All posts by Annabel Youens

Annabel Youens

About Annabel Youens

I'm a co-founder and CMO at AE. I believe that truly successful internet businesses have to connect people. {wave} When I'm not online I'm exploring beautiful Vancouver Island. Things I love: everything scifi, literary fiction, coffee, Google Music, my workhorse sewing machine and board games.

This month our work, home and lives have been uprooted and we’re slowly morphing into our new roles and juggling many responsibilities. Business leaders are being asked to guide their companies in new ways. One thing that’s true for almost all of us is that more and more online data is being created, shared, and consumed every day.  And with this surge of data it becomes even more necessary and expected of today’s digital leaders to respect data privacy.

At AE, we are committed to helping our customers respect their users’ privacy. We want to give our customers the tools to develop a lasting, trust-based relationship with their users and fans. As data privacy evolves, we will help our customers remain compliant, and at the forefront, of what’s best for their users.

the ae team - customer service
One of AE’s core values is Privacy is a Promise. We are committed to helping our customers respect their users’ privacy.

Today we launch the AE Privacy Center.

AE’s Privacy Center is here to help the businesses we work with:

  • Offer built-in GDPR-level compliance.
  • Stand out as leaders in privacy and trustworthiness.
  • Scale the process by giving users the tools to manage their own data.

AE’s Privacy Center is here to help end-customers:

  • See their personal data stored with AE.
  • Understand what their data is being used for and how it’s being protected.
  • Take action steps to change how the data is handled or to delete it.
  • Feel safe, in control, and respected.

While many of the tools in our Privacy Center are focused on compliance with the GDPR, regulations like this one have a global impact. If you do business online, you most likely have users around the world.

The GDPR has inspired many other countries to stand up for their citizens’ data privacy rights. Many countries are creating similar data regulations, such as the CCPA in the state of California. Depending on where you are located, these regulations will vary. We anticipate there will soon be a global standard for online data privacy.

For consumers, agreeing to give up some data is an expected part of digital life and even more important now. They know that there is an unavoidable transfer of data every time they use an app, buy a product, or subscribe to a service. Consumers want to see personalized content and have accepted that tracking is needed for rich online experiences.

Coupled with those rich online experiences, many consumers now expect to monitor and control their own online data. They want to know who has what and what they are doing with it. Data privacy is a universal human right and customers are rightfully demanding transparency.

The AE Privacy Center
In the AE Privacy Center, customers can take control of their online data. For example, they can see what data is being gathered and change their preferences.

With AE’s Privacy Center, your users can take these steps with their digital data:

Review and Update Login Permissions

Users can see which social networks they used in the past to log in and revoke permissions as they see fit.

Review and Delete Account Information

Users can see what personal information is currently being stored by AE, such as name, email, username, website, gender, age, phone number, birth date, address, and IP based information. They can remove individual data fields or delete all stored information.

See Their Activity List

Users can view the social activities that we have been tracking with their permission. They can clear this data and stop future data from being picked up.

Download Their Data

Users can get a copy of all their personal data, including account information, social login information, and a list of their social activity. We offer .JSON and .CSV file formats.

Delete Their Account and Information

With the click of a button, users can delete their whole account and all stored data.

See The Advantage of Sharing Data with Trusted Brands

While we offer account deletion as an option, we strongly recommend users consider other options such as turning off tracking or deleting individual data fields. We help users understand that the activity we track helps create rich web and email experiences and that in deleting their account they will no longer have access to those experiences.

Being A Trustworthy Brand

As more work and play take place online being known as a “trustworthy” brand helps ensure your company stays relevant. More than ever we’re going to see consumers around the world demand transparency in how their data is used. At AE, our goal is to stay at the forefront of consumer data rights, ensuring our clients are seen as leaders who care.

Want to know more? Send us a chat message to discuss how the AE Privacy Center can provide value for your company.

We love our online world — it’s where we work, listen to music, order groceries or gifts and stay in touch with friends. We see huge possibilities for creating a beautiful future on the Internet…and we want you to be safe in that world.

Today we announce the launch of Sound the privacy trumpets!

We want to help consumers understand how their personal data is being used and how they can remain in control of it.

Annabel Youens, CMO of AE, announces the release of in this video: exists to help consumers:

  • Make smart choices about how they share their personal data.
  • Understand their online rights.
  • Take action steps to improve how their online data is handled.

Preview what has to offer below or check out the tool now!

Data Privacy Timeline

Find out more about the evolution of personal data with our timeline. Revisit pivotal moments in our shared online history and take control of your privacy with action items throughout.

Visit this page to explore how data privacy has changed and how you can be more secure online.

Your Data Privacy Rights

You have data rights, however, these rights aren’t global (they should be!). Your digital rights depend on where you live and the location of the companies you do online business with.

Visit this section to identify what your rights are and how they are being impacted based on where you live.

Data Privacy Resources

We scoured the Internet for the best sites, articles, and tools to help you take control of your online data. We break it down into topics so you can quickly find what is most important to you.

Visit this page to see our complete list of recommended resources.

Your Privacy and AE

If you’ve ever been involved in a brand contest that covers more than one social platform, gotten great recommendations for music or gaming, or received unexpected bonuses from one of your favorite music artists, chances are you’ve connected with AE. We are the software that companies use to collect and make sense of customer data.

When you use our social login, we keep a record of your actions on social media when they are related to certain companies (our clients). These companies then use that data to offer you recommendations, contests, and marketing campaigns. We want you to know how this works so that you can have the ultimate say in who uses your data.

Visit this page to learn how we collect data, the data we collect, how that data is used, our privacy standards and more.

We’re so proud of all the hard work and thought that went into creating Protecting your data rights is key to creating our vision for the future of the Internet. Hop over to now and get to grips with your data rights.

Explore the world of online data privacy with this rich timeline. Revisit pivotal moments in our shared online history and discover actions that you can take today to increase your online safety.See an interactive version of this timeline at

The Dawn of Data Privacy


The US Government Collects Data on American Citizens

Following President Lyndon Johnson’s decision to create a centralized database with every citizen’s information, citizens rise up in frustration.

Congress holds numerous hearings that a computerized national data bank could mean endless snooping and infringe on citizens’ rights. The project isn’t realized, however the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, and the Privacy Act in 1974 are created.


The Internet Goes Public

Previously a military project, the Internet is opened up to the public. Entrepreneurs start earning money online.  Users with dial-up connections access content they’ve never found in a library. Communication flourishes.


