All posts by Odette Jacquet

Odette Jacquet

About Odette Jacquet

I'm AE's jack-of-all-trades marketer. I'm a part of everything from social media to analytics to sales. My passions include videography, the arts, and growing food.

So you want to get hired at a tech startup? Good news! We’ve got some tips to help you get the job.

Appreciation Engine is based in Victoria, BC, where tech is actually the largest contributor to the local economy. The tech community here is very diverse, with companies in everything from payroll software to mobile gaming apps. There is really something for everyone here.

Whether you are based in Canada, the US or elsewhere, tech often represents a large part of economic activity. Globally, the tech industry is growing steadily and estimated to reach $5 trillion this year! And while there is a lot of opportunity, job hunting can still be the same stressful and disappointing ordeal.

Rather than giving you a list of skills and experience that you should have, the following tips focus on soft skills. We believe that people-fit is hugely important and the following tips reflect that. Keep reading to hear the AE team’s top job hunting tips!

How to Get Hired at a Tech Startup:

#1: Do Your Homework

Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success:

Almost any startup is going to have a world of knowledge available about them online, be it their website, on their social media profile, or in articles written about them. Read through everything you can find and take notes. Build questions around those notes. Know their history, why they exist, and who they are as people. This gives you a strong foundation going into an interview (or even a casual coffee – highly recommended if possible) and shows them that you’re actually interested and want to grow with them.


#2: Think Non-Digital

Annabel Youens, CMO and Co-founder:

One of my favorite hires happened when I was sent a hand-made card in the mail along with a lovely letter. This started an email conversation and eventually, Laura joined my team.

Everyone sends an email with a well-formatted resume and cover letter. Make yourself stand out and show how you’re unique. Tech startups hire people first. Show them who you are.


#3: Look Beyond The Job Title

Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales:

A more experienced person coming from a bigger company or a more established industry might be put off by the lack of structure and unfamiliar titles that are common in the startup environment. Instead, focus on the work that needs doing, the culture within the company, and the opportunity for growth.


#4: Network & Network Some More

Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer:

Get out there and meet people. For tech, a big way to get ahead is to use your people resources. There are always tons of events around town, whether it is professional networking, skills workshops, or just get-togethers for beers. The pressure is off since it’s not an interview, so just get out there and enjoy yourself. You’ll make some great acquaintances in the meantime, and others will keep you in mind when they see job postings (and often even before a job is posted – word-of-mouth is great!).


#5: Personality Counts

Mike Penhall, Senior Developer:

Personality counts a lot in a startup as you’re going to be working closely with your team and it’s important that you all get along. Obviously skills are equally important, but if you’re going to be part of a small team you’re all going to need to work harmoniously. So be yourself, mention and discuss some things that interest you and make sure that you are a good fit for the company. It’s just as important for you as it is for the employer.


#6: Know What You Want

Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer:

How many times have you applied for a job only to re-read the posting a few days later and realize that you aren’t as stoked on it as you thought? I’ve even applied for jobs and hoped that they didn’t get back to me!

I know it can be tempting to spread your resume like pollen in the wind. But I promise that only applying for jobs that are a (close-to) perfect fit will yield better results (and save you a lot of wasted effort). Think about the skills you want to develop and what your career goals are long term.

Well, the rest is up to you! Best of luck on your hunt and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

annabel's popculture pick in october is yesterday the beatles movie
Annabel Youens, CMO & Co-founder

Yesterday (2019) (Movie)

In Short:  If you’re a solid Beatles fan, or even a Beatles-lite fan I reckon you’ll come away from this movie feeling warm, happy, and then stream your favorite Beatles album while you make dinner.

First off let’s establish my Beatles fandom, crucial for understanding my review:

I grew up listening to my dad play Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Let It Be on our record player. I spent time studying the two album covers and trying to figure out how these two drastically different albums were created by the same band. I’ve listened to a lot of their music over the years, but never read any biography or memoir. “Ob la di, ob-la-da” was a common bedtime nursery rhyme I sang to my two-year-old daughter.

So I’m not a super-fan, but I have a solid appreciation and love for The Beatles.

Now on with the movie Yesterday – a film where, after a freak accident, a struggling musician wakes up in the hospital to find out that The Beatles never existed. A world without “Let It Be” or “Yellow Submarine.” The lead Jack Malik goes on to share The Beatles catalog as though he wrote it which propels him to monumental fame.

I felt an instant connection with this premise. In 2009, I switched to streaming my music and didn’t buy CDs anymore. I didn’t have a record player. I went full digital. The downside: The Beatles weren’t on any streaming service. And they took their sweet time getting there. I had to wait seven years to finally stream “Something!” That was a long time to have a musical world without the fab four. It was like a gap in music history. And man, was I happy in December 2015 to have The Beatles back in my digital life.

And while the film revolves around The Beatles, they are really the backdrop to explore Jack Malik’s rise to fame and the decisions he makes. Jack is actually “discovered” by Ed Sheeran who has a major role in the film. Jack and Ed have a songwriting battle. Don’t even get me started on the song suggestion Ed has! Sheeran does such a good job of poking fun at himself and it sets such a nice tone for the film.

The movie is directed by Danny Boyle famous for Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 28 Days Later. I love Boyle’s films because even his grimiest, grittiest movies have an empathy and warmth to them. He explores characters with a tenderness, no matter their setting or circumstances. In Trainspotting and Trainspotting 2 he makes you feel sorry for Begbie sometimes – that’s a miracle!

If you’re a complete Beatles maniac you might feel this film misses out or can’t quite live up to your expectations. But if you’re a solid Beatles fan, or even a Beatles-lite fan I reckon you’ll come away from this movie feeling warm, happy, and then stream your favorite Beatles album while you make dinner.

Beatles grammar note – I went with a capitalized “the” for this article. Apparently this is a very contentious issue on Wikipedia where some Editors have been banned from participating in the discussion. Ah, Beatles fandom!

Jason’s Pick

jason's pop culture pick in october is the rewinder blog by sb nation
Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales

Rewinder by SB Nation (YouTube Show)

In Short: Rewinder takes a deep dive into the background, context, and important events preceding those moments in sports history that have become so legendary and so iconic that people might forget what made them so important.

I came to this blog through one of the greatest world series games in baseball history: game 6 in the 2011 series.  As they say in the video, the walk-off home run by David Freese deserved a deep rewind.  The details of the moves during the season, during the playoffs, during the series, and during this game that led to this fantastic play are fascinating for a baseball wonk like me.
The rest of the series, from Michael Jordan’s final shot to the butt fumble, includes tales of greatness and infamy across all sports. Moments are rewound for fans to understand every little thing that made the moment magic.

Jenn’s Pick

jenn's pop culture pick this october is so sad so sexy the album by lykke li
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

So Sad So Sexy by Lykke Li (Album)

TL;DR: Listening to this album feels like a breakup, without having to go through a breakup.

I love this album for the emotional journey. The lyrics sound like she’s searching for a great love but is constantly dashed with the reality of failing relationships. The song “Utopia” shows some of that grand vision: “I see, I see, I see a light in your eyes and I want it / It’s burning bright like a fire from a comet.”

Other songs on the album show real struggles in the pain of a relationship falling to pieces. “Two Nights” is a duet that I find particularly catchy: “You never came home / Two nights in a row, where’d you go? / I’ve been smokin’ / Two nights in a row, now I know that it’s broken“. The titular song “So Sad So Sexy” is an emotional low in the album. The lyrics and sound are beautiful though, and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs. “I was only lyin’ when I looked in your eyes / I’m cryin’ diamonds like a river inside / And it’s so sad, so sexy.

Lykke Li‘s voice is full of soul and distant emotions. Her sound is sort-of pop, sort-of R&B, sort-of electronic, held together with the international flair that is typical of Lykke Li. Plus, the tracks have lots of low bass which sounds great in my headphones!

This Swedish artist has captivated me with experiences that I’ve never been through myself, but that I feel I can experience for the length of this album.

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick this october is ali farka toure the muscician
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Ali Farka Touré (Musician)

In Short: Ali Farka Touré is internationally renowned for weaving traditional Malian music with North American blues music.

Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Touré is regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Born in 1939, he was the 10th and only child in his family to survive past infancy. Touré learned to play traditional instruments like the n’goni (sort of like a harp) and the n’jarka (a single-stringed fiddle), before learning the guitar.

His first concert in North America was at Harrison Hotsprings (I find this delightful since I’m from BC and I’ve been there!).

His album, Talking Timbuktu, a collaboration with Ry Cooder, was released in 1994 (which is also the year I was born!). I find it so peaceful and joyous to listen to, as well as a great choice when needing to focus at work.

If it’s your first time listening to Touré, I recommend putting on an album on a Sunday morning as you sip a hot beverage and look outside the window.


Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

annabel's pop culture pick in spetember is the boys tv show by amazon
Annabel Youens, CMO & Co-founder

The Boys (TV Series)

In Short: Clockwork Orange Meets Captain America – enjoy the ride!

You might’ve heard about The Boys, the new Amazon series based on the graphic novels by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. You’ve likely heard about the ultra-violent blood scenes and the prolific swearing that would make even Billy Connolly blush. But there’s a lot more going on with these boys.

Jeff and I first read the graphic novels when we picked up the first compendium because the lead character of Wee Hughie looked a lot like Simon Pegg. Turns out it was a homage to the sci-fi figurehead himself.

I’ve always been a fan-girl of Simon Pegg ever since I bought a DVD pack of Spaced at an HMV in London. And while that ginger beard initially drew me to the comic, I loved the premise. In this world, superheroes aren’t as pristine as they seem.

The “supes” in The Boys have drug addictions, sex problems, mummy issues, and power trip their way through superhero emergencies. Having been burned by supes in the past The Boys decide to execute vicious vigilantism.

The Amazon series is quite faithful to the graphic novels and yet it’s created a different, more violent vibe. I guess that’s what happens when you have access to a lot of fake blood and brain squelching special effects.

Apart from scene-stealing Karl Urban with his non-stop swearing as Billy Butcher I revel in the fact that Elizabeth Shue and Jennifer Esposito play powerful women over the age of 50! I love that both characters radiate self-centered perseverance and don’t automatically fall into the boring and commonplace older women role of empathy and caring.

Be warned this series is not for the squeamish or those who are offended by a plethora of swear words or ultraviolence. But if you’re curious I say give it a go.

“That’s where the Boys come in, spank the bastards when they get out of line.” -Billy Butcher

Mike’s Pick

mike's pop culture pick in septmebr is fire emblem: three houses the video game
Mike Penhall, Senior Developer

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Video Game)

TL;DR: An RPG with a fun strategy and an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem series.

The Fire Emblem series has been going for a long time: the first release in English was back on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, but within Japan, the series stretches way back to the original NES.

This game is my first experience with the series – while I love JRPGs in general, Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG – meaning the battles are fought Risk-like on a battlefield with various units etc. – something that never hugely appealed to me.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a little different from previous games in the series in that it introduces a school mechanic. Think Hogwarts meets the Persona series: you’re a teacher at the school whose lessons help to improve your student’s stats in battle.

It’s a fun little twist and much to my surprise I found myself really enjoying the strategy elements as a result. There’s also a whole lot of fun to be had getting to know the characters. Further, choosing one of the three titular school houses to align with gives the game a lot of replayability. It’s also given me the incentive to go back and explore previous games in the franchise as I’m having such an enjoyable time with this one.

Grant’s Pick

grant's pop cukture pick this september is gears pop the video game
Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success

Gears POP! (Video Game)

TL;DR: Highly recommended for casual gamers, people excited about the new Gears, or anyone with a thumb, a sleepy toddler, and some time to kill.

I’ve always been pretty stubborn about only gaming on my PS4 or Xbox One, but with a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old at home, I’ve learned that the most convenient gaming time I get is when the kids are asleep across me and I’ve only got one free hand.

Enter the recently released Gears POP! for iOS and Android. I’m a newcomer to the Gears series, having just finished Gears of War 4 in anticipation of the 5th installment coming out in September, so the timing was perfect. The game was developed by Vancouver-based The Coalition in conjunction with the Funko POP! team to build excitement around the release of GoW5, and honestly…it’s one of the best mobile titles I’ve played.

It’s a time-based tactical cover-capture game that lets you easily select your squad, load out, then strategically pick apart your opponent. The Funko art style is bright and fun in stark contrast to a typical Gears setting, and the animations are impressive. It’s easy enough to click with one finger without feeling like you’re missing out on gameplay too.

I’m not even a multiplayer guy, but I’ve found myself casually jumping into 1on1 PvP matches and (humbly) destroying my opponents while a newborn naps on my chest. Since its a new game, everyone is pretty green and that helps. 😉 I don’t feel like the leveling system is pressuring me to buy more stuff either, which is nice.

It’s not super violent, it isn’t gory at all, and it runs smooth. Can’t ask for much more in a mobile game.

Jason’s Pick

jason's pop culture pick in september is the imdb app
Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales

IMDb (App)

In Short: If you watch movies or stream TV series and find yourself recognizing an actor but cannot remember the show or movie they were in, it’s the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) to the rescue. Every movie and tv episode for every series is here, along with pics, trailers, cast credits, trivia, and an audience score.

Just this week at the movies we watched the trailer for “Ready or Not” and I thought that it looked like another fun movie with Margot Robbie in the lead. My family challenged me that it was another actress – so IMDb to the rescue. Turns out that the movie stars Samara Weaving, and not Margot Robbie.

In addition to clearing up obscure cast credits, IMDb users also score movies and I’ve found their scores to be much more reliable than critic reviews. 8+ out of 10 is a sure-fire winner, while 7+ is likely good (depending on the movie and the stars in it). Anything below that is best saved for Netflix.

My personal IMDb fix is their “Born Today” feature which lists all the actors in their database born on a certain day, sorted by IMDb’s internal StarMeter and their collection of the latest movie posters.

Jenn’s Pick

jenn's pop culture pick in september is love in the time of cholera
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (Book)

TL;DR: I highly recommends this book, and also any book, by the author Gabriel García Márquez if you are looking for some high-quality reading.

This book is definitely a love story but there is nothing cheesy about it. The love he portrays is realistic, lasting, and deep.
The story is set in South America and starts with a death, and with Dr. Juvenal Urbino who comes to investigate. We learn about Dr. Juvenal Urbino’s life (he is very old), his daily routine, and his wife Fermina Daza. Then the story shifts a bit to focus on Fermina Daza, and boom, we are suddenly transported 50 years into the past. The bulk of the entire novel is the retelling of Fermina Daza’s life from her impactful first love with Florentino Ariza, to meeting and marrying Dr. Juvenal Urbino and growing old with him. It is truly a wonderful story with a twist – Florentino Ariza never falls out of love with her, and spends his entire life pining. If the writing wasn’t so incredibly romantic it would be alarming (alright, it’s a bit of both).

This book was very touching and made me think a lot about growing old with my loved one. I smiled, I cried, and I lost sleep reading to all hours in the night. I learned many new words (Gabriel García Márquez has an extensive lexicon), and I saved excerpts to re-read later:

The lesson was not interrupted, but the girl raised her eyes to see who was passing by the window, and that casual glance was the beginning of a cataclysm of love that still had not ended half a century later.

This is the second book I have read by this wonderful South American author. Márquez has a unique talent in writing the most beautiful books. In 1982, he won a Nobel Prize in Literature,  “for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.” The author writes daily South American life into all his stories with a touch of magical realism, and it truly feels special and unique. The first book I read from him was One Hundred Years Of Solitude. To this day it still has the best ending of any book I’ve ever read – I actually sat back and said: “I wish I could read it again for the first time.”

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick in september is aldous harding
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Designer by Aldous Harding (Album)

In short: Aldous Harding is a musician from New Zealand who’s supernatural voice and lyrics lift you up into outerspace.

There was some initial resistance. When I first heard Aldous Harding’s track “The Barrel,” I found it odd. I do like easy-listening, especially at work, and Harding’s music is not always easy to listen to. But it is unique, thought-provoking, and, quite often, hauntingly beautiful.

