Julia Apostle joined us as a Non-Executive Director on the OpenCorporates Operating Board. A practicing lawyer, Julia brings almost 20 years of experience spanning the intersection between law, technology and data from the likes of Twitter and the Financial Times.
In addition to her role at OpenCorporates, she is a partner in the Tech Transactions group of the law firm Orrick, and also supporting their Cyber, Privacy and Data Innovation teams.
In this blog post, Julia tells us why she thinks transparent company data is more important than ever, why she decided to join OpenCorporates and about the company’s future growth potential.
Tell us about your professional background
Access to information has been a preoccupation of mine throughout my career, so you can see the link to OpenCorporates.
After qualifying as a lawyer, I started my career at Article 19, a free speech-focused NGO. Whilst there, I did advocacy work supporting freedom of expression and access to information, including in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Then I went into private practice because I am convinced that, in order to effect change around access to information, advocacy must happen from within the private sector too.
I chose to work for organisations with a free speech and transparency agenda, including the Financial Times and Twitter.
I moved to Paris a few years ago, where I have been working in private practice with a focus on all aspects of data (privacy but also open data) and new technologies. I recently joined the law firm Orrick supporting their Cyber, Privacy & Data Innovation, and Tech Transactions teams.
Why did you decide to join OpenCorporates?
As soon as I started looking at what OpenCorporates did, I saw that it would be a perfect fit.
The company’s dual objective appealed to me: it is for-profit but with a strong emphasis on public benefit. I think every company should give prominence in their strategy to a public benefit purpose.
I was also very interested in the data and transparency aspect of OpenCorporates, which informs important work such as in anti-corruption and investigative journalism efforts.
Finally, the people at OpenCorporates were a big factor in me joining. Everyone I met was very engaging and super talented, and I felt I could align with them and their objectives. Each member of the Board brings different perspectives and professional experiences, and this diversity is important.
How does your professional background and experience shape your work at OpenCorporates?
It has been helpful to have an understanding of the issues surrounding the use of data and the practical importance of open data from a political and economic perspective.
On the political side, I have seen a move to recognise that access to information should have the same standing as the right to freedom of expression – you can’t have effective expression if you don’t have good information.
Conversations around “fake news” highlight that.
This is because you need access to information to express yourself politically in an effective way, and to critically assess and evaluate the messages you’re receiving. That is why what OpenCorporates is doing in the corporate data space – making transparent company data available to all – is really important.
There’s also an important economic angle, which is that competition is healthier when all market participants have access to fundamental data, including about companies.
From your perspective, what is the benefit of open and transparent company data?
Overall, openness and transparency of company data is necessary because corporations play a hugely significant role in our day-to-day and economic lives.
So we should be able to access information about them.
That is why the provenance of corporate data is so important. To assess the reliability of this data, people should know where it is coming from.
Have these benefits changed at all given the upheaval caused by the pandemic?
The pandemic has reinforced the importance of data and its role in our lives, including company data.
Certain governments are making strides to open up their data, not just to improve the democratic process but also to foster innovation. So it makes sense that there should be a parallel movement in the private sector.
Looking to the future, what is the potential of OpenCorporates?
Huge! There is fantastic commercial potential for OpenCorporates’ data. But there is also significant potential for public benefit, especially given the organisation’s previous track record in this area. OpenCorporates is doing the right thing at exactly the right time.
You may also be interested in…
Our Operating Board
We set up an operating board to accelerate our growth and enhance our governance.
Find out more >
Podcast: Transparent company data & investigations
The CDO and CIO of the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence speaks to Shanti Salas about the role of transparent company data in enabling investigations.
Listen to podcast >