A Sting CD is the First Thing Sold on the Internet

On August 12, 1994, the internet enables the first e-commerce purchase. A Philadelphia resident uses his credit card to order a Sting CD on what is one of the first e-commerce websites. The purchase is encrypted with a program called PGP (“Pretty Good Privacy”).

first thing sold on internet sting cd

Netscape Uses the First Cookie and Creates SSL

Netscape creates the first browser cookie. In 1994, it fulfills the same purpose as it does today: allowing companies to recognize users, track their activity on the Internet, and build a customer profile. Originally, Netscape created the cookie to recognize users who have already visited certain websites. The cookies are accepted by default. Users aren’t even notified of their existence.

Netscape also develops SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) as a way of securing communications between clients and servers on the Internet.

ACTION: Find out whether your browser is  tracking you. Check with Panopticlick.


Amazon and eBay Launch Their Websites

In July 1995, Jeff Bezos launches Amazon as an online bookstore. In the autumn of 1995, Pierre Omidyar also launches eBay.

The two events are widely considered to be the real start of the dot com bubble.

ACTION: Tired of impulse purchases. Delete Your Account.

ACTION: Stop the bidding madness.  Adjust Your eBay Account (or just ask a trusted friend to change your password!)

The European Data Protection Directive Is Adopted

Following privacy concerns regarding the websites that started collecting customer data in the period of the first tech bubble, the European Union passes a directive governing the processing of personal data on October 24, 1995.


With the Internet, marketers suddenly have a new way to communicate to their potential customers.

Hotmail develops a free email service that opens up email addresses to the public (not just something for students or businesses anymore). Marketers can now reach thousands of prospects online.


Surfers Beware: The Electronic Privacy Information Center Reviews 100 Most Popular Sites

In 1997, the Electronic Privacy Information Center reviews a hundred of the Internet’s most popular sites only to realize that only 17 of them have an explicitly stated privacy policy.

Out of the 100 websites they examine, 24 are found to use cookies, and none of them allow users to access their data.

The Center concludes that data privacy will be one of the biggest challenges for the Internet, and they recommend creating privacy policies, enabling users to view their data and use the website anonymously should they wish to do so. Their goal is to add more transparency to the way data is collected and processed.

ACTION: Tired of being tracked by your browser? Block Invisible Browser Trackers.

electronic information privacy centre twitter post


PayPal Launches

PayPal launches as an online payment system and a money transfer tool used by e-commerce websites to process payments. The company regularly faces problems with regulations and fraud. To use PayPal, e-commerce websites have to share data with PayPal, and PayPal encrypted this sensitive financial information. It’s very similar to how PayPal operates today.


<h2″>The DoubleClick Merger Scandal

Advertising giant DoubleClick plans to merge with data brokerage company, Abacus Direct.

DoubleClick uses the Dynamic Advertising Reporting and Targeting (DART) system to allow advertisers to move their ads, track the number of clicks, and select which ads will be displayed to whom. The information they collect includes: Browser type, OS, ISP, bandwidth, date and time, and the IP address of visitors.

A privacy scandal erupts when DoubleClick announces they want to deanonymize ads data, infringing on the privacy rights of millions of consumers whose behavior had been tracked.


The Patriot Act, Total Information Awareness, and Surveillance Following 9/11

Following 9/11, the USA starts developing technology that will enable the government to gather, analyze and store local and international data locally.

The Patriot Act, passed six weeks after 9/11, lawfully broadens the surveillance powers given to the National Security Agency.

According to the New York Times’ 2005 reports, this decision allows the NSA to monitor “the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States.”

ACTION: Learn more about the Patriot Act and how it may impact you.

The Creation of Network Advertising Initiative

Following the DoubleClick scandal and other data privacy concerns, a group of industry experts form the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) and publish a set of principles in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission.

In 2002, the NAI releases guidelines for the use of web beacons (behavior tracking code). The code that is used to track visiting and tracking patterns and install cookies is supposed to ask for consent when personally identifiable information is transferred to a third party.

The NAI also advocates for transparency and allowing website visitors to clearly see which information is being collected, and how it’s being processed.

Additionally, NAI-compliant ad networks are to give consumers a choice to opt out of being tracked and targeted with ads.

ACTION: You can opt-out of interest based advertising with NAI members.

Online Credit Card Fraud

In early 2000’s, online credit card fraud increases due to insecure protocols used to transmit financial information over the web.

According to CyberSource, online retailers lose $1.5 billion in online revenue due to credit card fraud by the year 2000.

Google Launches AdWords

Google AdWords (now known as Google Ads) is initially released on October 28, 2000.

It uses cookie technology and keywords searched for by users to decide which ads will be displayed across their (then still budding) advertising affiliate network.

ACTION: Tired of telling Google what you do? Delete your Google account.

google Adwords and google analytics


MySpace Launches

In 2003, Chris DeWolfe, Tom Anderson and Jon Hart establish MySpace — the first major social network.  It is the largest social networking site in the world from 2005-2008.

MySpace only uses website and affiliate advertising to generate revenue. User data is collected from their website and their affiliate network to select ads for each visitor through behavioral targeting.

The Can Spam Law

Inboxes grow crowded as digital marketers email customers and spam becomes a very real problem.

The Can Spam Law and the Data Protection Act require all businesses to include an opt-out option in email communications. The law makes it mandatory for commercial email senders to provide opt-outs, state their physical address, and identify ads.


Rampant Web Attacks

2004 sees rampant hacker attacks. Web software vulnerabilities are hacked to intercept sensitive data. Some of the methods used are Trojans, keystroke loggers, and malware.

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI) is Formed

With the threat of cyber attacks and the rise of online shopping’s popularity, the PCI is formed to ensure that businesses comply with the security standards necessary for safe online shopping.

Facebook is Born

On February 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, and others team up and create Facebook.

Originally, Zuckerberg creates Facebook’s beta version – Facemash – as a dating and meetup site for college students. Their profiles contain personal information and photos, and users get to decide who’s hot – and who’s not. This site attracts more than 450 visitors within the first four hours of launching.

Harvard administration charges Zuckerberg with breaching security, copyright violations, and privacy violations as he uploaded photos and information about Harvard students without their consent.
Facebook mashup privacy violation

Online Data Privacy Gains Traction

Late 2004

PCI Releases the First Unified Security Standard

New unified security standard is introduced, in an attempt to facilitate safer and more secure online shopping transactions. This standard is supported by five major credit card brands, including Visa and MasterCard.