I like that her songs don’t all sound the same. In fact, some tracks sound like there is a different person singing! Harding’s worldly drawl and vocal range allow her to add a unique feel to each track.

I fell in love with “Imagining My Man” first. She sings with such emotion and the kids in the background are a creative touch

My current favorite is “Weight of the Planets.” Her voice is so full and smooth and the funky beat really makes it stand out.

Some info tidbits from Wikipedia:

  • She is a folk singer-songwriter from New Zealand.
  • Designer, her third album, came out in 2019 under the label 4AD.
  • She is currently based in Cardiff, Wales, where she lives with partner and collaborator Huw Evans AKA H. Hawkline. I gave his stuff a listen too. It was cool and reminded me of an old favorite, Of Montreal.

Harding is an artist first and musicians second. That’s probably what I love most about her work.


World Entrepreneurs Day celebrates entrepreneurs every year on August 21st. We took this awesome opportunity to sit down with AE’s co-founders, Jeff Mitchell and Annabel Youens, and ask about their experiences as entrepreneurs.

What was your first entrepreneurial experience?

Annabel: My first entrepreneurial experience was in high school. I joined a club that my friend was in called Young Entrepreneurs, I think. I remember going to a session and it was a whole bunch of guys, a bunch of nerds, and I remember thinking “I don’t want to do this.” So I opted-out. I thought it was only going to be about business, making money, and talking to lawyers. And I decided that I didn’t want to do that.

I never considered being an entrepreneur or business person because I never had any female role models for that. I had a few female teachers in school and that’s about it. All the way through to university I never met women professionals, when we lived in Calgary or overseas, so I never considered it as a career option.

Jeff: My first entrepreneurial experience was actually working at a co-op here in Victoria. It was my second co-op job, the one prior to that was working for the government. I was a junior developer at a small startup run by a bunch of guys who worked out of their basement. That was when I first realized that you can build something out of your home and people will still buy it.


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What motivated you to start your own company?

Annabel: I would never have become an entrepreneur if it hadn’t been for Jeff. He was the one who initially went out on his own as a consultant when we lived in New Zealand. Then I quit my job as well and joined him. I guess that’s when I became an entrepreneur, I was in my thirties. And what I loved about that work was the client stuff. Meeting with people, strategizing, coming up with ideas – that’s the stuff that I really love to do.

At our agency in Wellington, Jeff and I realized that we could work together. If there is a test drive you can do before you jump into business with someone, I think it’s really important you do that. After that, we dove into our first real startup together. Then all of a sudden I was learning a thousand different skills. Stuff you never thought you could do. I realized that I’m not actually bad at math. I mean I’m not great at algebra, but I can do the finances, with all of Google’s help, which is something I really didn’t realize before.

Jeff: When I was living in New Zealand, I worked at small companies where I wore a lot of hats. So you learn a lot of stuff. Then one day I realized that all this stuff I was doing for the company, I could be doing by myself and earning twice as much money. So I decided to start my own consultancy and I did that for a few years in New Zealand.


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What is the most overrated part of being an entrepreneur?

Annabel: Having wins. Everyone always talks about winning and celebrating your wins. I think both are important, but actually, the most important thing about your business is that you are doing it every day. You are making those tiny steps that lead to the wins. And I think we don’t talk about that stuff enough – it’s always about the fist bumps and the winning. For me, it’s more about the grind. You have to get stuff done in order to make [wins] happen. There are a lot of entrepreneurial stories all about the overnight success when it’s more like “No, that took us 15 years.”

Jeff: It’s good being your own boss, but at the same time, you don’t really cut yourself any slack and you’re probably more stingy with your time. You’re never really “off” is the problem. There is no line drawn to say work starts and work ends, it’s all blurred together.


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What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Annabel: Working with people. I only realized in the last year that one of the reasons why I run my own business is because I get to choose who I work with every day. And yes, I get huge satisfaction when we close a big sale, but as soon as that happens, that means we can hire more people and have a bigger team and grow that team and grow those people. For me, the most satisfying thing in any work I’ve ever done has always been the people and solving problems together. I think that’s the stuff I love. I’ve been the least satisfied with what I’m doing is when it’s just Jeff and me, grinding it out. I enjoy my work so much more when there are people to talk to and ideas to run off each other. Also, I want to inspire people to challenge themselves and try new things and push themselves because that’s how you grow and figure out what you like and don’t like.

Jeff: The excitement of executing a big project for a big company with a small team. We just had a meeting today with a large multinational corporation and we’re about to kick off a really key data infrastructure project for them. Sometimes I take it for granted but we’re a tiny team that is capable of a lot.


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What is one thing that has saved you a lot of time recently?

Annabel: No Meetings Thursdays. Though I still find it difficult to say no to people because my natural instinct is to say yes. But blocking out that Thursday for deep work and turning off my calendar and has really helped me to be more productive. The other thing is thinking of my email inbox as other people’s to-do list; every time an email comes in, it is someone who needs something from me. While that is going to help move their work forward, it’s not necessarily going to help me. So I’m trying to be more aware of that and to close my Gmail when I need to get things done. Because otherwise I just get distracted – I just want to help people.

Jeff: I mean it’s boring but automation has been really helpful. We’re a small team but we use a ton of toolsets on Amazon that have saved us a lot of time. There’s a lot of auto-scaling stuff that I used to have to take care of myself.

If you could clone yourself and start a second company, what would you do?

Annabel: I would have a business where I’m designing fabric. I love prints and colors and I want to design my own print range. I also want to start a re-upholstery business. As much as I love people, I would like to spend half my time in coveralls, in my garage listening to a podcast, re-covering an old piece of furniture that needs a new life. Come back to me in 5 years and I will probably be doing that. Here’s hoping! I’m putting it out there at least.

Jeff: I’ve been wanting to get more into AI-based work. It’s somewhat related to what we’re doing with information but I want to start applying AI to understanding information. I like the idea of developing a personal assistant, or agent as they call them in sci-fi films. Like Google or Alexa, but a smarter version that can actually help you to do stuff.


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If Jeff/Annabel could clone themselves what do you think they would do?

Annabel: Jeff has talked about going back to school to do his Masters, so that might be one thing. But if it was a business I could see him focusing on technology and data privacy. As Ada is getting older, he wonders what her digital future is going to be like. He might build an app that helps parents keep their kids safer on the internet. I think it might be something like that, involved with tech but with purpose.

Jeff: She would want 50 clones [laughs]. She has a different idea every day I think. She’d be running a bookstore, a textiles shop, patterns a lot of creative stuff. Running the local women’s tech group, a million things.


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Oh. We won for Emerging Technology Company of the Year! #viatechawards #shocked

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Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Jeff’s Pick

jeff's pop culture pick this august is fall or dodge in hell by neal stephenson
Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-founder

Fall; Or Dodge In Hell by Neal Stephenson (Book)

TL;DR: Full disclosure, Neal Stephenson is probably my favorite author. I have been swept away by his ability to tell such expansive stories, amazingly intertwined across different eras and covering historical fiction, possible futures, and parallel worlds. His newest novel Fall; or Dodge in Hell is a deep exploration into the human perception of reality.

Fall; or Dodge in Hell is somewhat of a sequel to a prior book called Reamde. Stephenson takes the same characters but quickly projects out to a possible future for humankind that is quite fantastic but also eerily possible.

The start of the book begins around ‘current day’ and describes the aftermath of the death of a wealthy game designer, Richard Forthrast (AKA Dodge). His will explicitly states that he is to be preserved beyond death via the best technology available so that he may be revived later. While this was thought to be using existing cryogenic techniques, there actually exists the ability to scan his brain (“connectome”). Basically a brain in a computer instead of a brain in a jar. Various legal battles occur between main parties but in the end, Dodge and others are scanned until such time as the technology emerges to utilize that scan.

