This week, The Idea caught up with Amie Green, who leads marketing at the content discovery startup Canopy.

Mollie Leavitt
Sep 16 · 6 min read

Tell me about yourself, your background, and what led you to Canopy.

Canopy is focused on building a new personalization architecture for a better Internet. They’re building real technology that can help build awesome discovery and recommendation systems in a way that keeps your data safe and secure.

My background spans across content, primarily through the lens of publishing. I’ve worked in advertising, and also on the platform side. I have had the opportunity to work on various sides of our industry from the publisher (AOL, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) to the platform (Flipboard) to agency (Digitas) roles. The through-line for me is always about content, and connecting that content to audiences who care about it.

I have always believed that technology is a great way to bring that to fruition, but with the maturation of the Internet, I saw how those systems can go wrong and not necessarily be in the best interest of the consumer. So, what really drew me to Canopy is that they’re building solutions to make the Internet amazing and to build those content recommendation systems in a way that is very respectful of people’s data.

Can you go into a bit more specifics about how you’re planning to do that?

We’re building a private discovery system that could ultimately power any personalized experience online in a way that’s safe and secure. Right now, we’re building a software architecture and technology that can be used in any consumer application as well as business. Anything that relies on great personalization and recommendation systems, we hope that Canopy technology will power that.

Can you tell a bit about the story of Canopy and more background about it?

Our founder Brian Whitman is really the architect behind this company called The Echo Nest, which powers Spotify’s Discover Weekly and some of the other playlists that everyone loves that are personalized discovery on their service. The company was really founded through this lens of discovery and being disillusioned with the way in which a lot of the discovery is asking for a lot of personal information and data, using that data in a way that is part of the larger economic model of the Internet that’s transacting on a lot of data, but isn’t necessarily core to finding great content or finding great music. The team is really thinking about, how do you make something personalized, now that our mobile devices are so powerful, and you can do a lot of the processing that once was happening on servers, you can do that inside your device, and how do you scale that? How do you make an Internet where the data stays secure and people no longer have to give up so much just to engage with the content that they love.

How will consumers interact with Canopy?

We want to prove that the technology is great and that there is an application for it. We are launching a content discovery app in the next couple weeks. In that experience, what you’ll find is an opportunity to be recommended a handful of amazing content recommendations every day. The app is personalized to you, every day you’ll find something that’s unique to you and it gets smarter over time. What makes the app really amazing is not only the personalization technology, but also the fact that in order to power those recommendations, it doesn’t rely on any information leaving your phone. Everything that you’re doing within the app is completely private, and that’s really an exciting use of the Canopy technology. The other way that we see that app being differentiated is that it’s really taking from the great pieces of the Internet and connecting those with consumers.

What is Canopy’s business model?

We’re an early stage startup. The technology is built, and now we’re thinking about ways in which that technology can be implemented. We are proving that private discovery works, but we see a world in which various industries could benefit from private discovery. Thinking about it through the lens of media, or even healthcare or ad-tech, places where consumers are more mindful of how their data is being used, and looking for trusted recommendations and an exceptional personalized experience.

So who would be paying for the product?

Businesses that are providing those experiences. Think about it as more of an enterprise technology that we could then license to those companies.

What might Canopy’s relationship with media publishers look like in the future?

That’s very close to my heart coming from that background. One of the things that we’re excited about through this first initial consumer app is making sure that consumers are connecting with great stories across the Internet, finding small bloggers, finding great stories. A lot of it is around getting publisher content in front of the right audience, first and foremost. Beyond that, there’s an opportunity to help a lot of media companies deliver better personalization in their consumer experiences in a way that’s private and secure.

Can you tell me a bit about your role? What’s a project you’re working on currently?

Right now, I’m really focused on bringing our first app to market. One of the things that is an exciting marketing challenge for me right now is to stay true to the company’s mission, which is rooted in privacy. What I’ve traditionally understood as some tried and true tactics to get people on the Internet install apps or engage with media, we’re being really mindful about some of those tactics and making sure that every time we’re engaging with a consumer, we’re true to that initial mission. We’re trying to almost reinvent what would be a new growth model in a way that’s ethical and respectful of user data.

For example, we would not be employing re-targeting, when you sign up for the app, we’re not collecting any emails. It’s a very unique marketing challenge, but it’s going to be one that we can hopefully share with your readers and other people to rethink how some of these tactics are used and hopefully we’ll have success on the other side.

Can you tell me about the beta test that’s going on?

We have a really great beta program that the team has been running, and they just wrapped up doing some interviews with our beta testers, we’ve had a lot of feedback. It’s all very through word of mouth, people who follow Brian Whitman, our founder, and who have been fans of the implementation of other technologies that the team here has built for things like Discover Weekly on Spotify. There’s a great beta program right now, and we’re about to go into public launch.

What’s an example of something that you learned in the beta test that surprised you?

One is this need for great discovery. People are finding delight in the range of sources that we are surfacing to them. It’s like going back to the early Internet period where you’d find a blog or an article and it would really connect with you. The discovery piece was something that the beta really surfaced for us as being really important for us and a big consumer challenge right now.

The second thing that also came at us in a surprising way is that people are becoming really mindful of how they spend their screen time. They had described our beta as a place that’s calm, that’s really simple for them, in a way that is refreshing. As people are trying to reframe their habits with their device, they found that the beta was a good way to fit into that new reframing.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen in media from an organization other than your own?

I’m a voracious news consumer, so pretty much everything Axios, New York Times, New York Media, Vox. All of the things that they have done to expand into newsletters and podcasts and bringing their stellar reporting into those formats and even HBO series is really inspiring. I’ll also shout out The Atlantic’s family and parenting content, I feel like it meets me exactly where I’m at. Experimenting with our beta, I have to say I’ve been reintroduced to some really great writing, just spending more time with sources like The Paris Review, I was also introduced to a blog here called Messy Nessy Chic, and then this great writer Anne Helen Peterson, who was one of the first to identify millennial burnout for BuzzFeed, and she’s writing a book about it, but I had forgotten how amazing it is to find a blog or story that really sticks with me and gets in my head, and I’ve been able to take a step back and do that

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Mollie Leavitt

Written by

find me tweeting @mollie_leavitt | Strategy Research Analyst, Atlantic Media

The Idea

The Idea

A weekly newsletter on the business of media from @AtlanticMedia, home of @TheAtlantic, @NationalJournal and @GovExec. Subscribe here:

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