This is the first security standard requiring all merchants (processing more than 20,000 card transactions per year) to comply.


Facebook Launches the First News Feed

Facebook launches the first News Feed. Facebook is accused of breaching user privacy. The news feed is modified to allow users to adjust some privacy settings.

Facebook Tries to Share Online Purchasing Behavior

Facebook pilots Beacon, a program that sends notifications to users’ friends when they make purchases online. This would allow Facebook to offer targeted ads. Users respond to Beacon by filing a class-action lawsuit and the project is scrapped. (This is not the end of targeted advertising with Facebook.

Facebook beacon privacy concerns

Google Introduces Street View

Google introduces Street View. Google cars start roaming streets worldwide, capturing images to show in maps.

Users are concerned with the level of detail shown in the images — streets, people, and homes are shown.

It is later revealed that Google cars also collected information from public Wi-Fi networks in 30 countries.

Google starts blurring individuals’ faces and car license plates in an effort to protect their privacy. Users are invited to flag photos that may infringe on privacy.

Google Acquires DoubleClick

Google moves into online display advertising, with the $3.1Billion purchase of DoubleClick, the largest online advertising company. This includes acquiring DoubleClick’s ad software, as well as relationships with web publishers and advertisers.


Facebook Launches Social Login

Facebook launches a social login service, Facebook Connect. Users can now log into a variety of sites using their Facebook profile. The “partnered” websites can access details about the users’ Facebook profile, including their full name, photos, wall posts and friend lists.

Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ follow with their own social logins in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Consumers begin to worry about online privacy. “Single Sign-On (SSO)” logins allow social networks to share user data with third parties — usually in the service of advertising. Companies can legally target users with advertisements based on their behavior across several “partnered” websites.

ACTION: Find out what Facebook knows about you and how to change that.

ACTION: Learn how to delete your Google account

ACTION: Delete yourself on other social networking sites


Appreciation Engine Begins!

In 2009, The Appreciation Engine (AE) is founded by Jeff Mitchell and Annabel Youens with a singular purpose: Use data to create a two-way relationship between businesses and consumers.

Vocal about their support of data privacy, AE has been steadily working on creating better marketing solutions that focus on customer experience.

Facebook Copyright Qualms

Following public outrage, Facebook modifies their terms of use to offer more data rights to users. (Facebook previously reserved the right to use all the content uploaded to the site by users.)

Facebook allows users to make their photos and videos private, but the default setting is still “public.” Status updates also remain public.

ACTION: Find out what Facebook knows about you and how to change that.

Permission-Based Email Marketing

By 2009, email marketers realize that many of their emails aren’t even reaching their prospects’ inboxes.

Marketers realize the main reason for email subscription opt-outs is lack of relevance. Permission-based email marketing shows up, requiring interested users to opt-in to email marketing. The results are higher open rates, more interested email recipients, and (perhaps) less spam.


Birth of Instagram

In October of 2010, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launch Instagram – a photo-sharing social network.

the launch of instagram in 2010


Google Buzz Privacy Violation

Google settles Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges of deceptive practices and consumer privacy violations related to their social network, Google Buzz.

The FTC complains Google is violating its own privacy policies by using Gmail data for its Buzz network without consent. Google ignored Gmail users’ rights to decline being included in Buzz, and uploaded Gmail user data to Buzz regardless of whether someone chose to join the social network or not.

The settlement bans Google from future privacy misrepresentations, requires the company to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and makes regular privacy audits mandatory until 2031.


Google Introduces the Omnichannel Experience

Google announces that it will consolidate user data across a variety of Google platforms to offer a better customer experience.

The program is implemented using Google Accounts, as opposed to scattered Google services users previously had to use. Now users can access everything from a single panel.

Google also updates their privacy policy and makes the data privacy changes clear to all users.

Facebook Acquires Instagram

In April, Facebook acquires Instagram for $1 Billion. The change in Terms of Use means all users agree by default to businesses paying Instagram to display their usernames, likeness, photos (with metadata), and behavior as a form of advertising.

Instagram’s competitors respond by creating privacy-friendly services.

Email Audience Segmentation and Targeting

Infusionsoft, an email marketing company, raise more than $71 Million, including $54 Million from Goldman Sachs, to keep working on a way to target email subscribers more accurately. In the early days, Infusionsoft tags email subscribers based on the websites they visit and the actions they take on them.

The DMA (Data & Marketing Association) reports that over 85% of marketers are segmenting their email lists.

The New Era of Data Privacy: the Good and the Bad


iCloud Under Attack

Hackers released not-so clothed pictures of celebrities stolen from their Apple iCloud accounts. The leak causes a huge uproar and prompts a review of cloud computing services with a special emphasis on private and personal data.

ACTION: Safari sends data to Apple while Chrome sends info to Google. If you’re not cool with that, try Firefox.

iCloud hacking celebrity pictures


Experian Hack

Experian, one of the world’s largest credit agency data brokers is hacked. This means 15 million people who applied for Experian credit checks have their personal information exposed including their names, addresses, social security, driver’s license and passport numbers.

ACTION: Sign up for notifications to find out if any of your personal information has appeared in a data breach.


Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

The transition period for the implementation of practices outlined in Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) ends. The law requires everyone who sends email for commercial purposes to get explicit subscriber consent for receiving the emails in the first place.

Equifax Hack

Personal information stored by the US credit bureau is stolen through a security vulnerability. This affects 145.5 Million customers. The stolen data includes social security, drivers license, names, data of birth, and addresses.

ACTION: Check if your information was hacked.


General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force. This regulation outlines how consumer data can be collected, analyzed, transferred, and stored.

Businesses who in any way came into contact with EU citizens’ data have to follow the practices outlined in the regulation or face severe penalties.

ACTION: Find out more about your rights under the GDPR

ACTION: Find out if your business is GDPR compliant.

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

California follows the EU’s lead in 2018 by creating the CCPA. Similarly to GDPR, the CCPA also outlines how businesses can collect, store and transfer consumer data from Californian residents.

ACTION: Find out more about your rights under the CCPA.

CCPA privacy compliance

At least 21 Facebook Privacy Scandals

More than 21 Facebook privacy scandals take place in 2018. The most public of these scandals reveals that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm collected data from millions of Facebook user profiles and used it for political advertising.