Another event occurs a few years after that is frighteningly possible. It explores the future of our current struggles with “truth” in a world of internet trolls, fake news, disinformation, and online echo chambers. The book describes the execution of a massive hoax that causes the world to believe that a small isolated town in Utah (Moab) has been wiped out by a nuclear explosion. Using fake news clips, trolls, bots and “mainstream” media’s tendency to clamor to sensationalize and cover tragedy the story quickly spreads. The perpetrators are also able to cut-off most communication to and from Moab, further confusing things. By the time the government and others are able to confirm this is a hoax, the story has already taken hold.

Picking up about 15 years after that we have an America (and a world) that has fractured into multiple reality bubbles. An individual’s perception of the world is completely dictated by the stream of information they access. The wealthier are able to afford ‘editing’ services that filter and fact-check information constantly, the poor are fed a constant stream of misinformation using algorithms to target, react and keep people hooked into “personalized hallucination streams.” Eventually, Stephenson moves forward in time and leaves this world somewhat unresolved.

We then enter a period where technology now exists to bring the brain scans online. As Dodge’s consciousness emerges in this state it tries to bring form and reality into this online existence. Somewhat unaware of his previous existence, vague concepts around the real world and his life as a game designer emerge in the form of trees, land, streets, etc., eventually leading him to create a new computer-generated “Land”. Other scanned brains, “souls,” are drawn to this place and begin to inhabit it. Some take humanoid shape while others become more like elemental beings right out of old mythology. Eventually, we have a fully formed “BitWorld” with people living their lives, and the real world, “Meatspace,” starts to become a less populated place that is more about supporting this post-life existence. The book ends more like a fantasy novel, covering a quest that takes place in BitWorld.

It’s quite a journey from the start of the book to the end, but somehow the thread that leads from “today” and ends with an odyssey in “BitWorld” is threaded together in a way that can be traced from point A to point B. There are very big concepts in this book that cover the nature of reality and some of it may be a bit much to take in all at once. While I would have liked to have explored the “post-truth” world a bit more, I have to admire Stephenson’s ability to go even bigger with the BitWorld storyline.

If you are new to Stephenson, I’m not sure I would recommend this as an introduction but I thoroughly enjoyed it! Introductory works I would recommend would be Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon or The Diamond Age.

Grant’s Pick

grant's pick this august is the band PUP
Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success

Morbid Stuff by PUP (Album)

TL;DR: PUP is one of Canada’s best punk rock bands (and one of my all-time favorites) and you need to listen to their newest album Morbid Stuff.

This being my first pick, the pressure’s on. I want to start off strong by bringing to the table one of my all-time favorite Canadian punk rock bands in support of their newest album.

Back in 2013 when my playlists seemed to consist solely of Bon Iver and acoustic covers, a Toronto-based band called PUP popped up randomly on YouTube and reminded me of my punk rock roots with their first single “Guilt Trip.” And they didn’t do it subtly either. It was like being punched in the face by a rush of distortion and yelled-sung melodies. I was immediately hooked.

Fast forward 6 years to their newest album Morbid Stuff. It seems like time has given these guys a lot of room to grow and develop, without losing what made them unique in the first place. You can tell that a lot more polish went into this album, yet through the polish shines one of the band’s greatest strengths – their imperfections.

The vocals are melodic but raw and sometimes slightly off-kilter. The guitarists sound like they’re pushing the tubes in their amps to a fault. The drums are loud and always big in the mix. But it all seems to just…work. This is all best summed up on the album’s first single “Kids,” a weird kind of messed up generational love song that touches on apathy, depression, and personal connection, all while still being very touching and somehow kind of funny (just watch the video)?

Even their story showcases them as imperfect, regular, everyday people. Take for instance the fact that PUP stands for “Pathetic Use of Potential,” coined by singer Stefan Babcock’s grandmother. Or that their second album’s title (The Dream Is Over) is a direct quote from Babcock’s doctor, after he blew out his vocal cords during a tour. Everything they do seems to be very real and incredibly accessible.

And when it comes down to it, that’s one of my favorite things about PUP – their ability to be relatable without taking themselves too seriously. This is actually why I started listening to punk music in the first place. It’s made for everybody, assuming everybody likes loud, exciting, fun, mostly thoughtful, and kind of obnoxious music. So if that sounds like you then Morbid Stuff by PUP will probably be right up your alley, and you should go support them.

Jason’s Pick

jason's pop culture pick this august is the YouTuber rick beatto
Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales

What Makes This Song Great – by Rick Beato (YouTube Show)

In short: Rick Beato is a YouTuber that helps us understand the world’s top music on a deeper level. Using the original recordings, he separates out each element – from instruments to vocals. In doing so, we celebrate the workmanship and production behind each song. 

When I discovered Rick on YouTube, I went right to the stuff that was in my own library – “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey and “Running with the Devil” by Van Halen. Analyzing the songs note by note, he discusses how they were played and then demonstrates them on guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. Rick made me realize how much I don’t know about the music I love and now I love it even more.

Rick’s list of songs runs the gamut from classic rock – Rush, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Boston – to grunge – Tool, Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots – to metal – Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Megadeath – to pop – The Police, Chainsmokers, and Max Martin.

Check out all 70 songs on his YouTube channel.

Jenn’s Pick

Jenn's pick this august is the apollo moon landing twitter
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

@ApolloLego (Twitter  Channel)

TL;DR: The Apollo 11 moon landing reenacted…using lego. 

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing! After the International Space Station, I believe this is truly one of humankind’s greatest achievements.

My mother was almost 9 years old at the time and she remembers staying up late to watch Neil Armstrong take his first steps and say his celebrated quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In fact, on the 50th anniversary of July 20, 1969, I happened to be visiting my mother and we sat down and watched those videos of the moon landing again to celebrate. I’d never seen the videos of the descent and moon landing before so that was a cool experience for me.

On par with the silliness of this day and age (thanks to the internet), I came across a Twitter account that reenacted the Apollo 11 mission – using Lego! I am thoroughly amused with this reenactment, and I especially loved how each shot was posted “real-time” over the course of the week just as it would have happened 50 years ago.

C’mon, who doesn’t love Lego?

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick this august is nick morby
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Kevin Morby (Musician)

In short: The indie-rock fix you’ve been craving.

Kevin Morby is so easy to love. His songs are catchy, but not shallow. He’s got a great voice – very Leonard Cohen meets Bob Dylan meets Lou Reed. He’s an indie-rock zucchini chocolate cake with a heaping teaspoon of melancholy.

Morby has actually been around for a while, which was pretty sweet for me. I had the privilege of diving into album after album, in a delicious Netflix-esque binge.

All of his 5 albums are delectable, from Harlem River (2013) to Oh My God (2019), but for some reason, I seem to listen to Still Life (2014) the most.

My favorite of his tracks are: All Of My Life, Parade, Slow Train, Wild Side, and No Halo.


Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

Annabel's pop culture pick for july is wizards unite the augmented reality game
Annabel Youens, CMO and Co-founder

Wizards Unite (App)

In short: The wizarding world of Harry Potter meets Pokemon Go in a location-based augmented reality game.

annabel's wizard passport

Several years ago I remember reading that an augmented reality game for the Harry Potter universe was in development. Ye gads I thought, no Pokeman Go for me. I’ll wait impatiently until a wizarding world arrives.

Hello Wizards Unite which launched June 20th in most countries. It’s my third day playing the game and I’m already that person standing in the drizzle at the ferry terminal try to win a battle against a death eater.

I was captivated by the books in my 20s and now I’m re-captivated by the potions, battles, and skill training inside the game. I’ve just selected my profession as Auror and I wonder where my wand journey will take me.

Lately, I’ve been trying to disconnect from my phone when I’m in a lineup or at the park, but now I feel an ache on my forehead and a need to pull out my wand, um phone. While I will try to keep this habit in check, you’ll likely see me wizarding my way around Victoria this summer, it’s that addictive.

If you love Harry Potter you’ll love this game. You’ve been warned.

Jeff’s Pick

jeff's pop culture pick for july is kakegurai
Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-founder

Kakegurui (TV Show)

TL;DR: If you are looking for something different in an anime not involving ghosts, demons or giant robots then check out Kakegurui. As Yumeko would say – “Let’s get our gambling freak on!”

