Lyndon Oh of Ozone: “Try things quickly and see how users respond”

Try things quickly and see how users respond. We released our data dividend product later than we wanted to, and it’s turned out to be a huge driver of our growth. As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lyndon Oh. Lyndon Oh, […]

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Try things quickly and see how users respond. We released our data dividend product later than we wanted to, and it’s turned out to be a huge driver of our growth.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lyndon Oh.

Lyndon Oh, Ph.D., is founder and chief executive officer of Ozone. Oh is a serial entrepreneur and data scientist with more than 15 years of experience working with some of the world’s largest tech companies including Google and Facebook. Oh is now on a mission to give data control back to the people.


Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

My co-founder and I were getting pushback from potential investors and casual observers on our core hypothesis that people would buy anonymized data; that it was actually worth something. So we put my co-founders’ anonymized data in a ZIP file on Ebay, and someone initially bid 112.50 dollars. Ebay then cancelled the auction for a TOS violation! This gave us the confidence that we knew we were building a huge market; that everyone’s data is worth cash. We told our story to VCs pitching this data point, leading to a 2M dollars raise on just the idea and the vision.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We released our beta asking people to opt in their Instagram and YouTube accounts — no one did it! We learned that we can’t just be a kitchen sink of people’s data and ask them to throw pots and pans into the sink themselves. So we went to market with a product that sits quietly in the background while you surf the web and do your thing, and we do the rest to get you value for your data.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact? What is Ozone doing to shake up the market?

Ozone is the tech red pill that allows internet users to escape the Big Tech matrix. Now users can get personalized internet advertising with compensation for their data. We are restoring rights belonging to users to get economic value for their own data. The 2 trillion dollars market of personal data has gone to a handful of players and nothing back to the users themselves. We are giving users what is rightfully theirs.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We have paid out cash to hundreds of users for their data, many of whom were in economically vulnerable communities. We find that earnings potential can cover major expenses for many people like utilities and basic supplies.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

They can make it easier for users to exercise their property rights over their own data. Data is a non-exclusive good, which means that many people can extract value from it. Unfortunately, users are the last ones to get value for their own data, and that’s a problem of people not understanding their property rights over their own personal information. We’ve had some awesome conversations with the Data Dividend Project (Andrew Yang) and would love to see more people like Andrew and his co-founder, Enoch Liang, that have passion and conviction about getting people back what is theirs to begin with. That starts legally with making sure everyone has legal claim to their data and understands their rights. After that, the monetization and ownership process begins, which is where Ozone comes in.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is about finding people that are better than you in the things that convert a vision into a reality, and inspiring them to completely own the processes that you would want to own yourself but are constrained for time and resources. As a leader, you have to have had field experience to be able to set the vision and strategy, and should then be able to direct accomplished people around you to execute operations on behalf of your thinking and the plan, without necessarily getting step-by-step directions. Horatio Nelson was someone I always admired because of his ability to communicate his naval strategy and then devolve the leadership to his team. His competent captains would know what to do, and he didn’t interfere.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Try things quickly and see how users respond. We released our data dividend product later than we wanted to, and it’s turned out to be a huge driver of our growth.

Accept that there’s someone else out there who’s thinking the same way as you about the problem you’re trying to solve, and that you have to always move faster and more creatively than that person to win people to your company/cause.

Startups are a marathon, not a constant sprint.

Get people who have character and humility, especially in a tech culture where everyone wants to be a star.

Collective human psychology is one of the best barometers for building tech products. Facebook and Zynga got that right in exploiting vanity and dopamine; we are working on activating people’s sense of ownership and freedom.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Generally, a movement that tells people not to surrender their rights to big centralized institutions because they think they’re getting a service out of it. This means don’t blindly accept conventional wisdom and the way things are because you think there’s no choice. Also don’t always trust people because they seem smarter or more successful than you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The obstacle becomes the way.”— Marcus Aurelius

I always liked the Stoic philosophers because they understood empirical realities of life, not the “this is the way the world should be” type of thinking. A huge part of the reward of being an entrepreneur is that you know you will encounter crazy obstacles that you never anticipated. I try to think beyond first-order effects, i.e. this event has to happen in order for X,Y,Z second-order outcomes to happen — where those second- and third-order effects are critical for learning or for the success of the endeavor, which you can only see in hindsight.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I always admired Steve Wozniak. He wanted to give everything away for free because he genuinely believed everyone should have those products to make their lives better, and he’s the one that built them. I would love to learn from him how he thought about technology as a driver of good, long before we arrived in the social media age and the junk lower-order stuff we see today that tech has created.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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