Facebook has been facing severe backlash due to these scandals, with consumers calling for stricter regulations when it comes to online data privacy.

ACTION: Find out what Facebook knows about you and how to change that.

Safer Sites with the HTTPS Protocol

Google announces that not having a SSL certificate (HTTPS protocol) will now impact the ranking of websites. SSL certificates allow a more secure connection from web server to browser. By requiring sites to use a HTTPS protocol, Google contributes to a more secure Internet.


Zoom Flaw Gives Hackers Access to Webcam

In an attempt to create a frictionless experience for Mac users, a feature in the video conferencing app Zoom causes a vulnerability that allows an attacker to access a user’s webcam feed without them knowing.

ACTION: Update your Zoom Privacy Settings

ACTION: Safely remove Zoom from your computer

First Cases of COVID-19 Reported to the World Health Organization

Now known as COVID-19, a new strain of coronavirus previously not encountered in humans breaks out in Wuhan, China. The virus is reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in December after causing numerous cases of pneumonia.

As the number of cases drastically rises, 50 million people in Wuhan and nearby cities are placed under quarantine measures by the Chinese government to control the spread of the virus.

2020 and The Future: Protecting Your Rights


California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) Goes into Effect

Originally passed by the California State Legislature on June 28, 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

The CCPA defines California residents’ personal data rights, allowing them access to their personal data and giving them agency over how that data is collected, sold, and disclosed.

World Health Organization Officially Classifies COVID-19 as a Global Pandemic

The COVID-19 virus spreads beyond China’s borders, causing outbreaks in countries throughout the globe. The World Health Organization classifies COVID-19 as a global pandemic due to the level of spread and severity of the outbreaks.

Countries all over the world begin enacting quarantine and lockdown measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the number of cases skyrockets. These measures include shutting down all non-essential businesses and schools, as well as enacting social distancing measures to prevent contact between people.

Zoom Privacy Concerns Increase as Daily User Count Balloons to Over 200 Million

As more and more countries put into place social distancing measures, the daily user count on the video conferencing app Zoom soars from 10 million in December to 200 million in March.

Instances of uninvited participants showing up in and derailing private Zoom conferences make headlines and Eric Yuan, Founder and CEO of Zoom, puts out a statement in response to privacy and safety concerns on the app.

ACTION: Update your Zoom Privacy Settings 

ACTION: Safely remove Zoom from your computer.

Privacy Concerns Around COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Using smartphones to trace close physical interactions between individuals is proposed by public health experts and others in order to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. For many, the idea raises concerns over privacy, freedom and civil liberties.

The  Future: Protecting Your Rights

From the time the Internet was a baby, regulators have had a hard time catching up with everything it can do. Personal data has been collected, stored, shared and sold without many limitations — by everyone from advertisers to hackers.

It’s time for a change.

We’re looking forward to a future where data is protected, kept safe, and used to create better experiences for customers.  This type of future requires us all to care about how our data is used. Learn about your data — and help build a more beautiful Internet.

ACTION: 11 Secrets That Will Make You More Secure On The Internet – a brilliant and super actionable list by Eric Barker.

My first real job was at a startup called, now owned by Amazon. It was a company that got culture right, and cemented some of my closest long-term friendships.

We had various events that we enjoyed together. One particular event we did every year was a golf-cue. The entire company would take part in it, regardless of golfing ability. The year my brother and I lived in a large home we jokingly referred to as “the mansion,” we offered to host the post-golf BBQ at our place. I remember spending my weekend time picking up the keg and helping to set up the BBQ. At the end of the evening, there was a pick-up jam session in our basement that filled the house with music. When I reflect back on this day, I was happy to organize and host the party. We even felt proud to host the company event in our home. Everyone just loved being together.

How did this happen? Why did I feel so connected with the company I worked for and its people? Even on days when I was frustrated with a work problem, why did I see that as a challenge to overcome, with a happy goal of propelling the business forward?

I made some of my closest friends while working at Abebooks and this did not happen by accident. I’m able to see now these friendships were created because of the challenges, fun, and responsibility I was given in my role.

abebooks cookoff 2001
The marketing team, in the 2001, Abebooks cook off

So why is culture important, as opposed to something we just give “lip service” to?

It’s all about people. It’s about creating unique connections. It’s about being a part of something you care about and caring about those people around you.

The Dark Side of Culture

As much as I’ve seen the bright side of workplace culture, I’ve also been on the dark side of it. I spent three years working for a government organization that had long-since lost its lustre. And while I was given responsibility and my team were amazing people to work with, a lot of people in the wider organization just didn’t seem to care. I remember going to a meeting with a handful of personal assistants to organize when we could have the meeting to kick of a project. I felt like I was in an episode of The Office.

This type of signalling happened over and over. Slowly my work output declined. I became a clock-watcher. Until one day my husband told me I needed to get out. He was not wrong. I was in a work-rut. I felt stale. I felt despondent. I had become one of those people — I didn’t really care that much.

I thankfully jumped off into a consulting career with my husband which created the space to create our first start-up. I’d forgotten how much I cared about doing meaningful work that mattered. That was scary to realize.

Why I Have My Own Company

Yesterday I had a rough start to the morning that included tears before 10am. Never a good sign. When I came into the office my teammates smiled and we had some morning banter and the low cloud hanging around my shoulders dissolved. My day was dusted off and put back onto its feet. That’s the power of people and connection. This human experience matters. It’s why I run my own company. I get to choose who I work alongside every day.

My AE Team

Culture isn’t the free snacks, beer Fridays and foosball, (although those are nice). It’s realizing we are all people and we are all connected in so many ways beyond our work. We have challenges with family members, times when your car or bike breaks down and it throws your days plans into disarray, find no coffee in the house!, feel angry and sad because even your national sport isn’t immune to bullying and racism, that time you run out of compost bags the day you’re having friends over for food, missing a bill payment because you couldn’t find it in your giant stack of disorganized papers, struggling with eco-grief after watching Life with David Attenborough…and on the list goes.

Before we come into the office we have lives and when we leave after the work day we go back into those lives. And while that life can feel like bookends to our work days, that “stuff” is actually who we are. That is the substance of our lives and a huge part of our identities and how we’re connected. Just because it happens outside our work days doesn’t mean it’s stays on the outside.