Hyakkaou Private Academy appears to be a prep school for the very wealthy.  However, below the surface, everything revolves around gambling and games of chance.

Those students who excel in the art of gambling and manipulation sit at the top of the food chain, the most influential of those sit on the shadowy student council which controls everything. Students who sit at the bottom of this hierarchy, because they are not great gamblers or because they have lost high stakes games, are treated as indentured servants and referred to as “house pets” At least until they can gamble their way back up the ranks again.

The main protagonist is Yumeko Jabami. A recent transfer student who appears to be your typical sweet, naive schoolgirl about to become victim to the gambling hierarchy. But, who is, in fact, a compulsive gambler and not just gambling for monetary gain or social status. Addicted to the thrill of it, she seeks riskier and riskier stakes. As such, Yumeko is a true “wild card” who disrupts the social order the student council is trying to maintain. This sets up a series of showdowns as they try to stop her chaotic journey.

This is my latest anime consumption on Netflix, and I have to admit I really debated writing this up as a pick. Not because I did not enjoy it, but because I know it’s definitely not for everyone, and there are some elements of the show that will put some people off (if taken in isolation).

Some of the sexualized animation of the characters, especially Yumeko, has turned a few people off the show. But, in my opinion, this is a minor aspect of the show that serves as another way to highlight how “off” Yumeko really is. While typical for this style of animation, the sexual themes in Kakegurui are pretty tame compared to other well-liked shows on HBO.

What I really enjoyed about it is the plain craziness of it. Characters will transition from being sweet schoolgirls or pop stars drawn all cutesy and sweet, into dark conniving schemers, truly insane gamblers, and even borderline homicidal maniacs. The animation on the show is excellent and is used to highlight these personality shifts in very extreme ways.

I also enjoyed the gambling set-ups and the games themselves, learning how the game works and the ingenious ways the players (often Yumeko) will use to win. This creates a bit of a thriller/mystery and puzzle-solving element to the series.

Jennifer’s Pick

jenn's pop culture pick for july is whose land app
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

Whose Land (App)

TL;DR: Whose Land is an awesome website and app where you can learn about the territory your home or business is situated on.

Living in BC has really opened my eyes to the Indigenous cultures that are all around us and how our/their history is NOT history at all – it is ongoing. I grew up in Ontario where the experience was quite different. We were not taught anything of Canada’s history from the perspective of the Indigenous peoples, other than that they existed when we first arrived.

When I moved to the coast, I saw that the Indigenous culture is way, way more visible and intertwined with modern society. It is all around – as it should be! I was really amazed to learn that Indigenous cultures are taught in school as part of social studies (ie. current, not just history) and that schools have Elders who visit the kids often. We still have a long way to go to right our wrongs in history, but things like this really give me hope.

My pick this month is an app called “Whose Land” that shows you a map of the world overlayed with the lines of traditional territories. It’s really wonderful to see all the different communities mapped out like this, and very cool to see how many of them overlap. The map shows Victoria as being the lands of the Lekwungen (Songhees) First Nation, Esquimalt First Nation, and W̱SÁNEĆ First Nation Communities. There is also additional information about the communities on the website, including land acknowledgment videos, lists of the Treaties signed, and even further education, such as how to acknowledge and be responsible in your business practices.

I love how technology can bring us new ways to learn and connect. Please take the time to check out this wonderful map and see your home through another lens. Territory acknowledgment is a small but powerful way to acknowledge ongoing indigenous land rights issues.

Mike’s Pick

Mike's pop culture pick for july is doin' time the cover by lana del rey
Mike Penhall, Senior Developer

“Doin’ Time”  by Lana Del Rey (Song)

TL;DR: Lana Del Ray covers Sublime and it’s great.

It’s good to see Sublime finally getting some of the respect they deserve. Those who are old enough to remember the summer of 1997 will recall a new wave of ska bands on the radio – some great, most awful – one of the most prominent of which was Sublime. Sadly, the success came too late for frontman Bradley Nowell who died of a heroin overdose on the eve of their breakthrough, and the subsequent lack of new material somewhat cemented Sublime in that era. They will forever be associated with surfer bros with bleached blond hair and boardshorts. It was a simpler time.

But where Sublime stood out from their peers was their amazing songcraft. As well as fusing ska and punk rock, they seamlessly blended together elements of hip hop, reggae, and classic rock. They seemed to understand the genres they borrowed from and treat them with reverence. It would’ve been fun to see what they did next, but alas, we’ll never know.

I can’t think of a better contemporary artist to cover Sublime than Lana Del Ray (maybe Best Coast?). Her breezy California sound meshes perfectly with Sublime’s hip hop inspired hit “Doin’ Time.” I’m constantly impressed by Lana’s output, despite there being a similar sound to all of her songs. Still, every time you think she must’ve exhausted the limitations of this concept, she releases a fresh new album or song that is somehow better than anything she’s done to date. Looking forward to her new album Norman Fucking Rockwell in August.

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick for july is the album foxwarren
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Self-titled by Foxwarren (Album)

Long story short: Childhood friends from the Canadian prairies release an album after jamming for 10 years or so….and it’s actually pretty good.

Is it just me, or is YouTube becoming a great place for music discovery? Thanks Google for your creepily powerful AI-based algorithms

Anyway, it was a day like any other, when “Sunset Canyon” auto-played after a Julia Jacklin track (read my review of her album Crushing in May’s Pop Culture Picks!).

It was quite a shock, really, when I recognized the unmistakable vocals of one of my favorite Canadian artists. My first thought was: there is no way that Andy Shauf has released a new album without me knowing?!

What I was listening to was Foxwarren: a collaboration between Shauf and 3 childhood friends that was released last year in late November. The band’s name comes from the Manitoba family home of two band members, where the album was recorded.

As a whole, the album retains the relaxed, almost meditative nature of Shauf’s solo work that I love so much. “Lost In A Dream” is reminiscent of his early album, The Bearer of Bad News, with cascading piano, strings, and vibrating synth. The overall mood can be described as melancholic-cheerful, making it the perfect life soundtrack no matter what you’re doing or how you’re feeling! Poetic lyrics are plentiful: “Smooth talker sells another good line with a mouth full of steam,” as found in “To Be.”

Foxwarren stands apart from Shauf’s solo work in the looser, indie-rock-band-feel of tracks like “Everything Apart” that feature heavier guitar and drums. There is less white space overall and tracks stand alone, rather than as part of a greater story arch, such as in Shauf’s album The Party.

This collaborative project is a subtle divergence from the usual “written, performed, arranged and produced by Andy Shauf,” that I am used to. Nonetheless, it is a stellar album and I highly recommend you give it a listen. 😊


Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

Annabel's pop culture pick for june is
Annabel Youens, CMO and Co-founder (App)

In short: This science-based music service has actually helped me to find some focus in recent weeks. I highly recommend you give it a go, and, with a free trial, what is there to lose?

Lately, my already fragmented day has felt ultra-fragmented. Finding time to do deep thinking at work has been a challenge with weekly commutes to Vancouver, hiring new staff, developing new growth strategies, not to mention my giant personal list of things to do.

While there are a thousand and one posts on Medium about how to become more productive, I wanted a slightly quicker fix than what mapping out my peak hours could offer. Hello,

My friend Joe told me that uses science to determine what music will help you be more productive and focussed. For years I’ve listened to ambient streams from and figured it wouldn’t be much different. But hey, science wins once again.

I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my ability to focus and an increase in my output. I feel more efficient and I also feel more satisfied with my work once it’s completed. That is a double win!

If you need to really knuckle down and get some work done give a try with their five free sessions.

Jeff’s Pick

Jeff's pop culture pick for june is moonlighter
Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-founder

Moonlighter (Video Game)

TL;DR: Moonlighter is an Action RPG done in a pixel art style reminiscent of early console games (e.g. NES). You play Will, a shopkeeper by day and dungeon crawling hero by night.

My pick this month is a great video game that has been tying up my evenings of late – Moonlighter.

There are two sides to playing the game, both equally engaging. The first is the classic “rogue-lite” gameplay of fighting dungeon denizens as you make your way deeper down, collecting loot, and eventually battling the big boss of the dungeon. Second is running your shop in the village and selling the loot you acquire on your dungeon journeys.

