Near: A Complement to ClearView AI?

May 26, 2022

Data Intelligence Startup Near, with 1.6B anonymized User IDs, Lists on NASDAQ via SPAC at a $1B Market Cap; Raises $100M” is an interesting story. On one hand, in the midst of some financial headwinds, the outfit Near is a unicorn. That’s exciting for some. The most significant part of the short item is this passage: Near offers

anonymised, location-based profiles of users based on a trove of information that Near sources and then merges from phones, data partners, carriers and its customers. It claims the database has been built “with privacy by design.”

The word merging as in “merging data from different sources” is not jargony enough. The Near write up uses the term “stitching” as in “threads which hold the parts of a football together.” I prefer the term “federating” as in “federating data.”

The idea is a good one. Take information from different sources, index it (assign tags today, of course) and group information about a person under that entity’s “name.” This is a useful workflow, and my hunch is that the system works best for individuals leaving digital footprints and crumbs of ones and zeros behind as these “entities” go about their business.

The successful merging and profiling will give Near a competitive advantage. Like ClearView and many other companies, scraping and licensing commercial datasets can produce a valuable data asset.

On the downside, as ClearView has learned as it explained its business to legal eagles, some concerns for privacy can arise. Assurances of privacy have created some issues for firms performing similar work for government agencies. Law enforcement and intelligence professionals are likely to show some interest in Near’s products and services.

Successfully navigating marketing to commercial outfits and selling to government agencies is like sailing into an unfamiliar port with a very large boat.

Kudos to near for its funding. Now it will be interesting to watch the firm’s management walk the marketing tightrope over the Niagara Falls of cash flow as legal eagles circle.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2022


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