Our Year of Culture

2020 is the year our team is focusing on culture. In fact, one for our four measurable business goals (or OKRs) is Live and Grow our Culture. Woah. I know a few people reading this are thinking, hang on, that’s one of your four key goals for the YEAR? How the hell are you going to be successful? I believe that any business can be successful for short bursts. You can have a shit culture and be profitable and successful, but it won’t stay like that for long.

There are three key reasons why culture is a critical OKR and huge focus for us:

1 – Hiring is Hard

Hiring is hard, especially in Victoria, BC. Our tech sector is growing rapidly and the demand is far outstripping the supply. I want our company to stand out and stand for something. I want the people who join our team to understand that culture is critical and they want to add to ours and connect.

2 – Finding our Partner Investors

We’re gearing up for our first round of North American funding and I’m looking for the right investors. Having spoken to a lot of investors over the last ten years, there are a handful of investors I’ve connected with over the power of culture. Those are the investors I want to partner with. Purpose, pleasure and success is a combination that’s sustainable. I consider our business culture goal to be a sneaky way I can weed out the investor wheat from the chaff.

3 – Live our Culture

As our team scales in 2020, it’s important to each one of my AE’ers that we grow and retain our culture. Retaining our great culture as we grow was something everyone brought up in our recent annual strategy planning. When you hear this message from all of your team members, there isn’t anything more satisfying. You know you’ve hired the right people.

live our culture ae's 2020 business objective

I’m looking forward to sharing more of our culture journey in 2020. It’s a huge focus for me in my ops role to dive into culture, its code, its roots and how you grow it. I’d love to hear what’s worked for you and whether you’ve set a culture goal in your business.

***This article originally ran on Medium. Follow Annabel here.

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.”

“Building a start-up is super hard. The stories of many start-ups 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.

musichype appreciation enginenew zealand team
The original AE Team and Board of Directors

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.”

“You need to find your village where you can give and receive support. It took AE 10 years to become an overnight success. They value relationships and have a passion for both of them. That’s what makes Appreciation Engine different -- and successful.”

***This article originally ran on Medium. Follow Annabel here.

These are the best marketing podcasts to give you those aha! moments we all crave as marketers. Keep reading to learn what’s working from top marketing minds in music, sports, gaming, and food.

Music Marketing Podcasts:

1. Music Marketing Manifesto

John Oszajca, Former Major Label Recording Artist and Expert in the Field, takes listeners through the logistics of the modern-day music business. From growing an online fan-base to using Spotify as a genuine marketing tool, there’s a whole lot to learn from this podcast.

Listen to the Music Marketing Manifesto podcast here.

2. Marketing Musician Podcast

Aiming to help musicians get more sales, more gigs, and more exposure, the Marketing Musician Podcast is worth a listen. Topics covered include ‘Growing Your Audience’ and ‘The 3% Rule’. Each subject is presented in a clear, precise manner.

Listen to the Marketing Musician podcast here.

3. Music Business Facts

Without a doubt, one of the most effective ways to learn is to hear from the experts who have been there and done it. Music Business Facts is a podcast in which special guests and music industry experts share their secrets. From Vinnie Paul to Devin Townsend, this is a podcast that certain draws big names.

Listen to the Music Business podcast here.

Gaming Podcasts:

4. Tripleclix Video Game Marketing Podcast

The Tripleclix Video Game Marketing Podcast is a new addition, but it’s certainly worth your time and attention. Chris Erb takes the lead on this show, offering insights into how to promote and launch new games. The podcast also features remarkable guest speakers, such as Aaron Greenberg, the General Manager of Xbox Games Marketing.

Listen to the Tripleclix Video Game Marketing podcast here.

Sports Marketing Podcasts:

5. The Tao of Sports

Esteemed host, Troy Kirby takes a deep-dive into the world of sports business in this insightful podcast. Guests on the show include industry experts from the pro, college, and minor leagues, among others. Each episode is quick at 30-35 minutes long.

Listen to the Tao of Sports podcast here.

6. Sports Geek

Dubbed the ‘podcast built for sports executives’, the Sports Geek podcast is exactly what it says on the tin. Presenter, Sean Callanan, takes a look at current marketing trends within the sports vertical. He is joined by expert guests including the likes of Bryan Srabian and Dwayne Hankins on this intriguing and educational show.

Listen to the Sports Geek podcast here.

Consumer Marketing Podcasts:

7. Loose Threads

Featuring in-depth conversations with entrepreneurs, Loose Threads is one of the most interesting CPG podcasts of our time. The show was actually named as one of Fast Company’s 10 Best Business Podcasts. You can expect to learn more about the consumer market and how you can capitalize on the current trends.

Listen to the Loose Threads podcast here.

8. Brand Builder

Teaching lessons from some of the biggest and most familiar brands in the world, this podcast is a must-listen for modern-day marketers. The show looks at key subjects including leadership, PR, and how to partner with influential companies.

Listen to the Brand Builder podcast here.

9. In the Sauce

From the Heritage Radio Network, In the Sauce is a podcast covering how to build and grow consumer brands. The show covers a wide range of topics including communication strategies, how to get investment, and how to create a more ethical business overall.

Listen to the In The Sauce podcast here.

10. Food Marketing Nerds

Ready to ‘talk shop’? The Food Marketing Nerds podcast is an interview series aimed at helping business owners grow their food brand. You can expert specialist subjects, such as how to oversee product development and the role social media plays in your business.

Listen to the Food Marketing podcast here.


What makes a city a great place for a startup? Beyond a great idea and an awesome team, there are certain factors that help a startup flourish. We looked at entrepreneurial culture, financial incentives, number of startups, and location benefits to create this list of top startup cities in the world. Enjoy!