The dungeon crawling is fun as you move from room to room, dodging and weaving and striking as you clear enemies. As loot drops, your bag fills up pretty quickly. You then need to start making some hard decisions.

Do you drop some items you think are of lesser value, replacing them with rarer finds as you continue to push further down where there are even more valuable goodies, or do you use your special trinket (costing some coin) to portal your way out back to the safety of your shop to sell your hard-earned wares? If you are too greedy, push too far and eventually fall at the hands (or tentacles, etc) of the enemies then you lose (almost) everything you just acquired. This “push your luck” element really adds a nice adrenaline boost to your dungeon adventure.

The shopkeeper aspect is also great. It is necessary to fund your adventures, but also a game in itself. In order to maximize profits, you need to use supply and demand to your advantage. The trick is to find that perfect price point by paying close attention to customer reactions!

As customers wander your shop, they bring their items to the counter. As shop keeper, you have to ring up the sale within a certain time- or lose the sale and the item! Furthermore, some shoplifters will prowl around looking to nab something and run, forcing you to tackle them to retrieve your goods.

All this creates a chaotic, vibrant shop scenario where you bustling around handling sales, stocking shelves, and keeping your eyes open for ne’er-do-wells looking to run out with an expensive goody.

Overall, it’s a great game.  I love how easy it is to jump back in where you left off. Despite how casual it feels, there is a lot of depth within the game and play time required to advance. Available on a number of platforms, I highly recommend you give it a try!

Jennifer’s Pick

Jenn's pop culture pick for june is aladdin
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

Aladdin (2019) (Movie)

TL;DR: The new Aladdin is a fun and nostalgic recreation of the original that brightened my day.

This month I relived one of my favorite childhood movies – Aladdin! I grew up at exactly the right age for this generation of Disney classics (Aladdin, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast) to be a big part of my childhood. We had them all on VHS, meaning we watched them multiple times and would always sing along!

Now that I’ve grown up, I still have a soft spot for these wonderful movies. Last weekend I decided to see the new live-action Aladdin, and I went in with no expectations. It was awesome!!! The songs that were reenacted were very close to the original and were so much fun. I had a smile on my face the whole time and really loved those good ol’ feelings of nostalgia that came with it.

Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) was her old feisty self, but with an extra dimension added to her character. She is passionate about leading and connecting with the people of Agrabah- not just about finding her true love! ? Will Smith did a fantastic job of bringing personality to the Genie, while still honoring the original spirit of the character. Marwan Kenzari was the evil Jafar and his character felt as slimy as cartoon Jafar.

In terms of their choice for Aladdin, it was clear that there has never been a more perfect casting for a role. Mena Massoud was Aladdin incarnate, with the same playful and sweet demeanor. You just can’t help smile along with him.

Overall, this movie brought me great joy and I can’t wait to watch it again when it comes out on Netflix!

Mike’s Pick

Mike's pop culture pick for june is catch 22
Mike Penhall, Senior Developer

Catch 22 (TV Show)

TL;DR: An excellent interpretation of a classic book, no prior reading required. 

As a big fan of the original book by Joseph Heller, I was hesitant to watch the latest Hollywood take on it. The book shows the pointlessness and absurdity of war (in this case World War 2) with a dark sense of humor that I wasn’t sure would convert well to a TV series.

Catch 22 centers around John Yossarian, a bombardier in WW2 based in Italy, and his constant and increasingly ridiculous attempts to avoid getting killed. His base is populated by an array of colorful characters (including Hugh Laurie as Major — de Coverley) who come and go, die or are captured in an increasingly satirical and absurdist depiction of warfare.

I was slow to warm up to the show, but ultimately the producers – who include George Clooney (and who also appears in two episodes as Lieutenant Scheisskopf) – have done an excellent job. It takes a while for the show to build and for the absurdity to take hold (much as it does in the book) but once it hits full swing, the book’s unique comedy style is captured nicely.

Although a fan of the book myself, no prior knowledge is required to enjoy this series.

Odette’s Pick

Odette's pop culture pick for june is kale
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Kale (The Vegetable)

Long story short: Kale is awesome, you should eat it. 

It’s spring-turning-into-summer here in beautiful Victoria, BC, and anyone with a garden or even a few pots on their patio can tell you that things are really growing.

Still, in my yard, the only thing quite ready for picking is green and leafy. To keep up with supply, I’ve had to get creative because salad can get boring after a while. Luckily, we have quite a variety of greens this year including arugula, butter lettuce, gai-lan, spinach, mustard, and, of course, kale.

Kale, now front page news

Why of course kale? Well, it’s got to be the trendiest vegetable in the western world.

In the past few years, it has risen from the ground up, to true movie star status.

Farmers produced 60% more kale in 2012 compared to 2007, say Bloomberg Magazine. Prior to his spike, kale was merely a garnish for delis and buffet tables. But now you can get even the less common (and tastier) varieties at many supermarkets (lacinato/dino/black kale, red russian kale, purple kale…).

It’s hard to say exactly how kale made it big- there doesn’t appear to be anyone behind the movement. Though a PR agency did create this fake “American Kale Association” website, that may have generated a bit of buzz. My best guess is that kale found its way into the spotlight thanks to social media, celebrity endorsements, and its shocking nutritional panel.

When it comes down to it, kale is rather good for you. One cup of raw kale (67 grams) contains:
Vitamin A (206% of the DV), Vitamin K (684% of the DV), Vitamin C (134% of the DV), Calcium (9% of the DV), Potassium (9% of the DV), and Magnesium (6% of the DV).

It also contains significant amounts of iron, B vitamins, antioxidants, and other goodies! Further, since it’s really low in calories yet high in nutrients, it is ranked as one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.

And now you can find kale in every form- chips, salad, juice, in skin cream, on t-shirts, tattoos, you name it.

While I wouldn’t recommend only eating kale, it’s a tasty addition to so many dishes. Pretty much anywhere you use spinach, you can sub it for kale. Minimalist Baker is a great food blog and a search for “kale” on their website comes up with many pages of delicious looking recipes (mhmmm creamy kale and spinach dip).

My favorite way to way to enjoy kale is in a smoothie. I always feel amazing after- great digestion & blood sugar levels- and I’ve come to crave the complex flavors.

Here is my go-to recipe:

Cheers to kale!

1 fresh banana
1 frozen banana
1 handful of frozen mango or pineapple
1 orange, peeled & de-seeded if necessary (or ½ cup of orange juice)
1 tbs hemp hearts
As much kale (or other greens) you can fit in your blender- pack it down my friends
½ cup of water
Optional: a small chunk of ginger and turmeric

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, add the kale, fresh banana, orange, and water first, blend the crap out of it, and add the frozen stuff after. Add extra water as needed. Enjoy!


Recent studies find kale in the dirty dozen, so best to get your kale from your local farmer’s market. 😉

Brad’s Pick

Brad's pop culture pick for june is shantaram
Brad Vatne, Junior Developer

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (Book)

TL;DR: Shantaram is the (based on a true) story of an Australian convict who escapes prison and flees to Bombay, India in the 1980’s. After volunteering his first aid skills to serve the people of the slum he lived in, Linbaba (the protagonist) is taken into the high life of the Bombay mafia and all of the (mis)adventures that accompany it.

This month I’ve been re-reading my favorite novel, Shantaram. This 900-page epic has got it all; adventure, love, humor, mystery, suspense… You name it. Further, it was the inspiration for my own journey across India, and the accuracy to which it describes the country still rings true to this day.

The novel covers a wide variety of themes, my favorites being communication, compassion, and poverty. I resonate with Lin’s ability to quickly pick up on languages and I leveraged this skill during my travels through many countries. The “head-wiggle” is one of the notorious cultural phenomena that still is very apparent in many parts of India, and just as the book illustrates, understanding this form of communication is crucial to many social interactions.

