Dave Moskovitz is one of the early investors behind our startup. Ten years ago, he had the vision to invest in our talents, mentor our people and grow our tech with us.
This year marks our first decade as a “startup.” We’ve stretched and grown and we now power some of the world’s largest marketing campaigns for global brands including Sony and UMG.
My team interviewed Dave on what it was like to step up with us back in the early days. I wanted to hear what he saw in us 10 years ago, and what made him want to invest in a young couple from Canada. Here’s what he had to say.
“Building a startup is super hard,” shares Dave. “The stories of many startups haven’t been told because they went from Mega to Zero or withered on the vine. Appreciation Engine is different. We’ve built something that’s reliable and sustainable.”
AE: What inspired you to want to support Annabel Youens and Jeff Mitchell as co-founders in 2009?
Dave: Jeff clearly knew his stuff inside out and was able to communicate it in a very clear and accessible way. He was executing tech that had been way ahead of the market. Annabel was very engaging, and was one of the few people around at that stage who totally “got” social media, what it would become, and how valuable it would be to brands. And we all shared a passion for music across many genres. They both struck me as having the skills, experience, resourcefulness, and most importantly resilience to build a great venture.
AE: What was your role in the early stages of building the business?
Dave: I was a partner in a seed fund at that stage, and my mates Stefan Korn, Nick Rowney and I had a conversation around using social media to help bands rise above the noise and get much better exposure in their specific target markets.
We had a relatively raw idea and some capital to deploy but didn’t have the capacity to make it happen, so we looked for a team to own it, iterate it, and make it happen. I knew of Annabel and Jeff from previous work they had done in New Zealand and approached them and asked if this was something the wanted to work on. They were very enthusiastic, picked it up, made it their own, and made it a success in New Zealand. Along the way, I was the initial investor, coach, mentor, and board member. I helped organize the seed capital to get it off the ground.
AE: What is your role now?
Dave: I’m now a director of the company, and help support Jeff and Bell in expanding the business. I’m mostly arms-length.
AE: What struck you as being key characteristics as to why you wanted to support them?
Dave: Building a company is hard. Really hard. Building an international company is even harder. And doing anything in the music industry is insane. Through all of it, Annabel and Jeff are excellent at separating the wheat from the chaff, focusing on the important stuff, and making and keeping customers happy, and just getting lots of sh!t done every day.
AE: What do you most admire about Annabel and Jeff?
Dave: I’ve never seen two people work so hard to excel to succeed against the odds, at the same time as retaining their very human core values. They’re both superb business people, excellent founders, brilliant at what they do on a daily basis, and battle-hardened … and yet they’re both honest, generous, and warm to the core. I feel very fortunate that we’ve been part of each other’s lives.
AE: What do you envision for the future of Appreciation Engine?
Dave: AE is one of those companies that has taken 10 years to be an overnight success. I feel we’re at the inflection point right now. The hard work the team has put in, correctly anticipating where the market is going, is really paying off. AE is becoming the go-to customer insights tool for a world that is suddenly aware of the importance of user control over their own data. We’ve baked user-controlled privacy into the core of the product from day one, and with GDPR and related issues coming into sharp focus, our main differentiator is finally being well-appreciated.
AE: What are you most proud of about the company?
Dave: The biggest players in the industry rely on our company and tech as a critical component in managing their relationships with their many millions of users. We’ve done this with a tiny team. This is the way tech is supposed to work. It’s architected and built to be rock-solid reliable at massive scale and super easy to use.
AE: In your opinion, what is a key distinguishing characteristic of the company Annabel and Jeff have built?
Dave: We deliver. In an industry full of hype and bravado, we make commitments to our customers and deliver. We don’t bullsh!t, and our customers know that they can rely on us to flawlessly deliver 24/7 to help them develop the best possible value relationships with their customers.
AE: What do you wish for them for the future?
Dave: The company is just starting to grow dramatically, and I wish a future for them where they have built a large powerhouse of a company that powers the world’s best brands from Victoria, BC. Silicon Valley may be the center of the Borg universe, but it’s places like Wellington and Victoria — which have a remarkable resemblance in many ways — where heart and soul still matter a great deal.
AE: What is your advice for other technology start-ups looking for success?
Dave: The key is to ensure you’re solving a global problem. Find a problem the whole world needs, solve it locally and then scale it back up. Having a relentless focus on solving a local problem that’s global in nature is the key.
Dave is clearly passionate about our company and the successes we’ve achieved together in our 10 years. As Dave paused to take a breath, we asked him if he had anything else he wanted to share. Here’s what he said, just before ducking off public transit and into his workplace in Wellington, New Zealand.
“You need to find your village where you can give and receive support. It took AE 10 years to become an overnight success. AE is all about heart. We’ve unleashed a passion through a technology platform that respects people. And it’s super reliable. AE enables our enterprise customers to connect with their customers. We value relationships and have a passion for both sides. That’s what makes Appreciation Engine different — and successful.”
***This article originally ran on Medium. Follow Annabel here.