1. Bogota, Colombia

bogota columbia
Photo by Claus Pacheco
  • Tax incentives for business founders; 175% tax deduction for tech companies
  • Currently over 1000 startups; over 800 in nearby Medellin
  • Easy access to South, Central, and North America
  • Strong entrepreneurial culture; plenty of networking and socializing events 
  • Notable startups in Bogota: Frutamour, Ascendo, Civico


2. Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon portugal
Photo by Liam McKay
  • Easy access to other startup cities in Europe and an affordable cost of living
  • Many accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces to work from 
  • Member of the Startup Voucher which funds 400 entrepreneurial fellowships in the city annually
  • Notable Startups in Lisbon: Muzzley, unbabel, and aptoide


3. Los Angeles, U.S.A.

los angeles california
Photo by Olenka Kotyk
  • Established tech startup scene; currently has over 6000 startups
  • Respected universities nearby, thus lots of local talent to hire from 
  • Immense access to venture capital, loans, and grants 
  • Recognized on the world stage for technology and business 
  • Notable Startups in Los Angeles:, Mythical Games, Surkus, and many more 


4. Sydney, Australia

sydney australia
Photo by Dan Freeman
  • The national economy is stable; there hasn’t been a recession in nearly three decades
  • 35% of Australia’s startups are in Sydney, along with hundreds of accelerators and incubators
  • High-energy, youthful, and vibrant entrepreneurial scene and overall culture 
  • Notable Startups in Sydney: Muru, Hivery, veromo


5. Santiago, Chile

santiago chile
Photo by Caio Henrique
  • 90% of the country’s startups are in Santiago; it’s casually been dubbed “Chilecon Valley”
  • Extremely affordable cost of living and doing business 
  • Santiago is especially attractive to tech startups related to copper and mineral mining
  • Many co-working spaces are free to entrepreneurs, demonstrating the city’s entrepreneurial spirit 
  • Notable Startups in Santiago: Wanna Migrate, Trumpit, and Junar


6. Shanghai, China

shanghai china
Photo by Denys Nevozhai
  • The city is full of technologically advanced citizens, perfect for testing 
  • The government encourages venture capitalists to fund tech startups by reimbursing them for their losses
  • Shanghai is full of competitive, hard-working, and results-driven businesses 
  • Notable Startups in Shanghai:  FiFish, Hellobike, and E-Shang 


7. Istanbul, Turkey

istanbul turkey
Photo by Anna on Unsplash
  • Businesses have access to both European and Asian markets
  • Foreign investors enjoy the same rights as local Turkish investors
  • The cost of living, especially housing, is very affordable
  • Member and host of New York’s global accelerator, Endeavor
  • Notable Startups in Istanbul: Teleporter, BiSu, and Getir


8. Helsinki, Finland

helsinki finland
Photo by Jaakko Kemppainen
  • Easier access to early-stage funding
  • A large pool of tech talent, accelerators, hubs, and incubators
  • Access to the Finnish Startup Permit which makes it easier for tech entrepreneurs to grow in the city
  • Notable Startups in Helsinki: Nokia, Linux, and Clash of Clans


9. Berlin, Germany

Photo by Levin on Unsplash
  • Very international visitor-friendly; entrepreneurs from other countries highly welcomed
  • Affordable cost of living and cost of doing business
  • Focused on diversity and inclusion; many opportunities to network and socialize with other tech entrepreneurs and talent
  • Regarded as one of the top startup destinations in the world
  • Notable Startups in Berlin: GoEuro, N26, and Blinkist 


10. Vancouver, Canada

vancouver canada
Photo by Kyle Ryan
  • Home to over 3000 startups
  • An average cost of living and doing business, but above-average entrepreneurial culture
  • 16 local universities to pull talent from as well as plenty of grant opportunities
  • Vancouver is well-regarded all over the world for technological innovations and advancements  
  • Notable Startups in Vancouver: Hootsuite, Slack, and Weddingful

You may not have heard of these women in tech yet…but you should have! They are the innovators, founders, and engineers that are quietly making big waves.

Tech companies often pride themselves on being progressive.

Yet when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, tech employs a smaller percentage of women compared to the workforce as a whole. Female employees only make up 27-47% of major tech companies with even lower percentages when looking at the tech-focused jobs.

A big part of the issue is that there just aren’t a lot of female Software Developers. Globally, only 11% of developers identify as women. But it wasn’t always like this.

In the 70s to 80s, Software Development was actually considered a “women’s job.” What changed?

During the Silicon Valley gold rush in the 80s, new stereotypes emerged and were spread far and wide by mass media. Suddenly, male nerds were a thing and video games were toys for boys. Women weren’t enrolling in Computer Science anymore, meaning less female programmers entering the workforce.

Fast forward to 2020 where the tech industry is still very male dominated. Beliefs are slowly starting to shift with cool programs like Ladies Learning Code popping up globally.

Despite today’s underwhelming numbers, there are still a lot of women in tech doing amazing work. Too many to fit on this list!

We’ve all heard about the Susan Wojcicki ‘s of the tech industry, but what about the rest? Keep reading to discover the women in tech you may not have heard of…but that you should have!

1. Brenda Romero

Gaming guru Brenda Romero started her career in 1981 with the goal of “knowing everything there was to know about gaming.” She holds the record for the longest career of any other woman in the gaming industry. Today she is the Program Director for the Masters of Science in Games and Playable Media at UC. Santa Cruz.

Learn more about Brenda Romero

2. Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman

This powerful “Jennifer duo” founded the startup unicorn Rent the Runway in 2009. The two Harvard grads launched their idea out of necessity when Hyman’s sister dropped $2,000 on a dress for a wedding, sending her into deeper credit card debt. These two fashionistas have changed the game for women in tech with a simple idea that snowballed into an online business with a $1 billion valuation.

Learn more about Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman

3. Olga Fitzroy

Audio engineer Olga Fitzroy has produced music for everyone from Coldplay to the Beatles. Highly sought after by artists of all genres, she travels the world, creating modern masterpieces in the form of albums and film scores.

Learn more about Olga Fitzroy

4. Helen Boaden

Since 1979, Helen Boaden has been revolutionizing the role of women in media. From presenter to controller–she has held a wide range of roles since joining BBC in 1983. Today, she manages BBC’s global news and current affairs for online media, television, and radio.

Learn more about Helen Boaden

5. Kiah Williams

Startup founder Kiah Williams was shocked by the amount of unused medication wasted in the United States every year (over $5 billion worth). She decided to do something about it by launching SIRUM. It’s an online platform to collect and redistribute medication to patients in need. To date, the company redistributes over $80,000 in unused medications every month.

Learn more about Kiah Williams

6. Katrina Craigwell

As the VP of Global Marketing Innovation at GE Digital, Katrina Craigwell is leading the way for women in marketing technology. Her latest project, GE Neuro, takes viewers on a virtual tour of the human brain. In addition to her marketing role, Craigwell is a fierce champion for women of color in marketing.

Learn more about Katrina Craigwell

7. Kiki Wolfkill

No doubt a living legend to teens and twenty-somethings everywhere, Kiki Wolfkill is the Executive Producer behind the magic of the Halo video game series at Microsoft Studios. In addition to the game, Wolfkill oversees the entire franchise, guiding the direction of comics, novels, and branded merchandise.