Lin’s proclivity for criminality induces a perplexing state of cognitive dissonance within the reader. He is clearly a compassionate, empathetic, and overall good person, yet he makes his living through illegitimate means. We root for him, the anti-hero, and we justify his behavior by citing his good deeds and intentions. When he lands in trouble, we don’t scorn him for his actions, but instead flip the page, hoping he finds his way out.

The horrendous poverty that still plagues India to this day takes the spotlight for the first third of the book. The slums are described with such immaculate detail that the reader is pulled right into the middle of the chaos, engaged with every sense. The strong sense of community, tradition, respect, and honor within the slums draws empathy from the reader, and personally inspired me to donate to multiple charities involved with providing healthcare to the impoverished in India. You can find a cause that resonates with you at and 90% of your money is ensured to go directly to it.



Download the .docx file

Earlier this month, Victoria’s Appreciation Engine graduated as part of an elite group of growth-stage companies selected to be part of BC Tech’s HyperGrowth program.

HyperGrowth is an accelerator program provided by the BC Tech Association aimed at helping growth stage companies ($1M – $5M ARR) increase their revenue, grow their teams, strengthen their leadership strategy, expand into new markets, or attract funding.

“Our preparedness to scale our business has increased exponentially,” says Appreciation Engine Co-Founder and CMO Annabel Youens. “We’ve been able to identify gaps in our business we didn’t even know were there, addressed pricing issues, revamped our values, improved our customer success plan and put in place strategies to show scalable, repeatable business processes. The support and advice from our incredibly skilled mentors in the HyperGrowth program have been invaluable.”

This is the fourth cohort of graduates to go through the program. For six months, they are immersed in an intensive residency program that assists them in building comprehensive sales, marketing, and financial strategies through expert-led learning and work sessions and connecting them with world-class advisors, mentors, and executives from Vancouver’s leading tech companies.

“Appreciation Engine exhibits foundations and processes to scale their company. Upon entering HyperGrowth, the team realized that growth is a game of diminishing returns and they excelled at testing more to learn more, to better position themselves in the market,” says Nicole Parmar, lead growth mentor at BC Tech.
Appreciation Engine (AE) is a customer intelligence engine, making it easier for digital marketers to see how their customers dynamically change over time. It helps brands understand their customers better. The engine looks at what customers are doing in real-time across streaming services, social networks, e-commerce, and other online channels. Businesses who use AE’s proprietary system build trust with their customers, improve open rates, save marketing dollars, and drive revenue. AE: Dynamic Customer Insights for Smarter Marketing.

“We believe the future of digital marketing involves deepening relationships between brands and their customers,” says Youens. “In this future, customers will give personal information to brands they trust if, in return, they receive personalized content that makes their lives easier. Our technology supports that kind of relationship.”


NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Founders of Appreciation Engine, Jeff Mitchell and Annabel Youens are available for in-person and virtual media interviews from Victoria, BC. Please contact Odette Jacquet to schedule.

Mervyn Mabini Manager of Venture Programs from BC Tech Association is available for media interviews from Vancouver, BC. Please contact Mervyn directly to schedule with him.

Media contacts:

Appreciation Engine
Odette Jacquet
Marketing Team

BC Tech Association
Mervyn Mabini, MBA
Manager, Venture Programs
T: 778-513-5133

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Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

annabel's pop culture pick in may is Powell's Books
Annabel Youens, CMO and Co-founder

Powell’s Books (Store)

In short: If you are a lover of books, you MUST visit Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon!

Powell’s Books came into my life digitally in 1998 when I worked at Abebooks. I spent many hours working with their staff to keep their books up-to-date on the site. In those early days teaching book store owners to use FTP and locate a file on their computers proved challenging, but we got there!

Powell’s is a third-generation family business run these days by Emily Powell and it’s the largest independent bookstore in the world. And no joke – Powell’s flagship store was WAY bigger than I even imagined and I pictured towering books and endless corridors of spines. In real life, there are color-coded areas of the store to help you navigate! I was directed to the Rose section and completely forgot the aisle number when I arrived because every row beckoned to me. Thank goodness there were so many info desks filled with lovely Powell’s team members.

annabel at powell's books in portland
Considering how much I love books I’m surprised it took me this long to finally walk under that Powell’s Books sign. But it happened last week!

Apart from the gigantic selection, I loved seeing people buying books, chatting about books, and plopped down reading books! I’m still smiling thinking about the teenage girl I saw engrossed by a book in the graphic novel section. A bookstore that encourages you to read on-the-spot is the best. Thank you Powell’s for sharing your vision.

My very restrained Powell’s purchases:

Jeff’s Pick

jeff's pop culture pick for may is ultraman on netflix
Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-founder

Ultraman (TV Show)

TL;DR: Took me a few episodes to be won over, but totally a fan of Netflix’s new take on Ultraman (one of my favorite childhood series!).

I used to watch the various incarnations of the original Ultraman series as reruns when I was a kid. A Japanese superhero who can transform into a giant and fight other giant monsters is going to excite a lot of 9-year-olds.

The fights ended up being no-holds-barred type wrestling matches that take place in model-built cities that get absolutely demolished in the battle. Seeing those model buildings get crushed as Ultraman uses a suplex on some giant Godzilla type alien was amazing to watch. 

So, I was definitely interested to see what Netflix was going to do with this series.

The series is not live action but it is animated in a very realistic 3D style. While this has put some people off, I did get used to it after a few episodes. I find that the style really captures the essence of the miniature models they used back in the day. The battle scenes are just as destructive, although in this version we don’t see Ultraman as a giant (yet). The choreography of the fights is excellent, though far more martial arts based. Still, very fun to watch! I also think they have (intentionally?) managed to capture some of the original corniness around the 60’s dialogue- especially the “bad guy” aliens.

The series starts off relatively tamely but gets increasingly dark as it progresses. Namely, the portrayal of an alien ghetto and the moral struggles faced by the main character around the killing of random aliens. It is slowly revealed that behind the Science Patrol (“the good guys”), there are some sinister motivations and characters. These interesting twists add a lot of depth to the show.

I really enjoyed the series, although it did take a few episodes to win me over. I look forward to watching another season now that they have laid the groundwork for the overall narrative.

Give it a fair chance (2-3 episodes) and you may like it as well!

Jennifer’s Pick

jenn's pop culture pick this may is sony headphones
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

Sony MDR-XB950BT (Headphones)

TL;DR: These headphones will blow your mind. I got them in red, just ’cause.

My unconventional pop culture pick this month is my headphones! I have the Sony MDR-XB950BT and they are one of my favorite belongings. That name is quite a mouthful, but we can break it down. MDR is their line of studio-quality headphones, BT is Bluetooth, and the XB is, of course, EXTRA BASS!!! 

I love them so much. They really help me to get in the zone while I’m working, and make me feel like I’m in a whole other world by myself. Plus, with the in-headphone controls, there’s no need to constantly pull my phone out of my pocket!

I also use them at home when I want to have a dance party for one! This is where the Bluetooth/wireless feature comes in. Try any wireless headphones- once you taste the freedom you’ll never go back.

Another feature I love about them is that they are over-ear, rather than on-ear, so I can wear them all day without my ears feeling bad. 

Here are some of my favorite bass-y albums to listen to with my beloved headphones: True by Avicii, Evolve by Imagine Dragons, Hot Fuss by the Killers, Art Angels by Grimes, and of course, any terrible 80’s guilty pleasure playlist (like this one). It’s loud enough that I can belt out any song and not have to listen to my own awful voice. 

Mike’s Pick

mike's pop culture pick for may is better oblivion community center
Mike Penhall, Senior Developer

Self-titled by Better Oblivion Community Center (Album) 

TL;DR: Another classic album from the former Bright Eyes frontman.

Conor Oberst has had a remarkably consistent career in the decade or so that I’ve been following his music. From his Bright Eyes days in the 00’s, through his solo projects, to the revival of his pre-fame emo band, there’s not a bad album in there.

Better Oblivion Community Center is Oberst’s latest project, a collaboration with singer Phoebe Bridgers. Although I’m far less familiar with Bridgers’ work, her voice and songwriting provide an excellent partner to Oberst’s distinctive vocals.

