers I mentioned in the introduction to understand all the various different business models they use, and we are iteratively building our marketplace to support these unique business processes. Moreover, we aren’t going to stop – we recognize that we still have much to learn, and we’ll continue to work hard to better understand data sellers’ needs and meet them excellently.

We gathered a whole bunch of other insights about data sales from all this research, on topics ranging from new data product development to growth strategies to data delivery, and I’m happy to share these insights with our sellers, but I can’t post them publicly – I can’t give any prospective competitors free labor! So instead, if you would like to learn more about that research, please contact and we’ll set up a conversation to discuss.

Selling Your Data on

Normally I will try to keep my blog posts low on sales content – we’ve all read those blogs, and they’re annoying – but this one is a bit different. This is likely one of the first things most data sellers will read when considering whether or not to list your data products, and I think it’s really important to help you understand how we’re trying to help data sellers and what you can expect if you sign up. I’ll try to keep this brief and stay away from the “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!1!!!1one!1” used-car-salesman crap. So – how does it work?

  1. Sellers list their data products for sale by filling out a form describing the data for sale, its quality, pricing, delivery options, etc.
    • The system requires you to submit selected metadata information plus upload at least one free sample data set in order for buyers to be able to purchase your data – these requirements are based upon what buyers told us they need to see in order to be able to make a good decision
  2. When the listing is ready, sellers click “publish” to display that listing to prospective buyers
  3. On, buyers purchase data directly from sellers, using the seller’s license terms – we are neither resellers nor aggregators; our goal is to help grow the overall industry
    • Sellers are also required to upload a file (pdf recommended) containing the terms & conditions that apply to each purchase in order for a listing to be buyable
  4. When a buyer finds your listing and clicks “buy,” they will select any options, provide delivery instructions as appropriate, accept your terms & conditions, and pay, after which dmi will send you an email notification of the sale
  5. Upon receipt of a sale notification, the Seller delivers the purchased data directly to the buyer in accordance with the buyer’s delivery selections and any additional instructions they provide
    • does not touch your data – there’s no API to which you have to conform or site to which you must constantly upload fresh data; instead you can simply utilize your existing processes for delivering data
    • We will eventually build some technology to facilitate data delivery, but when we do so, I can promise two things:
      1. We will consult closely with our sellers to ensure the system we design fits their needs and is something they want to use, and
      2. It will remain an optional feature with its own cost structure, to be used only by those sellers for whom it makes business sense
  6. The Seller annotates the order on to indicate that delivery has been completed
    • Note: at time of writing, the delivery status tracking feature set is roughly 50% deployed

OK, so what’s it going to cost me?

  1. We really want to make data sales easier, and we don’t want to be greedy, so we’re keeping our fee structure simple and low
  2. There is no cost to create a listing on, aside from a few minutes of your time – we make money only when you make money
  3. When buyers pay for products they order, our payment system charges a flat transaction fee of 10% of each sale, paid by the seller automatically
    • So, if you list a product for $0.10/record and a buyer orders 10000 records for a total sale of $1,000.00, you would receive $900.00 into your seller merchant account
    • For simplicity, covers the cost of payments (up to 3% or more for credit cards)

That’s it – simple, straight-forward, and as aligned with “what’s good for data sellers” as we could make it while still being able to have a viable business ourselves.

Many of our first sellers have asked us how we will attract buyers that, at present, they don’t reach. In my next post I discuss our plans to attract buyers once we have something to sell.
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About the author

Jacob Ablowitz

Jacob has deep experience with the data and technology systems that power the modern information economy. He began his career at Lockheed Martin, working on bleeding-edge ballistic missile defense and submarine sonar systems. At Dealertrack Technologies (now Cox Automotive), Jacob led infrastructure projects underpinning their market-leading car loan application platform. In 2012 he moved on to Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, in an analytics role, before starting dmi in 2013. Jacob holds a B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering from the University of Colorado and a Master’s in Systems & Information Engineering from the University of Virginia. He is an active member of the Colorado startup community. In his (nearly nonexistent) spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family as well as playing and recording music in his basement studio with friends.

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