For years, people have been giving data to Facebook, Google and the like, without any cash payment in return. That was understandable when someone’s data was only worth a few dollars and difficult to cash in.

But today, the average American consumer now generates data worth about $2,000 per year to advertisers and major brands.

A local financial whiz and scientist have teamed up to launch a David vs. Goliath startup that helps consumers have more control over – and monetize – their own data in the face of behemoths like Facebook and Google.

Walter Cruttenden, the financial guru behind Roth, Acorns and Blast, co-founded Ant Transaction Machines, along with Michael Gleason.

The startup has developed technology to help the average consumer cash in on the value of their data, as well as have more control over that access with a quick-toggle, on-or-off feature.

The company launched in December and is now positioning itself as the private alternative to to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for what’s known as “data dividends,” which he announced in his first state of the state address earlier this month.

The data dividend proposal follows the state legislature’s passage last year of a landmark data privacy bill, granting consumers specific rights related to their personal digital information that’s collected, shared or maintained by businesses, according to news reports.

That legislation enables consumers to request that personal information be deleted. It also requires businesses that collect personal data to disclose how and why it’s being used, according to those reports.

Newsom is reportedly in the process of coming up with a government plan regarding data dividends.

But Cruttenden and Gleason beat him to the punch.

Cruttenden told OC Startups Now that he believes the idea of data dividends is “well-intentioned,” but he believes it’s best achieved through private enterprise.

“We believe Ant is a practical way for regular people to get their data dividends,” he said.

More on the Co-founders

Walter Cruttenden

Cruttenden founded Roth, an investment bank focused on serving emerging growth companies and their investors; Acorns, a fin-tech startup that developed a micro-investing app; and Blast, a fin-tech app for gamers (see related story here). All have their HQ in Newport Beach.

He founded Ant with business partner Gleason, an MIT scientist and founder of Consumer Brands, a platform development, workflow automation, and premium content enterprise that uses AI.

Gleason serves as CEO. Ant’s HQ is also in Newport Beach.

How It Works

Ant’s website just launched and had more than 1,000 people sign up for the wait list on its first day, according to the company.

“Ant was formed to pool large quantities of consumers together, sort of a cooperative or ant colony, so that each member could reap more benefit,” Cruttenden said in a press release.

The wait list is to get your own personal “Data Value Meter” or DVM.

This is the software ANT has introduced that enables consumers to see the approximate value of their data. It also allows them to toggle on-or-off specific items and watch the DVM go up or down accordingly.

The DVM is also affected by the colony size, the number of consumers in the data pool. The larger the pool, the greater the value the individual can realize.

Once the company reaches a million members, it will negotiate with the big data buyers and deliver 50% of all proceeds to those that provided the data.

There is no cost to join.

At first, the service is expected to return a few dollars per month to consumers. As the data base grows, Ant hopes to reward its members with payments in the $50 to $100 per month range, based on specific data provided, as well as other variables affecting the data market.