By @SimonCocking interesting interview with Stephan Shakespeare Group CEO & co-founder of YouGov plc

1 min pitch for what you are doing now?

Every day we are conducting thousands of online interviews, as we have for the last seventeen years, creating vast amounts of structured market data from people all over the world sharing their opinions and personal lives with us. What is different now is that we are building a blockchain infrastructure to help people control that data and get extra value from it. When we learned about how the new regulations from the EU will radically change the environment for data, there was a moment of nervousness before we quickly worked out that for us this was a massive opportunity, not a constraint – after all, we have millions of members who joined YouGov precisely to share their opinions and thereby increase their value. And we saw that Blockchain could give us a solution for sharing data in a secure, citizen-empowering way, so we’ve been working on that… a) by designing a massive data structure to optimise machine-learning for predictions, b) adding millions of new data points every single day the the US, UK and German versions of this database (the YouGov Cube), c) developing our new analytics software, and d) working on our blockchain solution for engineering our predictions into the delivery of personalised advertising that fully embraces the growing movement for personal control.

How was the last year, what worked well, what didn’t move as quickly as you would have liked?

Last year was a great year for us. It was the third year in the row in which we achieved 25% growth in profits by expanding our syndicated data offer. We were also the first to apply the new MRP analysis methodology (MRP = multi-level regression and post-stratification, the big innovation in statistics developed at Colombia University, with cooperation from YouGov) to predict an election, and made his spectacularly correct at granular level against all expert opinion in the 2017 UK general election, where we predicted almost exactly the number of seats Theresa May’s government would lose. The Wall Street Journal called us “the only winner” of that election, their FT said our new methodology was “YouGov was startlingly effective … Their model worked astoundingly well.” What didn’t go so well? Technology always takes longer than I want it to. The better you use it, the more you want, and faster!

What are your plans for the future?

Big investment in the technology of market research and opinion research, AI predictive analytics, and embedding that into advertising processes with blockchain as the infrastructure. We want to be the global leader of data-driven advertising that is transparent and empowering.

What will you be talking about at this event? 

What the EU’s new data and privacy regulations (GDPR) means for research-based advertising, why it’s a massive opportunity for publishers to exploit the true value of their platforms, citizens to improve the experience and value of their online experience, and brand to seek a new relationship with their target audiences. It’s about how individuals can partner with organisations like YouGov to improve things not just for themselves but for everyone else.

What inspired you to attend it?

The case study focus of the event is very practical. The industry needs more demonstrations of real applications of blockchain projects – so many initiatives are merely theoretical. Plus Dubai is one of our operations hubs, and I live here a large part of the year, so of course when a great conference comes here I want to be part of it! Dubai is a great place to innovate because everyone is so open-minded and positive about the future.

Which influencers and websites do you follow to keep up to date with the latest developments?

Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures. He was an early investor in companies that could scale massively through community networks and use the power of those networks as a competitive advantage (such as Twitter). He has been talking about blockchain for the last couple years and is a signaller of the inflexion point where businesses start adopting blockchain and creating new business models that take advantage of the unique properties blockchain provides. There are so many people doing interesting things. In the past we’ve worked with Imogen Heap to create new opportunities to engage with fans – she is building on that with the launch of Mycelia to use blockchain as the medium for a fair ecosystem for musicians to monetise their content.

I try to keep up with Digiday, Ad Age, Adweek, and AdExchanger. Writers such as Sapna Maheshwari and Suzanne Vranica always provide unique perspectives into the advertising landscape.

How can people find out more about what you are working on?

They can go to and see what we do – which is conduct online surveys to create data about the world for the public and for business, Specifically on our blockchain solution to data in advertising, and to get in touch about that, there’s a section

Stephan Shakespeare
CEO and Founder

[email protected]

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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