First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Dana Budzyn: I’m 25, so I, like many, just moved back from DC to be with my parents through this global crisis. We are all considered high risk, which can be worrisome, but lucky enough to live in California, so I have hikes and sunshine to keep me busy! I feel grateful to have this time together as the world takes a pause and really figure out what we want going forward. Things can feel uncertain, but I’m very hopeful.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded UBDI
Dana Budzyn: At 18, I got very sick— going into Sepsis Shock and being put into a medically induced coma for about a month. After 5 major surgeries, no one knew what brought this on. Collecting my data from different hospitals was a pain, and sharing that data was scary as I didn’t know in what ways it could be used against me. I got curious about all the data out there on me, from social media to entertainment, and started digging into privacy and data ownership issues.
I became a biomechanical engineer and spent my summers interning at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I was blessed to have an amazing female mentor and get the opportunity to investigate advanced UV imaging for astrophysics, planetary, and biomedical applications for two years in a row. My second-year research was published by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics Technology. I also got lucky enough to go to the City of Hope and see a consortium of companies coming together to try and re-purpose different space detection systems for medical research. A common theme kept emerging… it was hard to find the right medical patients for these research studies, and they were willing to pay. This stuck with me.
After that summer, I wanted to try something new and got introduced to a startup trying to create a hedge fund that people could contribute their data to for better investment decisions. I didn’t know much about finance at the time, but it was a cool opportunity to learn about startup life and learn about the foundations of data from a financial perspective.
The wheels kept churning in my head as I finished school, and I thought about how at JPL a lot of the medical professionals struggled to find the right people or get access to needed data to run their tests — and here I was with a medical mystery wanting to give my data for some compensation. That was it: The ad & research space are all about reaching the right people at the right time with the right message or offering.
So my sights were set on helping people access their own data and be able to share it for compensation when they choose. Better access, better control, and better data for the companies that can find the right people without being creepy. Felt like a win-win— and thus, UBDI was born.
How does UBDI innovate?
Dana Budzyn: UBDI stands for Universal Basic Data Income. Our company brings privacy and profit together to give people ownership and compensation for the data they produce and choose to share. We are a social platform where people can use their data to talk to one another and filter by different types of people’s opinions, learn about themselves and communities people like them through insights and competitions, and earn from ads and research when they choose. This transparency and fair exchange is revolutionary and has not been achieved before.
Additionally, on the B2B side, our platform allows companies to hyper-target individuals based on permissioned data. Or enables companies to discover groups of people who spent $200 last week at Target, trades 3x daily on Robinhood, or even run 3 miles a week with your personalized offer or extract data to get an anonymized and holistic view on your new product.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dana Budzyn: 2020, as a whole, has been a challenging year for us. At the onset of the pandemic, our third co-founder passed away, adding to the stress and uncertainty of everything. Planned pilot projects that would bring in revenue got derailed & so needed proof points for the B2B side of our business were going to take a back seat.
But, we used our time effectively; after analyzing our B2C mobile app, we recognized our current system wouldn’t get us the scale we wanted. Therefore, we used “the great pause” the world was experiencing to redo our app to make it what it needed to scale effectively. In doing so, we took a risk and sacrificed short term growth for long term sustainability.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dana Budzyn: Choosing to sacrifice short term metrics that we know we needed fundraising to change our app to something sustainable in the future was a tough choice. I’ll let you know how it pans out, but so far so good 🙂
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and UBDI in the future?
Dana Budzyn: I try to handle stress by getting outside as much as possible with some degree of activity. It could be a casual stroll, bike ride, or just doing work in a quiet spot for an hour. In the sun, I am at my best and find stress does not affect me as much.
Our team has gone through a lot this year, but we have grown tremendously with the adversity we faced. Today, I couldn’t be more excited about our app. The changes we made in such a short amount of time are truly remarkable. I am so proud of our team and am excited that we all came together and agreed that the changes and shifts we made were necessary to get the scale we need for a Universal Basic Data Income.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Dana Budzyn: We operate across marketing verticals; competitors include SurveyMonkey, BigToken, and YouGov. We have a differentiated offering with verified data attributes, so survey farms, bots, and liars can’t contribute to our research. We also allow companies to request to extract data across sources like Coinbase, Twitter, and Netflix, which none of these companies have in their current offering. We need to reach more users, and we’ll be rocking!
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