How a sci-fi thriller inspired this future fintech founder to protect personal data

September 14, 2021 | By Sophie Hares

Back in 2002, Katryna Dow sat in a dark Sydney movie theater watching blockbuster “Minority Report,” in which actor Tom Cruise’s character liberates humanity from a world where thoughts become data — and that data can be misused. To her, this wasn’t science fiction. She felt she was glimpsing the future, where personal information would be worth a fortune — and would require safeguarding.

But a decade later, when Dow, a financial services strategist, pitched her prototype for Meeco, the secure platform she created (and initially self-funded) before raising over $10 million Australian dollars ($7.38 million) that puts people in control of their own data, her idea was roundly dismissed as “insane.”

“Everyone told me that it was a stupid idea,” she says. “No one was ever going to be interested in personal data, or privacy.”

Nor did she fit the profile of a tech entrepreneur. “It’s very difficult for any startup, particularly if you’re in a whole new market. It’s even more difficult if you’re a woman in an engineering space when you’re not an engineer.”

Her doubters have certainly changed their tune.

In the last few years, data has emerged as the commodity that makes the world go round, sparking more rigorous regulation and protection.

Together with the rise of open banking — which enables consumers to share their data with other parties to access more innovative financial services or to better represent their creditworthiness — companies are scrambling to find ways for customers to securely share verified digital documents and data.

“What we are seeing as we’re living with COVID is a massive shift in all types of organizations realizing they need a better digital offer for customers, and realizing issues of data security, data fraud, data breaches are a worry,” says Dow, who has been residing in Belgium as COVID-19 hampered her plans to return to her native Australia.

That’s what attracts companies to platforms like Meeco. The business now has a range of clients from startups to enterprises around the world and employs 25 people in Australia, Belgium and the U.K.

Meeco’s technology allows customers to strictly limit who has access to their data while creating a safe ecosystem for that information to be exchanged and stored.

For clients such as banks and financial services companies, this technology helps them meet privacy and data protection requirements and ensures customer data is accurate and verified. As open banking grows, it also helps them personalize the services they offer.

In Belgium, KBC Bank has embedded Meeco’s technology into its retail app to create a secure encrypted digital vault — the virtual equivalent of a physical deposit box — that only its customers can access.

For My Life Capsule, powered by Meeco, once customers have uploaded data such as credit card details, cryptocurrency addresses or even their last will and testament, they can decide how and when to share that information.

By enabling people to store credentials such as qualifications and financial information in Meeco’s decentralized digital wallet, Australian workforce management firm VELA Solutions is making it easier to onboard and verify new staff during the pandemic.

For Dow, joining Mastercard’s startup engagement program Start Path was key to expanding Meeco’s digital platform. Her Mastercard mentor Ian O’Sullivan encouraged her, insisting that she was on the right track and just needed to stay focused on winning and helping customers — that was “worth its weight in gold,” she says.

Now, as what once passed for cinematic sci-fi morphs into reality, and people are increasingly flooding their lives with data — be it from smart homes, cars or wearables — she says more people are worrying about digital protection and especially for future generations. That’s why Meeco’s technology is also used to power mIKs-it, a safe media platform designed for kids to support their first digital experiences, Dow says.

“Five years from now, technologies like ours will not only be commonplace, but they’ll also be expected.”

Sophie Hares, Contributor