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datapowaIQ - The Founders Story

Updated: Jun 25


datapowa COO Stephen O’Malley and CPO Tom Smith
datapowa COO Stephen O’Malley and CPO Tom Smith

What is the founder(s) background?


Stephen O’Malley and Tom Smith have known each other for more than 15 years, having both been an integral part of an organisation (Fast Web Media) that morphed from a 1990s sports website production company into a digital agency servicing the sports market and later the retail sector. That company went on to be acquired in 2015.


Stephen is Essex-based and has worked within the digital technology and sports sponsorship spaces since 1995. He has managed an agency, sports websites, content and social media teams. He’s been leading operations at datapowa for six years.


Based in Brighton, Tom is a digital product, data and analytics expert with more than 15 years of experience in senior leadership positions across performance marketing, martech, and computer vision specialist organisations.


What drove you to start datapowaIQ?


It’s been a journey to get to where we are now. datapowa was founded in 2017 and both of us were founding team members, albeit as consultants at that time.


In 2021, datapowa was acquired by an Australian company, IXUP, who specialise in privacy enhancing technology. Fast forward to November 2022, following a business restructure we were tasked with leading the datapowa division, with a new brief from the board: develop a revised product offering

and monetise the sales pipeline – and achieve this with a reduced team and refined product development budget.


This was a challenge, but one we relished. We were sure that the focus on rapid and accurate measurement and analysis of sport sponsorships was the key to business development, client retention and growth, whilst also working in parallel with the Sydney-based IXUP development and product teams to create a product with the IXUP Secure Data Engine at its centre, for use in the sports sector.


What key milestones have you achieved so far?


The creation of our sponsorship exposure and valuation product, datapowa TRACK, is something we’re hugely proud of. TRACK is a sponsorship asset measurement product that allows you to monitor the visibility and value of any sponsorship asset in any sport across live broadcast, highlights packages, streaming services and social media, and act upon the results quickly.


As well as tracking current activations, we also provide valuations for prospective partnerships and, through our whitespace analysis service, helping sports properties and brands understand the potential exposure and the current and future lifetime value of assets. We have recently completed

the implementation of proprietary hybrid object detection technology that has enabled the team to cover sponsor exposure of large-scale sports leagues and events.


Our sales focus has been on opportunities in the North American market with sponsorship agencies. Across the 18-month period since the re-launch of the business as datapowa IQ, we’ve seen some real success so far in terms of winning TRACK projects and ultimately retaining the agencies as regular clients with recurring monthly revenue.


In November 2023, datapowa VENN was beta launched in North America and Europe. Built around IXUP’s secure data engine, VENN allows partnering organisations to securely collaborate on their first party data and unlock previously inaccessible audience insights that can be used to inform the

negotiation, activation and measurement of commercial partnerships within sport. In the months that have followed we’ve made great progress, having interesting conversations, discussions and significant opportunities with some of the biggest sports agencies, properties and sponsoring brands in both territories.


What has been the biggest challenge?


Working at the leading edge of technology is obviously exciting and rewarding, but the ‘market creation’ aspect is always challenging. datapowa VENN allows commercial partners to encrypt and securely upload their first-party audience datasets and to perform analysis and computation on the

data whilst it's encrypted. For every commercial opportunity there’s an educational aspect in terms Infosec and legal team so the sales cycle is therefore protracted, which can be frustrating, but patience is the key.


What lessons have you learnt so far?


To trust our instincts and stick to the plan when the sports industry sometimes can seem content to keep the status quo in terms of measurement and analytics in the sponsorship sector. We know the industry is moving towards data collaboration being integral to partnerships and deals – and the early adopters in sport completely agree with that.


Listening to everyone - whether that be the parent company board or CEO, the product team, the commercial team and most importantly, the marketplace - the clients and prospects – is vital. The roadmap of both our products is influenced by all the stakeholders, and we know we’ve got to keep moving forwards with both products – standing still isn’t an option.





Lowest moment?


Losing out on tender opportunities to other providers, simply because buyer behaviour is to go for the same option over and over again. It’s very frustrating but it just makes us more determined to succeed.

As we see it, the comeback always outweighs the setback.


Biggest highlight?


Winning our first agency client in North America when we were up against all the big players in the sponsorship measurement space. However just as important is retaining the business after each successful product or collaboration and increasing the revenue from the client year on year.


What is your ambition and what do you want to achieve in the future?


We want to become the most important independent, transparent, single source of truth for sponsorship measurement and analysis. We want our enterprise-level tools in everyone’s hands regardless of job function and to become an extension of the commercial or insights teams within agencies, consultancies, sports properties or brands.


It’s our intention to have a sponsorship exposure database of every notable sports league or event, which will enable immediate insights on exposures, measurements and valuations for our clients, and we want to make it intuitive so there’s no reliance on data scientists to create world class data visualisations or spin up dashboards based on a series of prompts to the system.


This democratisation of the sports sponsorship sector will enable more transparency, greater reactivity, and an all-round better industry based on clear data and actionable insights.


Stephen O'Malley & Tom Smith are the co-founders of datapowaIQ.


For further information or to set up a chat, visit https://datapowa.co.uk/

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