The University of Iowa

UI Student Entrepreneur Makes World’s Most Adorable Flash Drives

May 6th, 2011

This announcement from University News Services profiles ISBA student Doug Stienstra. Photo by Tim Schoon.

Doug Stienstra was in trouble when he asked his girlfriend to suggest something he could get for her birthday.

“She said she wanted a cute flash drive,” he said, knowing this could be trouble because flash drives were not cute. Nor were they cuddly, nor lovable, nor charming, nor pretty much anything but boring.

“I looked and looked but the only thing I could find was a teddy bear flash drive on eBay that was poorly made and looked cheap for the expensive price,” said Stienstra. So he decided to make his own with a standard homely, unremarkable drive that he stuck inside a small finger puppet and came up with the cutest flash drive you ever saw.

His girlfriend, Hellen, got the birthday gift she wanted, and Stienstra got a business idea. Today, he’s carving out a new sector in the technology market for adorable digital memory devices with his company, dataBabies.

Stienstra, a senior majoring in international studies and minoring in business, started dataBabies last year in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory (BELL), a student business incubator operated by UI’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center. He manufactures dataBabies using standard 4 gig flash drives anchored inside finger puppets. The plush drives are sold with an environmental protection theme, with a Grevy’s Zebra, Bengal Tiger, Mountain Gorilla and African Elephant. They sell for $24.99 each, with a portion of each sale donated to the World Wildlife Fund.

“Saving data is great, but we hope to save actual wildlife, too,” he said.

Aside from being cute as the dickens, Stienstra said dataBabies also cushion the flash drive from damage, and their size and distinctive look make them harder to lose in a purse or on a cluttered desk.

Stienstra started getting his business off the ground in earnest this spring, when his website went live at He’s also selling them at a bookstore in his hometown of Orange City, Iowa, and hopes to expand to gift stores and other retail outlets later this year, though he expects the bulk of his sales to come from the web.

He may have found an international market, too. His girlfriend/muse now lives in Brazil, and on his occasional visits there, he’s found many Brazilians are interested in his data critters.

“Her family and friends all loved them and asked me to bring more, so I always bring back more dataBabies with each visit,” he said.