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Meet Dana Budzyn of UBDI in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dana Budzyn.

Dana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
At 18, I got very sick — going into Sepsis Shock and being put into a medically induced coma for about a month. After five 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. The second-year my research got published by SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics Technology, and I got lucky enough to go to 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, I set out to create the UBDI (Universal Basic Data Income) app!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We started our journey by trying to solve a fundamental question that no one else could answer; what is the value of our data and to whom?

With such a big mission, we started with a few of the sources we felt would be the most valuable, like Facebook and Instagram, and a few thousand first-moving beta users. We quickly learned that the data with the most perceived value (like Facebook) was often the least interesting to both the user and the advertiser. For the user, putting data into a black box felt just as scary as leaving it with Facebook, especially if there wasn’t an immediate monetary incentive for doing so. We realized we needed our users to see and learn from their own data and share it with each other the same way they can share it with companies in ways that create value for everyone involved & without it feeling like a chore. We also learned about our own competences, and where we should partner vs where we needed a user experience that gave us control over core functionality. In that vein, we moved away from a partnership that required our users to use two apps (one to store/manage data, and one to share it). The original system was a good idea in theory, but in practice over 50% of users decided not to download the second app and 50% more struggled to get that connection between the apps to work, which was beyond our control and led to a lot of frustration and low morale for the team. So we got started creating a one-app experience by embedding over 19 sources directly in UBDI while sharing insights back with users on mobile (and soon!) the web.

Lastly, as a whole, 2020 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 were derailed by companies now laying off staff…. so the metrics we needed on the B2B side for investor funding had to take a back seat. My co-founder Mark and I are both 25– and it’s safe to say all these unforeseen curveballs were quite overwhelming for both of us. Had Mark and I not been best friends since 8th grade through all the highs and lows of growing up — I don’t think we wouldn’t had the mental stamina to keep trying and pushing forward. Some days feel like you are about to change the world and others it feels like the world (and big tech) is doing everything in its power to stop us — but that’s the roller coaster we signed up for and I have the right partner and the right team to get through it.

We paused and put our heads together and since we knew our current system wouldn’t get the scale desired, we used this pandemic to take all of our learnings and redo the entire app; adding 19 data sources with visuals, a new wallet, and an entirely new social functionality so people could talk and learn from their data. Our team has gone through a lot this year but with the adversity we faced, we have grown tremendously. We’ve all fallen in love with our brand new app so while it took a journey to get there — our perseverance and what we’ve built in such a short amount of time is truly remarkable. I am so proud and grateful for our completely…excuse my French… badass team.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the UBDI story. Tell us more about the business.
We’re solving the social dilemma by putting the power & assets of big tech into people’s hands… after-all, it’s THEIR data! UBDI is a new type of social media where members are in 100% control and data is used to positively impact their lives! UBDI allows users to talk with their data in verified groups, get insights into themselves and others, they can ALSO get paid as your data matches you with ads, offers, & research.

Our mission is to merge privacy and profit to create a Universal Basic Data Income where you earn 70% of every opportunity. This transparency and fair exchange has not been achieved before.

Additionally, on the B2B side, our platform allows companies to hyper-target individuals based on permissioned data. This enables companies to discover groups of people who spent $200 last week at Target, trade 3x daily on Robinhood, or even run 3 miles a week and match them with a personalized offer or extract data to get an anonymized and holistic view on your new product.

We believe our tools can bring brands and people together, benefiting both parties as they respect each other’s choices and time.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
In my life, I’d say getting sepsis shock for no reason and ending up with five major surgeries was on the bad side of luck. But the good news and blessing is that I survived to tell the tale and in that process, found a love and passion for entrepreneurship. I can’t say I’ve run into too much good luck on the business side yet, but I’m feeling my karma is about to turn around. 🙂


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