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Four Key Tips for Sourcing International Data

Last January I posted a blog detailing tips for data buyers. Those tips are still as relevant as ever, but there are unique considerations with international data. While Whitepages Pro has expanded outside of the U.S. and Canada, I’ve gained many key learnings that I hope you’ll find valuable.

  1. Be patient and open-minded. When looking for data partners and sources outside of the U.S., the first thing you’ll notice is that, with few exceptions, the data licensing markets in nearly every country are extremely immature—or do not even exist. As a result, it takes painstaking efforts to find prospective partners, and when you finally do, chances are they don’t have nearly the same infrastructure to test or transact as domestic vendors. Occasionally this can be beneficial as there are less hoops to jump through, but more often than not, it means a lot of additional work on your side to work through the data tests, contracts, legal due diligence, and the data delivery process. In the U.S., we have a certain level of expectations when sourcing data in terms of the amount of time and effort it will require, but once you start looking into other countries, you need to adjust your expectations as well as the expectations of your executive management. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.
  2. It’s all about networking. I just mentioned the painstaking work one will go through when trying to find international data sources. The reasons this is challenging are: a) these companies are generally not easy to find and they do not market themselves in the same manner as U.S. companies; b) data licensing is likely not their primary business, but rather a secondary or tertiary means of generating revenue; and c) they do not typically market themselves to U.S. companies given that most of their business is local. As a result, I have found that the best way to find these data sources is through networking, networking, and networking! Start by reaching out to the most well-connected people you know in the business. Attend tradeshows and talk to any company that looks remotely relevant as you may find some nuggets of information about potential vendors. From there, contact these sources and speak with them about both their specific business (vetting them as a partner) and about their industry in general—this is a good way to find out about other potential players in the market.
  3. Do not expect cross-border sources. One of the more pleasant findings for us over the past couple of years in international data sourcing is that there are good, legitimate data partners in most of the countries we’re focused on.. They have data on people, businesses, addresses, phones, and email addresses—accumulated in a manner consistent with local laws and regulations. However, there are very few, if any, companies that have data outside of their local country. For example, the Spanish companies we know do not have Italy contact data, and the Brazilian companies do not have data on Argentinians. As a result, sourcing good, quality data is proving to be a country-by-country experience. This is helpful in terms of building expertise in a given country, or set of countries. This also reinforces my first point—it requires a lot of patience and hard work.
  4. Be ready to talk about data privacy, especially in the EU. If you have been even remotely tuned into data in the EU, you know that data privacy is a hot button. With Safe Harbor falling apart a couple years ago, and the GDPR on the horizon, there are a lot of concerns and questions about data privacy. Brexit doesn’t help matters either! If you are going into these markets and approaching companies about licensing their data, you need be prepared to answer hard questions about how you’ll handle their data within the regulatory constraints. If they get the sense that you are not serious about data privacy, they will walk away as the risk of breaking privacy restrictions outweighs the revenue potential. On the other side of the coin, you want to be sure to ask them tough questions as this will help you vet reputable sources/partners versus people just looking to make a quick buck. Either way, educate yourself on the data privacy restrictions in a given country or region before you go knocking on their door.

I hope these tips are helpful. Although there is a lot to learn, there is also a ton of opportunity!

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