John Roa, CEO Of Caden, Has a Plan to Transform the Economy of the Internet

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on January 24, 2022

Data breaches outrage internet users, but at least breaches are not supposed to happen. What is arguably more outrageous is the routine data gathering tech companies place at the center of their business strategy. Now a new startup known as Caden, founded by former Salesforce executive John Roa and backed by a stellar list of investors, is turning that business strategy on its head.

Caden’s goal is to transform the Internet as we know it today and the use of personal data and make a better system for both consumers and brands. The company has created a zero-party data platform to out consumer’s in control of their data. Caden recently announced a successful $3.4 Million pre-seed funding with notable early investors including Jerry Yang (Co-founder of Yahoo!), Barry Sternlicht (Founder of Starwood Capital), and Don Callahan (former CTO of Citigroup, Chairman of Time Magazine), among others.

Caden’s core products include a revolutionary on-device “vault”, as well as an intake platform, where a consumer aggregates and controls select personal data, allowing choice around which companies can access their data, which data they have access to, and what value exchange they desire in return. The result is a fair, curated and privacy-centered experience.

You have launched Caden, a personal zero-party data platform. What does that mean to ordinary people, and when will it become available?

With Caden, we are empowering users to take control of their data, glean insights and make money off it—without ever relinquishing ownership or privacy. We do this via the Caden Vault: a “wallet” for one’s personal data that Caden will offer to every user. 

To also empower trusted consumer brands, we’ve built Link, kind of like the Plaid.com of personal data, allowing a two-way connection between brands and their users. With Link, a brand can ask to access specific data from a user, in a way that the user maintains ownership and control, with some kind of value exchange built-in. For example, Nike could ask “Hey John, do you want to share your fit and style preferences with us so we can customize your shopping experience” and the user will get paid for making that connection.

Link and Vault are in the Alpha stage of development, as are our mobile applications that the user will interact with. We hope to introduce these to the marketplace in early to mid-2022. If readers are interested in becoming beta testers, please go to our website and fill out the form!

Caden has raised $3.4 Million in a pre-seed funding round. You have some illustrious early investors: Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo!, Barry Sternlicht, founder of Starwood Capital, and the former CTO of Citigroup and chairman of Time Magazine, Don Callahan. What was your pitch?

The shift to a privacy-focused internet is potentially going to be the most disruptive step-change in the history of the internet. Unlike other macro events like the move to the cloud or online payments, privacy regulation is telling consumer brands that the way they have been doing business for decades is now illegal in many instances. That has never happened before. There is no longer a choice to ‘innovate or become a laggard’, it is now ‘innovate or be in violation of the law’.

It is not possible yet to determine the scope and scale of the disruption, but in 2021 alone, according to some sources, it has already cost consumer brands $120bn. Due to that, a new trillion-dollar privacy industry is forming, which will consist of hundreds of companies offering tools, platforms, and solutions to either comply with the law or in our case, find an opportunity and take advantage of it.

Here at Caden, we are creating crucial infrastructure to fulfill the “zero-party data” promise, seamlessly connecting consumers and brands in a way to create value and protect privacy. If we are successful, Caden will be one of the most important companies in the new data economy, globally. I believe we attracted such a high-profile list of investors because they look for moonshots—companies that could truly revolutionize aspects of our digital world, and Caden checks that box.

On the Caden website, it says “Our data should be ours, period.” Nobody argues otherwise, but what is the Caden strategy for taking it back? What can Caden do about all the information on each and every one of us already in circulation?

Thanks to the aforementioned legislation, we now have rights as users. We have the right to be deleted (forever), we have the right to obtain a copy of our data from a company, we have the right not to be tracked, etc. This takes some power away from companies and gives it to the user. They can no longer say “no, it’s ours” if we demand our data back.

While some less sophisticated companies may fight this, more forward-thinking brands will embrace it as an opportunity to better connect with their customers. Rather than trying to acquire and own as much personal data as possible, let’s consider allowing the rightful owner (the user) to manage their own data, and give permission-based access to brands they trust. This not only creates a much healthier relationship but also gives brands something they have wanted for decades: accurate, first-hand, declared data, direct from the source.

When this happens, brands can do away with bloated data science endeavors, and simply ask the customer for data that would help them be a better provider.

This is what the Caden platform will automate.

What does it mean that Caden is in “stealth mode”? How long will that last?

Throughout the first half of 2022, we will begin beta testing various aspects of our products and platform, with consumer and brand partners. We’ll enter the market after that with our first mobile and brand applications.

Final thoughts?

It’s hard to stress the importance of this privacy-first shift enough. Our personal data has been weaponized, breached, bought, stolen, sold, and exploited for a long time. We’ve seen the negative outcomes range from threats to our democracy to massive data breaches to rises in mental health issues.

The internet in 2-4 years will look quite different than it does today. Everything is about to change. And we encourage those who have an opinion on privacy, data sovereignty, and user’s rights online to pay attention and get involved.

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is the Contributions Editor at Grit Daily. Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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