Building data ownership tools for everyone. Founder and CEO of Ozone. Ex-Google, ex-Facebook.
Imagine a car factory where nameless workers in a sprawling complex make expensive cars all day and all night. Thousands of shiny, new expensive cars move off the line every millisecond and are shipped instantly all over the world to wealthy buyers, generating $195 million of profit daily for the car company.
Sounds impossible, right?
Not if everyone on earth is a worker and does the work for free. This is the modern impossible system made possible by Big Tech.
You are the free laborer.
Big tech companies put great tools in our hands like News Feed and Search and tell us our lives are better for it. In reality, we are giving them free labor.
Every time we browse a site, comment, like, subscribe, purchase, we are mining data gold for these companies, which in turn roll up our data into neat bullion bars behind our backs and serve to other big companies to make each other rich.
This is the lopsided deal of tech that we all signed up for over a decade ago, and now we all find ourselves on the losing end of this deal.
Data goes out, money comes in ($2 Trillion every year). Where is our piece? Aren’t we the ones making the product?
My company, Ozone, is here to change that. Ozone is the first company to build a simple wealth-generating system on top of the internet. The Ozone layer gives users the ability to capture, clean, and monetize whatever data exhaust they spit into the atmosphere. Before it gets into the hands of the advertisers, users get a say, and they get a piece of the upside from the end user (companies).
This is the way the internet should have been from the start. The internet was originally formed as a communication system between universities on the US west coast (ARPANet) which allowed the people talking to each other to make money and create new things off the data/information they exchanged. Somehow it morphed into the system today, where the owners of that piping make all of the money off of the people manning the microphones.
Ozone’s HQ sits just a few blocks away from where the original internet, ARPANet, was conceived (The RAND Corporation) in Santa Monica, CA. We are imagining our shared future as a new beginning of the original internet, where now if you are applying effort and attention in the system, you get rewarded and paid for the privilege.
My inspiration for Ozone started in 2014, when I was working for the biggest and most successful drug dealer in the world: Facebook. Facebook (like Google) dispenses dopamine hits every millisecond every day of the year, and because of its near $1 trillion market cap, can now fund social change.
My job was to figure out ways to make it easier for advertisers to give all of their money to Facebook.
We had some advertisers in Thailand who, because of a declined bank card, were jam-packing duffel bags full of cash and hand-delivering them to FB Advertiser events in Asia, begging us to turn their ads back on when we shut them off for delinquency.
Every time I queried a user table for data, I saw what the frenzied desperation for Facebook Advertising product was all about: access to brands a user likes, his / her favorite sports, relationship preferences, relative place on the social hierarchy, and a bunch of other personal stuff that Mark Zuckerberg prob never dreamed of being able to access when he created a “Hot or Not” for Harvard dorms.
After a couple of years at Facebook and then Google, I started my first company, called Leviathan Analytics. This company was about spatial distribution of data and human behavior, i.e. where on a map do people do particular things in patterns? How much regularity can we find in those activities / patterns? This company got snapped up by a much better-funded company called Findyr, where I became CEO.
Findyr was a company with the 2010s-era misspelled name to denote tech chic, much like “Burb’n” before it was rebranded as Instagram. The company’s premise was crowdsourced data collection: mobilize over 100,000 people all over the world with the app on their phone to get paid for uploading local data.
Our main customer was Gallup, who worked with us to source the opinion of thousands of people in countries like Brazil and India. My LinkedIn started getting bombarded with messages from mobile users who were asking me how else they could get paid for more data - they were willing to give it up! They would ask me, “what else do you want to know? Do you want access to my Facebook posts?” That’s when I realized that this problem was real and affecting billions of people all over the world, who were asking: why does everyone else gets paid for my data except for me?
I left Findyr and linked up with my co-founder Ben Colman, who, like me, spent time building startups trying to give people more power over their data. Ben built a company that let users remote-detonate their private data from another location, basically like an IED for loose data. Ben and I hit the road in Silicon Valley and New York to raise money around the idea alone: take from the rich (Google and Facebook), and give to the poor.
Our idea caught the eye of one of Silicon Valley’s leading angel investors who had a reputation for finding outsized bets early and doubling down on companies that empower the everyman to be true owners of their time and assets: Jason Calacanis. Jason had many notable successes in the “unlock hidden inventory” economy, namely Uber, Robinhood, Thumbtack, and Calm; he and our other investors saw us as the next thing on the right side of history
After raising our seed round we set up in Santa Monica, where the internet age was born (via the RAND Corporation), and continues to live on with heavy hitter companies that emphasize privacy (Snapchat), and decentralization (Everipedia, founded by our chief evangelist, Mahbod Moghadam). When I moved here, I noticed that all of the OG tech entrepreneurs were using CBD products, almost like the modern LA-version of mind-altering psychedelics from the San Francisco ‘60s, but more chill and fewer weirdos.
In Santa Monica, I linked up with my homies and tech OGs, Mahbod (founder of Genius and Everpedia), and Joe Combs (founder of direct-to-consumer subscription company EarFleek and architect of our consumer platform), and Ozone started to accelerate in ways it couldn’t have if I stayed in enterprise tech rent-collector kingdom NYC.
That’s when we started to figure out that CBD companies have the same problem as Ozone users: they get abused by the tech giants! CBD companies face daily censorship for posting ads for simple products like bath bombs.
Olivia Alexander, the founder of our partner KushQueen, has been fighting the tech giants for a place at the advertising table for years, and despite repeated shutdown of her ads, she has grown a legit CBD empire. KushQueen is our valued partner, and we’re finally giving them an advertising home they’ve been denied for years from FB and Google, despite having bags of cash to give them. We’ll gladly take that from Zuck.
As of the launch, Ozone is simple: you get $5 for signing up and then earn more for doing tasks, like learning about CBD bath bombs. If you are into CBD, it’s actually kind of fun! It’s not like a job where you’re getting paid, it’s more like a game where you get to keep the value you are creating.
My aspirations, however, are for Ozone to eventually dominate the entire data sector - I want Ozone to eventually permeate into all facets of the internet, giving users the value their actions merit.
Like the Iberian explorer expeditions that left Europe for the New World, many are claiming to be the first to try what we’re doing. The true bearer of that claim is probably Brave (the browser). Brave does some amazing stuff, and I admire the founder Brendan Eich for attempting to create a pure alternative internet. The problem with Brave is twofold: (1) it limits users to earning cryptocurrency (BAT), which requires users to surmount a massive intellectual and technical hurdle to understand what earning BAT means in terms of everyday savings and disposable income and (2) it promises privacy freedom independent of Google, yet relies on anti-phishing and malware services provided by Google, making it a circular reference.
Ozone is different in that we give users the option to get earnings in the same currency that Facebook and Google get their earnings: pure hard cash. Unlike Brave, we are fundamentally unambitious in trying to create the latest Manhattan Project to nuclear detonate the Internet: like O3, we are a simply a compound layer on top of the existing internet that requires users to do very little to realize earnings and the power of true ownership. We leverage existing tools that all users--not just crypto- and privacy-savvy users understand to empower them to be CEOs of their own data.
We are wise to the times however and are already laying the foundation for a crypto architecture. The earliest crypto iteration of Ozone will simply be that you can choose whether you get paid in cash or bitcoin. The goal, however, is for Ozone to someday have a utility token where users are not only getting to own their data, but their activities on the site give them more control over the community we are building.
In this new internet nation we are building, citizens get paid for what they put in.
The way the internet should have been.
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