Why Tech Scale-ups Have To Get Data Protection Right

In a recent webinar, we broke down a number of reasons why Tech scale-ups have to get data protection right. You can watch the webinar here, or if you prefer, you can read this blog.

It may sound obvious, but the first reason why you have to get data protection right:

It's the law.

You know how we've gotta follow some rules, like paying taxes? Well, data protection is just another one of those things. It's not just a UK thing, either. Europe, US, China, South Africa – you name it, they've got data protection rules too. So, just like you can't dodge paying your bills, you can't dodge this.

Starting out, some businesses might think they can slide under the radar. But there comes a time when you've gotta get your act together and play by the rules - especially if you want to grow your business successfully. 


The second reason:

To protect your brand's reputation. 

Even if you're just starting your business, you can’t ignore it. As you grow, people's expectations of you also grow. Messing up? Not a good look. We have seen lots of companies, big and small, totally tank because of data slip-ups. It’s no joke!

For example, there was one company, a UK accountancy firm, that had a major data breach. The domino effect? Other businesses who were working with them, couldn’t pay their employees. And guess what? A bunch of other companies faced the same problem. At the end of the day, that accountancy firm went out of business. No one wanted to touch them with a ten-foot pole. Their reputation was shot to pieces.

On the flipside there's a silver lining. You can make data protection a core part of your brand and build a high-trust reputation that you can reap rewards from.

It's not just about avoiding trouble, it can be your golden ticket to winning customers and investment. We have lots of customers who want to wear data protection as their badge of honour. 

That makes sense. If personal data is a fundamental part of your value proposition to your customers, flaunting fantastic data protection credentials can be a major win!


Next on our list of why Tech scale-ups have to get Data Protection right:


This is a golden ticket. If you’re trying to do business with other companies or individuals, they've got to trust you. Not having your data protection ducks in a row is like trying to build a house on quicksand – it’s gonna sink. Anyone working with you wants to know they can hand over their sensitive data, and you won't mess things up.

Your reputation, your brand, it's all tied up in trust. You want to be that company that everyone trusts, so that if for example, things go sideways, but you’ve got solid systems in place, they’ll trust you to handle it right. But, if you mess up after someone has trusted you with their data you’re not just going to damage your own reputation but pull theirs down too.

The real question to ask yourself is, if someone were to peek behind your curtain and see how you’re actually processing and protecting their data, would they still want to do business with you? If what you’re actually doing would be ugly to uncover, that’s a problem. 

And remember, it can be very easy for customers and prospective customers to ‘peek behind’ your curtain. If you have made shortcuts in your data protection, like using some copy-paste of someone else’s Privacy Notice, or you’re just ‘winging it’ with a template checklist that you don't really understand, then it’s going to be super obvious. That’s going to produce uncomfortable questions for you to answer and lose you business. 

There was a story about the UK Government contracting with a ferry company and their Privacy Notice was taken from a takeaway shop. True story! That’s a fast track to a trust nosedive and a brand crash and burn. 

Don’t take shortcuts with your data protection as you’ll damage your brand reputation. Instead, take the time to do data protection right and it will pay off big time.


Getting data protection right can be your secret weapon.

Often, when businesses start to grow, they're hit with contractual obligations for data protection. We frequently have customers rush to us because they just signed a deal and now have some 90-day deadline looming over them to get their data protection ship in order.

This happens more than you’d think, especially with start-ups and scale-ups. They get all excited, promise the moon in a contract, sometimes even stretching the truth to seal the deal. This is a dangerous short term game to play. You need to be thinking medium to long term with your data protection so you don’t end up with unrealistic deadlines that can have serious consequences for missing.

Over the years one thing we’ve noticed is that when companies do data protection right, it can be a secret weapon. It’s obvious when a company uses a generic template for their policies or Privacy Notice. On the flip side, when a company genuinely invests time and effort to do it properly, they shine. It’s crazy how a bit of effort can set you apart from your competitors and help you scale faster with confidence. This isn't just about being compliant, it’s about building a trustworthy brand that others want to do business with.

When you're able to proactively showcase your trustworthiness to customers that’s when the flywheel really starts. This is something many of our customers use Trust Keith to do.

You can think of data protection as a healthy forcing function that will lead you to better outcomes. It will push you to analyse how data flows in your business, leading to better decisions around how you use data. It will push you to put proper policies and processes in place, which will help you grow compliantly with confidence. All of which will help you consistently ace any due diligence - from customers, investors, and even a future acquirer. 

For businesses that don’t get data protection right. They face an uphill battle growing and succeeding that usually hits a dead end. If a company doesn’t care about data protection it’s a massive warning sign. It makes you wonder, what else are they slacking on?


Take 'privacy by design’ to heart.

Not giving data protection the thought it needs from the get-go will bite you in later.

We’ve seen it happen so many times. Companies dive straight in collecting data, and building their product without pausing for a second to consider the data protection considerations. Fast forward a few years, and it’s like trying to untangle the world’s gnarliest headphone cord. In the process of diving straight in without adequate considerations these companies shoot themselves in the foot. 

One common example of this is by collecting data without the right lawful basis which puts the whole dataset at risk. We knew one company that thought they’d hit the jackpot. They were sitting on a goldmine, ready to sell their data, but no one would buy it. Why? They’d messed up collecting it in the first place. It’s gut-wrenching having to tell someone their golden goose is a dud. Trying to rectify things further down the line is incredibly expensive, time-consuming, and sometimes impossible.

Take 'privacy by design’ to heart. By starting off on the right foot, making sure you’re handling data compliantly, it will be smooth sailing. Why build a successful business only to stumble at the finish line because you skipped the basics on data collection and consent?

How to

So, this is all good but how do you get started with data protection, and what should you think about first? 

We help our customers solve data protection by tackling it in 3 core buckets: 

The Big Picture Stuff

  • What's your data strategy?
  • What are your data gaps? Let's figure out what you're missing.
  • What are your risks? Let’s work out what risks you need to mitigate and manage.
  • Who's taking charge internally? And who's going to support the nitty-gritty stuff?
  • Focus your efforts and define success with goals and KPIs.
  • Ensure you’re documenting your data decisions for your records and to keep score of your progress.

Product & Marketing

  • Make a list of all the ways you're using data and how you collect it.
  • Understand how long you hold onto your data before deleting it.
  • Consider what data decisions require a documented assessment, like a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). Sometimes you need to have it, sometimes, it's just useful to show off to third parties.
  • And finally, your Privacy Notice should be clear, concise, and on-brand. If you can't chat about your data over coffee, you might be in over your head. Need help with that? Why not let us grade your Privacy Notice for free?

Just-In-Case Stuff

  • Prepare to manage unexpected data breaches and incidents with a breach process.

Need help to take your first steps to Data Protection done right? 

Get in touch today.

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