Learn more about Kiki Wolfkill

8. Sarah Leary

The “digital neighborhood” Nextdoor has been bringing neighbors together (online) since 2008. Co-founder Sarah Leary has helped scale the business to a $1 billion valuation with over 180,000 participating neighborhoods in the United States alone.

Learn more about Sarah Leary

9. Marilou McFarlane

As the founder of Vivo Girls Sports, Marilou McFarlane spearheaded a global digital media property that has since been adopted by Olympians, advertisers, and young athletes. It was also the inspiration for the launch of the ESPNW network. Today, McFarlane serves as Founder and Board Chair for Women in Sports Tech.

Learn more about Marilou McFarlane

10. Sarah Kennedy Ellis

As CMO of marketing automation giant Marketo, Sarah Kennedy Ellis is passionate about creating a better customer experience. She encourages her team to experiment, but with one thought in mind: everything comes back to the customer. She is known for using her prior creative experience at Adobe to tell powerful stories about the power of marketing technology in business transformation.

Learn more about Sarah Kennedy Ellis


The women above haven’t been getting nearly the attention they deserve. If you feel inspired, head over to your social network of choice and show them some love!

What business books are the top startup blogs and publications recommending? The result of our thorough investigation is this top 10 list of startup books.

As you probably know, there are a lot of books about business. A lot.

Everyone seems to have discovered a new and innovative way that you and your business can be successful. Even as you get more niche and focus on startup books alone, there are a lot of paperbacks to wade through.

We decided to narrow our scope further and ask “What books are recommended time and again by the best in business?” We wanted a manageable list that wouldn’t scare away someone just beginning their adventure into business literature.

The following list is the result of our investigation. It’s in no particular order, so start with the book that intrigues you the most…

Spin Selling By Neil Rackham

Recommended by

What you’ll learn: How to improve a startup’s sales strategy when it comes to high-value accounts.

Spin Selling dives into helping entrepreneurs develop a killer sales methodology. It helps lay out a framework to achieve this by using what’s known SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff). This framework helps a startup ask the right questions when it comes to selling.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things By Ben Horowitz

Recommended by The CEO Library

the hard thing about hard things by ben horowitz

What you’ll learn: Key real-life learnings on how to successfully build, manage, sell, and invest in businesses from successful investor Ben Horowitz.

This book challenges commonly held startup beliefs and shares the many mistakes that were made by Ben while he led large billion-dollar corporations. The book is a fun read thanks to Ben’s trademark dry humor and no bullsh*t approach.

The 4-Hour Workweek By Timothy Ferriss

Recommended by Vin Clancy @ Startupgrind

The 4-Hour Workweek By Timothy Ferriss

What you’ll learn: Strategies to escape the 9 to 5 grind and build an entrepreneurial lifestyle that emphasizes freedom and passive income generation.

Timothy teaches readers how to build passive income-generating businesses that will enable one to free up time to focus on things that they are truly passionate about. He pushes the boundaries and walks one through how to build an ideal lifestyle, weaved in with his unique stories, detailed guides, and a list of resources to help readers get started.

The High Growth Handbook By Elad Gil

Recommended by TechCrunch

The High Growth Handbook By Elad Gil

What you’ll learn: Lessons from going from thriving startup to unicorn, and how to navigate the high-growth period in between.

The book goes over common growth strategies Elad has used. He focuses on providing advice for startups that have achieved product-market fit and covers vital topics required to successfully manage growth such as recruitment, managing shareholders, and setting up your business for a successful exit.

Zero to One By Peter Thiel

Recommended by Hiten Shah

Zero to One By Peter Thiel

What you’ll learn: How to develop business ideas that can change the world, and taking them from strategy to execution.

This book focuses on providing practical advice that help one tackle big business challenges. It goes into how innovation is not about building on other ideas, but doing something entirely new that can have a huge impact on the world. Carving out new industries instead of disrupting existing ones.

Trillion Dollar Coach By Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg

Recommended by: Forbes

Trillion Dollar Coach By Alan Eagle, Eric Schmidt, and Jonathan Rosenberg

What you’ll learn: The key principles that Bill Campbell used to advise and nurture the leaders of the Technology world today such as Google and Apple.

This book dives into the key management lessons they learned from Bill over the years that helped navigate Google to where it is today. It looks at the instrumental strategies Bill helped develop and execute in other organizations such as Apple and Intuit and the personal coaching he provided to leaders such as Steve Jobs.

Rework By Jason Fried and David Hansson

Recommended by Hiten Shah

Rework By Jason Fried and David Hansson

What you’ll learn: To dispel the notion that launching ideas require careful planning and lots of capital – this book shows how to build a business the fast and lean way.

The book talks about the tech-enabled era we live in. How one can start a business over a weekend with the various plug and play tools at our disposable. As a result, it challenges practices such as developing a business plan but advocates for moving fast, rapid prototyping, and experimenting to understand the viability of business models.

Think and Grow Rich By Napoleon Hill

Recommended by Startup Nation

Think and Grow Rich By Napoleon Hill

What you’ll learn: The principles one can follow in their personal and professional life to achieve the same mindset that has made many successful in their lives.

The book shares thirteen fundamental principles/steps that can be followed both in one’s personal and professional lives that can set them up for success. He backs these insights with over 500 interviews he had conducted with affluent women and men of his time.

The Lean Startup By Eric Ries

Recommended by Vin Clancy @ Startupgrind

The Lean Startup By Eric Ries

What you’ll learn: To take advantage of scrappy ideation and how to test product-market fit.

The book shares how one can apply ‘lean’ principles in rapidly testing and validating business ideas, and grow them efficiently. It shares how companies regardless of size can adjust to changing consumer and market needs through rapid experimentation, ignoring vanity metrics, and measuring what matters.

Measure What Matters By John Doerr

Recommended by Bill Gates

Measure What Matters By John Doerr

What you’ll learn: How to implement metrics in an organization effectively (OKRs), with lots of case studies sprinkled throughout to illustrate the benefits.

The book dives into the popular OKRs framework, which stands for objectives and key results. John walks you through defining such goals in companies and implementing them effectively to drive better decision-making.

Over the past 10 years, the internet has slowly but surely changed everything. Explore this global shift from the perspective of Annabel, CMO and Co-Founder of AE.

