Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day through web searches, clicks, scrolls, swipes, likes, posts, online purchases, wearable tech and more. This digital activity is analysed and sold to organisations and companies throughout the world, providing them with valuable information.
However, those data points are taken from consumers for free. It’s often viewed as the price to pay to access free services like Google and Facebook.
“Imagine if General Motors did not pay for its steel, rubber or glass — its inputs,” economist Robert J. Shapiro told The New York Times. “That’s what it’s like for the big internet companies. It’s a sweet deal.”
The startup, which is based in Washington, DC, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, has partnered with digi.me, a private data-sharing platform. Digi.me securely imports and stores encrypted data from over 15,000 different sources without seeing, touching or holding the data.
“We are on a mission to show that privacy and the demand for data can work together in a way that financially benefits consumers,” Dana Budzyn, co-founder and CEO of UBDI, said in a statement.
“We are empowering individuals to be at the centre of data sharing, analytics, and monetisation, and we are grateful to these investors for sharing our belief that the data economy needs this fundamental transformation before it’s too late. Empowering people with their data isn’t something to be feared, and it is long overdue.”
The company has a plan to generate $1,000 for users per year for their participation in research studies. Currently, the beta app allows consumers to participate in entertainment, financial, social, fitness and health studies—completely anonymously.
“I personally have over three and a half million accurate, verified and constantly-updating data points about my life in my data vault,” said Shane Green, co-founder and chair of UBDI and US CEO of digi.me.
“UBDI allows me to be matched anonymously with studies seeking that data and for my data to answer more than 70 percent of questions traditionally asked in surveys. There simply isn’t another approach as compelling—or ethical—as a person empowered with their data.”
The UBDI online portal allows businesses, government, universities and other organisations to create studies and analyse aggregated, anonymised results, protecting users’ identity and privacy in the process.
Since the users’ data will pre-qualify them for specific studies, the final results will be of a higher quality than traditional studies. As such, researchers will be able to offer better financial incentives to the users.
“For years, people have been seeking a way to see the value of their data in their own pocketbooks,” said Hank Uberoi, managing partner at HU Investments and UBDI board member. “I immediately saw that UBDI wasn’t just solving that for individuals, but they were fundamentally disrupting and improving how companies understand their customers. Market research is just the beginning.”
Compared to other data monetisation platforms, UBDI’s studies generally need under 1,000 participants to be statistically valuable to brands. The company’s PrivateMatch technology helps researchers find the population they need without UBDI or the brands knowing who they are.
UBDI raised $825,000 in funding in a pre-seed round, led by DG Lab Fund II and HU Investments with participation by PurposeBuilt Ventures. The funds will be used to grow the company’s team, sales, and marketing efforts.
“The $76 billion market research and insights industry is an ideal starting point for UBDI,” said Todd Cullen, UBDI board member, managing partner at Blue Table Advisors, and senior advisor at Oak Hill Partners. “I’ve watched brands spend incredible amounts of money with little or no return on their investment because of the low quality of data and survey results.
“UBDI is building a bridge from where the market research industry is today to a transparent model that delivers better results for brands while preserving privacy. It’s a win-win.”