Simon Bland in Tech & Digital

24/11/2014

Interview: Andrew Ko, Preceptive (previously Moment.Us)

Andrew Ko is the founder of Preceptive, an innovative mobile analytics app that allows companies to profile and predict the personality and behaviors of their users based on their interactions with music.

Andrew entered into Creative England's Collider12 programme to develop what was then an app designed purely to listen and share music. It was during this incubator programme that Andrew realised the true potential of his product and decided that a pivot was necessary. 

We caught up with Andrew to discuss his app, keeping your company alive during a transition and the future for Preceptive...


Can you tell us a little about your background and how your idea for a music app was formed?

My background is in engineering and I worked in the aerospace and nuclear power industries before studying an MBA at the University of Toronto. My brother and I were DJs and music producers at the time, so we were always figuring out new ways to discover music. That’s when the music app idea came to me, because I was trying to think of how to revolutionise music discovery using emotions rather than just genres. However, we didn’t act on this idea until after I completed my MBA and I went to the University of Manchester to do my PhD on how people are connected through music,

How would you describe your music app idea?

We said it was a new way to experience music because every song that you listen to, you could see other people’s tweets about the song or about the artist or you could see their Instagram posts, so it was the world’s first truly social music app.

When did it become apparent that a pivot may be necessary?

I think the biggest reason we needed to pivot was because when we described the music app everyone was amazed by the technology but they weren’t so convinced by the medium of delivery. But we needed data that no one else in the world had and that’s why we had to create a player to get this data. It wasn’t a huge hit in terms of numbers but in terms of learning and validating our technology, it was definitely a success. So based on the lessons we learned, we knew we had to keep our focus on the technology we created but change the way it was used.

How important is it for any company starting out to know when to pivot and when to take action?

It’s extremely important. I think especially as a CEO you always need to have one eye looking towards the future in case something goes wrong. I have learned to always plan for the worst but expect the best. This way, at least if you are planning for the worst and things actually go wrong you have more time to plan out exactly what alternate route you want to take because you’re always prepared for anything!

How do you keep a company alive whilst undergoing a change of direction?

I think that you definitely need to have a long term road map, that is how we stayed afloat. You can’t just sit on your laurels because if you do then you’re going to be out-innovated pretty fast. You need to think: ‘Where is this technology taking us?’ because for us, our company lives and dies on the tech. We’re trying to solve a current problem, but also trying to anticipate problems that people might have. We’re always trying to think about problems that will occur in the future that we can solve with our tech,

What are your thoughts on the music industry as an arena for start-ups?

I’m going to advise people not to go into that industry unless you have lots of money. The reason being that the music labels hold all the cards in terms of content so start-ups need to play by their rules. Unfortunately, without licensed content there’s nothing a start-up can do unless the industry itself or the way that rights are distributed changes. We had a fantastic product that proved to be more engaging than even some of Facebook’s sponsored posts because music is just something that is inherent in all of us and ties all of us together. But no one knew about it because we didn’t have money for marketing as it was all spent on music licenses,

How did you pivot into the product that you’re working on now?

My PhD research, and the technology that came from it, is about using music to determine people’s personalities and is key to our platform now. But in our previous streaming music app, this concept was just a small portion of what we offered. We knew that we were experts in using music to understand people like no other company and personality right now is a growing aspect of learning about people’s profiles, so that’s why we felt the time was right to move in this new direction,

What information and data can companies learn from your app and how important is it?

For a company, it gives a truly three-dimensional view of their customer. In the current landscape, profiling platforms use demographics and behaviours, Google Analytics and Mixpanel do this. It tells you what people are buying and where they are coming from but it doesn’t tell you anything about why they are doing this and that’s where personality comes in. For our previous music app, we wanted to know why they listened to certain songs and when they listened to them and now with our profiling platform, we can.

What feedback have you received so far?

It has been overwhelmingly positive. The data that we are giving our clients is stuff that they can’t get anywhere else. We can segment people depending on their different personalities and personas and link them to what kind of activities people like all in real-time. We’ve profiled approximately 300,000 people so far and the amount of information is unprecedented as we characterize each person with ten different personality traits, and within each of these traits we can segment them in up to four categories. It’s the next level of hyper-targeting.

What is the competition like?

We have to consider people copying us with an inferior product and possibly giving this whole concept a bad name. But no one is currently doing what we’re doing in this way and with this much unique research and technology. And that’s what makes us special.

How did you initially get involved with Creative England’s Collider12 and how did you think it could help your company?

To be honest, I had never heard about Creative England until we got into the Collider12 programme but then the more I looked into it the more I thought it was really good because it’s a creative fund. Even though we have flipped from being just a pure music delivery and streaming company to a data company that uses music as one of its key factors, it still fits within Creative England’s remit. I also liked your motto and that is a key point for me, as it’s not just about helping companies, it’s about helping companies to make the economy better; that is a mission that we definitely stand behind. We’re proud to say that we are from the North and proud that we are Manchester based. If we went down South we would quickly get lost in the noise but I think it has been very strategic for us to be based in the North. I think that we are sitting on a potential gold mine and that can only mean good things and with Creative England’s help in promoting us and helping us along the way, it’s a big deal for us.

How did the funding and mentoring help, were you able to do anything that you wouldn’t have been able to without it?

The funding allowed us to jump start our idea by building the streaming music app, and if we hadn’t gotten it I don’t think we would be here with our really interesting and groundbreaking platform

Did you gain a lot of experience from the programme?

Absolutely. You fail one hundred percent of the time that you don’t try in business, especially if you are starting your own company. You can’t try unless you have some funding, you need money to do things and that’s where Creative England helps because you guys allowed us to try it and thankfully out of trying we figured out a potentially sustainable business that fills a need. It’s not just about money, because someone could hand us one hundred grand and say ‘I have no clue what you’re doing’ - with that kind of attitude we will fail, it was your belief in us. There is a totally different mind-set with that.

It pays to have people that care?

Yes definitely, I think that is why Collider and yourselves invested in us because we were so resolute in what we wanted to build,

What do you have planned for the future?

We’re looking for another round of funding to help grow the business in the next three to six months. We’re also in the midst of getting clients right now and then we’ll get our tech out there, get more feedback and validation. In the longer term time scale, we want to be one of the most interesting tech startups to come out of the UK.


Andrew and Moment.Us are also one of the eight Creative England supported companies that are taking part in our Digital Accelerator programme. To find out more head here and to read a guest blog by fellow applicant Write Track head here.

To learn more about Moment.Us visit their website.

To learn more about our business loans and accelerators, head here.

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