Championing data privacy for businesses

Seema Khinda Johnson, Nuggets

Championing data privacy for businesses

Her career path was quite organic, bereft of any specific plan. Starting off as a production coordinator at a digital agency, she just loved making things happen and working as part of a team. Over the years, this progressed into leading product and go-to-market for global businesses and start-ups – including Skype and Microsoft. For over 17 years she was happily delivering whatever came next. 

But destiny had something else in store. In 2015, her husband Alastair’s credit card and data was used fraudulently. That kicked off a hugely frustrating process that also came as a revelation that no one really owns or controls their own data. This was against the backdrop of data breaches, people being told to change their passwords, a lack of any comprehensive solution to protecting data. Every day, customers’ data was being compromised.

Teaming up with her husband she decided to face the challenge and find a solution to it. This led to the setting up of Nuggets in late 2016.

The mission has been to help businesses protect their customer data, and to allow people to own and control their own data. The primary belief being that personal information should be owned and controlled by the person.

To deliver on that, Nuggets – lets you pay, log in or verify your identity without having to share your data with anyone – including Nuggets itself.

In this conversation with AsiaBizToday, Seema Khinda Johnson, Co-Founder & COO at Nuggets – an award-winning, decentralized, self-sovereign identity and payment platform – talks about her entrepreneurial journey and belief system.

Motivation that led you to set up the business and your role today

Protecting customer data has never been more critical. Privacy is a fundamental human right and personal information should be owned and controlled by the person. And a fundamental change is needed in the handling of personal data

As Co-founder & COO, my focus is around scaling, commercialization, and day-to-day operations across all parts of the business.

Your experiences in this leadership position?

It’s no secret that running a business is tough, and the tech world is very male-dominated. And that extends to which businesses are funded.

Despite efforts to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs, female-founded startups in the US have raised just 2.2 percent of venture capital. There’s definite momentum, but it’s going to be a while before there’s a more level playing field in tech.

For my own part, I’ve handled this by making myself visible. By speaking, networking and finding a brilliantly supportive and inspiring network. I’m determined to help others the way I’ve been helped, and lend the same support to other female entrepreneurs at different stages of their journeys.

Important factors that keep you going?

The mission.

We started with the ‘Why’. What’s our purpose, mission, why does Nuggets exist, why should anyone care. Everything is grounded in a purpose – our decision making, recruitment, the team’s belief, why customers buy Nuggets. Our mission is to give users the chance to take back control of their data.

Obstacles in your initiatives

We were early in believing that personal information should be owned and controlled by the person. So, we really needed to believe in what we were doing. It took a lot of commitment to stay the course through all the “No”s.

Your source of inspiration

Trying to solve a massive issue like privacy, and give people ownership and control of their data – that’s the drive for me. I’m wholly focused on delivering our vision to redefine online privacy.

Your proudest moment so far

My greatest professional achievement is Nuggets.

Definition of success

Happy, healthy and getting up each day to do what I love  

Your advice for other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women

Connect and speak with as many people in the industry as possible. These relationships are essential in building a network that supports your business.

Don’t underestimate the value of the support you can get from mentors and sponsors.

Draw on all your skills. When you set up a business you’ll need to understand the fundraising process, cap tables, financials, operations, the product, operations, etc. The work is never done!

Don’t underestimate the effort. Being a founder isn’t for everyone. Someone once told me “if you want to work the longest hours and be the lowest paid – be a founder!” But there’s also nothing quite like it.

And finally, and more importantly, be your authentic self and know you’re enough.