Ten years ago when AE was in its early days, privacy wasn’t really on most people’s radar. We were just happy to have access to content and excited about all the possibilities the Internet promised us.

In 2009 there were a lot of geographic restrictions in New Zealand, where we were living at the time. But even there, online forums were buzzing and people from all over the world were discussing films, TV shows and music in ways you just didn’t before.

I never thought much about what I was sharing. Obviously I wasn’t sharing my credit card number through email or transferring funds to a Nigerian Prince — but data privacy didn’t even cross my mind. I mostly remember just feeling grateful to have a world of content.

I don’t believe most major brands, back then, even understood how important data and privacy would become. Little by little, companies have seen the potential value of data, and Internet users have seen the potential concerns. But back in those early days, here’s what it looked like.

Way back in 2009 — Here’s what our online world looked like back then


Lets travel back to the dawn of data privacy


We Surfed The Net

Google’s Chrome browser had just launched in 2008. I was still using Firefox but testing work projects on Chrome. Chrome had a new password manager and I suspect that’s ultimately what made me switch. Two-factor authentication was only used by “nerds;” I certainly wasn’t concerned about it!

Communicated By Email

I was using my domain’s webserver for my personal and work emails. It was annoying when it fell over.

Apps Were A New Thing

The Apple App Store launched in 2008 – this totally changed the way people consumed content. Privacy rules weren’t terribly strict – all sorts of companies got in trouble for the type of information they requested from end-users. Getting approved on the app store took almost no time at all.

Got Our Toes Wet In Social Media

Memes were kicking off. Thank you Kanye. Imma Let You Finish. The world of internet hoaxes was just beginning. Everyone watched the video of a 6-year old boy flying in a weather balloon over Colorado.

Twitter was only 2 years old and seemed to mostly be used by journalists and writers. The “fail whale” was a fairly common occurrence.

Facebook famously changed its Terms of Service in 2009 without informing its users that Facebook now had the ability to use your content in any way it chose, even if you quit Facebook. As you can imagine, there was quite the push back! This may have been the earliest large-scale privacy scandal.

the twitter fail whale


Started Playing Massively Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games

World of Warcraft was the biggest MMORPG. It started it all. Lots of people, kids and adults alike were banding together to complete quests. And yes, I was one of those folks.

Some Of Us Were Even Downloading Music Illegally

A lot of people were listening to music on MySpace and YouTube. There was still a lot of illegal downloading happening because you just couldn’t get access to what you wanted. Bandcamp was still in infancy but a lot of indie and emerging artists were populating the service with their EPs and albums. And while I couldn’t listen to Spotify from NZ there was a brilliant site called Grooveshark that let me stream tracks – it was a revelation!

Governments all over the world were pledging to crack down on illegal file-sharing. Teenage music fans were being sued and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) was on a rampage.

New Ideas Were Sprouted

AirBnB had just launched (2008) and was still a risky new idea. Amazon had just acquired Audible, realizing the growing impact of audiobook listeners. Podcasts were picking up a bit of traction — listeners could use their iPhone 3G to hear them. And the concept of the Sharing Economy was soon to hit the mainstream, starting with Rachel Botsman’s book entitled, “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.“

fast forward to the internet in 2019


Fast Forward to 2019…

We Create A LOT Of Data

People on the Internet now generate more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day. Industry has realized the power of data. Large companies that leverage data have become powerful in the business world.

People on the Internet have seen a few data scandals, and are increasingly concerned about their privacy rights. As data legislation struggles to catch up with the big tech companies that collect data, it’s time to re-think what type of Internet we want to have in the future.

The new age of consumer data can be a positive one. Data can help brands be more useful and innovative. Think about movie suggestions on Netflix, or useful product suggestions on Amazon. The right products can be offered to the right buyers — even more so, the right products can actually be invented and refined to anticipate the buyers’ needs and serve them perfectly.

Moving To The Cloud

I still use Chrome for browsing and I’ve moved to a paid Gmail account for email. I know it tracks me, but I have a committed relationship with Google. I use Google for almost everything: email, documents, photos, music, and my Google Home personal assistant. Why? Because Google makes my life easier and presents me with useful information, like when I should leave for a meeting or if my flight has been delayed. And all my services are synchronized so that I’m not logging out and logging into different apps and services all the time. See more of my thoughts on the Dark and the Light Side of Data.

Apps Run Our Lives

How did we ever live without apps? I use 10 apps every day on my phone from Slack to Podcasts to AirBnB. I am also careful about removing Apps from my phone I don’t actually use and I never download an App from the Play Store that doesn’t have at least 1,000 reviews. Being safe about the Apps I have means I’m being safe about my personal data they have access to.

We’re Committed To Social

Maintaining a profile on social media is an expected part of life for many people around the world.

I’m personally in a committed relationship with Instagram and unfortunately, that also means Facebook. If I could exact myself from Facebook I would, however, I have a deep Instagram sewing community I’m a part of and I refuse to leave that. (Read more about my desire to leave Facebook.)

committed to social media


Games Are A Major Industry

Meanwhile, the Games Industry has grown to a massive $152.1 billion per year with 2.5 billion gamers globally! The US is the world’s largest gaming market, with mobile gaming at #1, making up 45% of the market. (Check out this article more facts like these.)

I’m not WoWing anymore. In fact, I’ve gone back to board games and have a weekly board game night with friends. My co-founder and husband, plays a lot of games on Steam so there’s still a lot of gaming in our household, but I’ve decided to keep my games 3 dimensional. With so many platforms now available to choose from it’s important to join trusted communities, because after all they’ve got your credit card and understand how you spend your leisure time.

The Music Industry Adapted To Digital

In music, I’m completely digital. In fact, I don’t even have much music stored on my phone. I stream everything I need and could possibly want. There’s so much music available I almost find it difficult to find anything. The music industry has completely changed over the past 10 years with streaming becoming the main way people consume music and share their personal data.

Big Ideas Are Changing Everything

The Internet has connected people around the world and changed the balance of power in our global economy. It’s no surprise that the world’s top 10 most valuable companies now include Internet-based companies Amazon, Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, TenCent, and Alibaba.

Big ideas have impacted the way we live in North America and much of the world. Ridesharing, co-working, food delivery, car and bike shares, home delivery, podcasts, connected homes, and on-demand services are all a part of this new tech-driven world. Recent news has shown that some of these ideas are losing money for investors — it will be interesting to see what they evolve into over the next decade…

how the internet has changed everything in the past 10 years