Angela Benton: Trusting Her Intuition to Guide Her Entrepreneurial Passions
On June 28, 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was passed, and it gave Angela Benton an idea. The tech-savvy entrepreneur sensed the new state law would be a watershed moment. With the explosion of social media, online shopping and banking, mobile apps and smart devices, consumer concerns about data protection were at full tilt. Growing numbers of breaches, cyberattacks, and reported identity theft were fueling the angst.
Benton recognized the opportunity to educate the public on their personal data, who uses it and how it is monetized. She founded Streamlytics on this premise, an engine with an algorithm for democratizing – and diversifying – data. “A lot of people don’t realize that the United States is the largest, westernized country that does not have a federal data privacy law,” noted Benton, who serves as the company’s chief executive officer.
Benton’s vision is to help individuals learn what major companies know about them and take ownership of their own data. Her company – founded on her most-prized values of integrity, transparency and simplicity – ethically collects and sells first-party media data – but first pays consumers for their data and helps them license it. The data is kept anonymous and made available to companies who then pay Streamlytics an annual fee to access it.
- Be true to yourself and trust your intuition.
- Relentlessly pursue your passion but be open to detours along your journey.
- Take time for introspection and the things that matter most.
Helping Consumers Understand Data
“We source the data ethically, then enhance it with metadata, clean it and resell it,” Benton explained. “The upside for consumers is that they’re getting paid for their data, but what I like about what we’re doing is the educational aspect. People are realizing how valuable their data is. It’s exciting to me to see the light switch on for people - when they’re moving about their daily lives, they’re understanding, ‘Oh, my phone is tracking my location, let me turn that off.’ It’s very satisfying for me to think about our business in terms of that kind of impact.”
In April, Streamlytics launched Clture, a consumer-facing product designed to help the African American community take ownership of and monetize their data. “I’m very, very proud of the team here at Streamlytics for pushing through, fixing bugs, and believing in the overall vision of Streamlytics,” Benton wrote in her blog. More great news came in September when veteran media and entertainment executive Howard Appelbaum, former president of Billboard and Nielsen Entertainment, agreed to come on board as a strategic advisor.
“My goal for Streamlytics is to have an impact on society as a whole,” Benton said. “Over the next 10 to 20 years, the handling of personal data is going to impact all of us. We’re at a pivotal point right now.”
A Passion, and a Vision, for Change
Streamlytics wasn’t Benton’s first start-up. In 2011, she founded NewME Inc., the first business accelerator for minority-owned companies around the world. Benton observed that too few minority entrepreneurs were getting venture capital funding and the timing seemed right to change that landscape. With research in hand, Benton was shocked that no one was filling that space with an accelerator.
“We ultimately became a catalyst, not just for the Black and other minority communities, but for companies with great ideas that got overlooked for funding,” she said. A lot of people felt excluded from the tech space, Benton learned. Media coverage helped the company get noticed not just domestically but internationally. “It snowballed,” she commented. “It resonated with people all over the world.” Benton sold NewME in 2018 after helping her entrepreneurial clients raise more than $47 million.
She also is chief creative officer of Angela Benton Inc., a holding company for other ventures and investments, including Revival: How I Rebuilt a Life for Longevity After Cancer, Burnout, and Heartbreak - a book described as “a clever blend between business and self-help”1, educational programming, speaking engagements, and more.
Her motivation is to draw attention to the inequity in many areas of business and technology. “The statistic that a lot of people quote is that 1% of venture capital goes to African Americans,” she said. “And sadly, the number is slow to move.” In fact, she broke this story on Black Web 2.0, the first company she founded – a media outlet targeted to the Black tech community. According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey in 2015, 2.2% and 4.7% of tech professionals were Black and Hispanic, respectively. She is adamant that this needs to change.
Benton’s innovative leadership in the worlds of tech and diversity hasn’t gone unnoticed. She was named among Goldman Sachs’ 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology, Business Insider’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology, Marie Claire’s 50 Women Who Rule, and Ebony Magazine’s Power 150. She was featured in CNN’s award-winning documentary series, Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley, and interviewed by Bloomberg, Forbes, Good Morning America and MSNBC. She also was a featured essayist in the Wall Street Journal’s 125th anniversary edition with her article “The Future of Entrepreneurship,” alongside Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
A Curve Ball Brings Introspection
“I think the commonality among all the things I do, is my passion for change and intuitively finding a place to help,” Benton said. With each passing year, she trusts her intuition more.
In 2016, Benton was thrown a curve ball; she was diagnosed with cancer.
“There was a big shift for me after being sick. I just started to trust myself more,” she said. “You gain a deep respect for the amount of time that we have here. You don’t want to waste it on things that don’t make sense.
“A lot of the work that I do is very introspective. My guidance comes from within, and this, for sure, has a lot to do with what I’ve gone through in my life, from single motherhood to a cancer diagnosis,” Benton shared.
She treated the pandemic lockdown similarly. It was a time for self-reflection and priority setting. “Set up a sanctuary for yourself,” is her advice to a stressed business owner. “Don’t be so rigid about what your day looks like. If you’re tired during the day because you slept horribly last night, reschedule your calls and take a nap.” Benton freely admits that she doesn’t work every evening and weekend, like she did earlier in her career.
Her business growth, of course, is top of mind. “We have been very fortunate to see success and growth in 2020. The pandemic changed habits all over the world. For example, theaters were closed and people in media and entertainment were trying to figure out how to revise their distribution strategy for online only – and they wanted data to support that. We’ve been very busy,” Benton comments. She encourages business owners to stay open to opportunities that may arise from helping people through the pandemic. “There is a tremendous amount of change happening this year,” she said.
“I’m blessed to get recognition for my work, but I don’t revel in it,” she said. “I celebrate wins with a glass of wine or a spa visit.” Recently, she rewarded herself with a girlfriend trip. With women friends, “you don’t have to hold your stomach in,” she laughed. “Just for the picture, that’s all. Friends allow you to be yourself. It filled my cup.”