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How do you create a $100 billion industry from an unknown technology?


Ziba takes a new USB-based data technology and invents the thumb drive, creating a new category and transforming how people share data.


M-Systems had a USB-based technology with the potential to change how the world shares data. They came to Ziba to turn it into a product anyone could use, and created an enormous new category in the process.
  • Challenge

    In 1999, flash memory was a promising new technology looking for a breakthrough product. M-Systems, a 10-year-old Israeli tech company, had figured out how to connect flash to a computer via USB with no outside power or new software…but not how to get consumers to embrace it. Ziba was asked to define and develop a new device around this technology—one that customers would immediately understand and adopt. With no existing market, manufacturing capacity or name recognition, M-Systems faced monumental challenges. The Ziba team had to overcome all of them, on a tight budget, with less than four months to go from concept to product.

  • Solution

    Through rigorous consumer and market research, we recognized that the product needed to be portable, durable, easy to use, and have a “cool” factor—something rare in tech devices at the time. The inherent functionality of a USB drive offered an instant plug-and-play experience to users, whether on a Mac or PC, and a pocket-sized format. After several rapid rounds of sketching and concepting, the Ziba team hit upon two critical metaphors: a key fob, and a ballpoint pen. Combining these into a single form factor, we created the DiskOnKey, an iconic, pocket-sized drive that anyone could keep on a keyring, then take out of their pocket, un-cap, insert and use instantly. More than a clever product, this was a completely new way of transporting data, replacing fragile, awkward floppy discs with something secure, simple, accessible, cool….and familiar.

  • Impact

    DiskOnKey created an entirely new category and market, ushering in a new era of data sharing, and marking the beginning of the end for floppy discs and CD-ROMS. Since the product’s introduction in 2000, the global market for USB thumb drives has grown to over $30 billion and is projected to become a $100 billion market by 2026. It has also been selected as one of the All-Time 100 gadgets by Time Magazine.

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Created the market valued at

$100 billion

About M-Systems

M-Systems Ltd. (now SanDisk) is best known for developing and patenting the first flash drive, and the first USB flash drive, marketed in 2000 as DiskOnKey.


  • Insights & Trends
  • User Research
  • Product Design
  • Engineering


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