The album opens with the sort of indie-folk that Oberst is known for, it quickly expands to encompass a wider sonic landscape. And while it would be misleading to say it covers uncharted musical ground for the duo, it does offer a nice variety of sounds from synth flourishes to the thoughtful prog of standout track “Big Black Heart.

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick is crushing by julia jacklin
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Crushing by Julia Jacklin (Album)

Long story short: Put this album on a few times and I guarantee you will catch yourself singing in the shower, car, you name it.

Crushing is the second album of Australian singer-songwriter, Julia Jacklin. Her music career really took off following the release of her first album in 2016. Despite this fame and fortune, I only discovered her music a few weeks ago, via our local university radio station.

I was driving home when her track “Pressure to Party“ came on. I remember wondering who the artist was, as it sounded like a mix of a few of my favorite musicians mashed together – think Sharon Van Etten meets Angel Olsen meets Feist. I made a mental note of the artist so I could look up more of her stuff later. I did just that, and listened to her two albums on repeat for a good while, before inevitably getting rather sick of them.

About Crushing:

  • Heartfelt indie-pop with a folky flavor
  • It’s great to put on in the car and loudly sing along off key
  • Most of the tracks have super catchy lyrics that will get stuck in your head
  • It’s a very moody album, so a great choice if you have your own relationship challenges to dwell on!

Throw the album on and see what you think!


One of the biggest questions we get is “Where should I add social login to my website?” Don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. In this article, we go through the top 3 places to implement social login on your website: Newsletter Sign Up, Contests, and Gated Content. 


Think About YOUR Customer and YOUR website

Depending on your website, different social login options and techniques will make the most sense for you.

It is important to put on your customers’ shoes and think about what works for them. You can also see what’s being done in your industry by scoping out your competitors.

Just remember to keep your target customers in mind as you read on. This should have the biggest influence on where you decide to add social login to your website. 

Use Social Login for Newsletter Sign-up

selena gomez's newsletter signup form with ae's social login
Use a newsletter sign-up form to find your company’s “Selenators!”

Newsletters are an effective way to grow a list of leads that you can reach out to later. They are also an easy way to direct traffic to your website, blog or promotion. In fact, a 2016 study by Campaign Monitor found that for every $1 spent, email has an average $44 return on investment (ROI).

Customers love well-crafted emails because they can count on being notified when you release fresh content, announce a sale or run a competition.

Getting your Newsletter Sign-Up Call to Action Just Right

Finding the right call to action is super important, and there is no one-size-fits-all option. It is going to take some experimentation to find the perfect incentive.

Notice how Mountain Equipment Co-op leads customers from strong statements about the company’s values to a short and sweet newsletter sign-up form

Start by asking yourself: what do your customers actually want delivered to their inbox?

Then, consider what you can actually manage to provide. It builds trust with the consumer if you only promise what you truly will deliver.

Based on this, explain exactly what they can expect from you. If appropriate you can even state how often they should expect an email.

Here is an example of AE’s sign up form…feel free to subscribe of course! 😉

Subscribe to our mailing list

Blog Releases ● Stories & Videos ● Webinar Invites ● Product Updates

And don’t worry if you aren’t 100% sure about your newsletter CTA. Test something out and if it’s not converting much of your traffic, go back and try something different.

Tip: If you are looking for some ideas on how to word your newsletter signup form, check out this awesome blog post by Hubspot. Or if you need some design ideas, Canva has a bunch of great examples on this post.

Use Social Login For Your Next Contest

Ariana Grande Leaderboard campaign
Leaderboard contests really make your super fans stand out!

Contests are a fun way to engage with your fans and create buzz. Through a contest, you can get your customers to complete multiple social actions, boosting your social channels at the same time.

With a well thought out contest and an enticing prize, you should have no trouble getting fans to join in. Here’s an example.

Thievery Corporation ran a successful points-based contest to promote their album, Culture of Fear.

Thievery Corporation adds social login to their website to run contests and campaigns
Fans gathered points by completing social actions for a chance to win the grand prize

When fans used social login to register for the contest, they were automatically added into AE’s dashboard. This way, the band’s marketing team could effortlessly track what fans were doing.

Fans could then earn points by:

  • Following the band on Facebook and Twitter
  • Tweeting about the album or posting about it using their branded hashtag
  • Listening to the new album on Last.FM
  • Buying the new album

How to Manage a Social Media Contest

AE makes contests like this one easy. Everything gets tracked by the engine, making ranking entrants and picking the winner easy. If you want to learn more, you can read the full Thievery Corporation case study here.

If you already run contests (or want to give one a try), then it’s a no brainer to implement social login into your entry form!

Tip: Decide on your contest’s goal before getting started. Is it to promote a new product, engage with customers, or get site visitors? Try and pick one goal per campaign.

Using Social Login to Access Gated Content

Gated content is anything on a website that requires login to access. This creates a feeling of exclusivity whether or not there is a membership fee. And often, these areas are so useful for marketing and sales teams that it makes sense for access to be free.

Selena Gomez Community Forum
See how Selena is crowd-sourcing content in her website’s forum…what a marketer’s dream!

Forum /Community Board with Social Login

Many artists have a forum on their website where top fans can chat with each other. Fans get to feel like they are part of a larger community and they get another opportunity to engage with the artist they love.

Creating a community based on your website gives you a lot more ownership than having, say, a page on Facebook. It’s easier to create an overall experience more in line with your brand and to lead fans to other parts of your website.

Social Login for a Members Only Zone

goodreads sign up page
See how Goodreads offers social login? It’s not just for customer convenience.

This is a part of your website that is only accessible to members. It can include pages that only members can view, for example, a members-only blog, or access to other exclusive content like behind-the-scenes videos.

This is a great option if you want to create a VIP experience for your customers. Moreover, you can share different kinds of content when you know everyone there is interested and engaged. It’s easy to manage this using social login, and AE’s social login will give you the greatest insight into how your members are interacting with your brand.

Tip: Your customers are already active on many social channels. If you want them to spend their valuable time on your site, you need to make it worth it. Facilitating a good members-only zone can be incredibly time-consuming. Make sure there is someone on your team actively tasked with keeping the energy going.

1# Tip for Getting People to Engage

If you want to get customers signing up for your newsletter or entering your contest, you need to provide the right incentive.

This comes down to knowing your target customer and clearly communicating the value. It may take a few experiments to hone down on the most effective incentives for your customer. Play around with it and get creative!

Make sure to be clear about what your customer will get (access to gated content, the chance to win a prize pack, etc.) and what they won’t get (bombarded by emails and spam).

It’s 2019 and people know that their data is valuable. So treat them with respect and give as much as you take!

Digital handshake between brand and user: a computer screen with the AE (Appreciation Engine) logo and a computer screen with a person, with a pair of hands meeting in a handshake in between.

Fill Up your Dashboard with Customers

With AE’s real-time customer data, you get to segment and target your fans with great precision. But none of that is possible until you have customers using your social login- that is after all, how AE works!

You know you are going to get a ton of really valuable insights. So, it’s worth putting the time in to think things through. No matter where you decide to add social login, you can look forward to these perks:


With AE you can keep track of who is signing up for your newsletter and use that list to create lookalike audiences in Facebook or Google ads! You won’t believe how much more effective your ad campaigns are.


Using social login in your contest means creating a big spike of awareness about your brand. Using AE’s social login means being able to manage all of the social channels and entrants from one dashboard. And, when the contest is done, you have all those fans to re-market to!

Gated Content:

With robust hosting platforms like WordPress, it’s now easy for any website to store lists of members. The problem is, your members aren’t just going to be talking about your brand on your forum. To get the full customer picture, you need a service like AE that tracks their activity across social channels. That way, when you want to reach out with a campaign, you can do highly precise segmentation that takes advantage of automation.

add social login to your website like imagine dragons
Imagine Dragons has customized AE’s social login for their Members-Only Zone

Go get ‘em, tiger!

The world is your social login oyster: be creative and always keep your customer in mind.

If you are still stumped and need a helping hand, don’t hesitate to reach out! You can talk to a real human on our Marketing Team simply by clicking on the blue chat bubble.