Kyle Barker

Forty under 40 winner 2019; Co-founder and CEO, Cryptek Labs, Age 38

Photo: Chung Chow

Can artificial intelligence and big data be balanced with consumers’ increasing concerns for privacy and ethical treatment of said data?

For Kyle Barker, it’s not only possible – it’s an opportunity.

Barker is co-founder and CEO of Cryptek Labs, which specializes in data-driven performance marketing by using technology such as real-time voice-sentiment analysis to reach customers for client firms. The technology, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, can appear daunting to some people, but Barker said it can open the door to consumers who want to feel empowered about how their data is used.

“A lot of people have bad connotations with marketing; and, to be fair, data has been misused or mishandled out there,” Barker said. “So for myself, working with predictive behavioural targeting, I see this opportunity to turn this entire digital marketing ecosystem – currently built on the exploitation of data – on its head.”

The key, he said, is the use of technology like voice-sentiment analysis to determine a person’s willingness to share certain data. Along with the use of blockchain to decentralize the data collected and the participation of companies that want to be ethical stewards of information, a new model where consumers choose what data to share – and with whom – can be achieved.

“If decentralized through blockchain, this can empower end-users to decide what pieces of information you want to share with what advertisers, which customizes your experience,” Barker said. “But it can also mean that the money that’s used to target you personally can come back to you.… It can be a passive income generator if you decide to share certain things like location metadata for a fee to specific companies.”

The key, Barker noted, is allowing computers to become “emotionally intelligent,” with the ability to read verbal and non-verbal cues.

“You can actually process a person’s emotions without the words … the tone, the pitch, the cadence. There are all these methodic systems that reveal the intent and emotions behind the words, so you can encapsulate meaning and therefore [provide] a better customer experience.”


Birthplace: Vancouver

Where you live now: White Rock

Highest level of education: Master’s degree, business. Microsoft certified systems engineer

Currently reading: Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It ... and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish

Currently listening to: Podcasts. Always trying to glean wisdom from diverse perspectives, from financial policy and economic analysis to Tony Robbins to Eckhart Tolle

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Retired. When I was seven, I asked what my grandfather did. I was told he was retired, which I assumed was a career. Gardening, baking and beach time. It seemed like the best gig in town (which I still believe)

Profession you would most like to try: Everything. I have an insatiable desire to learn as much as possible. For example, in addition to my work with Cryptek, I’m currently a volunteer firefighter and training to be an emergency medical responder. I’d also like to finish my pilot’s licence

Toughest business or professional decision: Staying true to my vision and values, which included stepping away from a lucrative but incompatible business relationship

Advice you would give the younger you: It isn’t what you do that makes you successful. You are intrinsically valuable. Stop trying to please everyone’s expectations of you. If you view life as working for you and not against you, then everything that happens, good or bad, is preparing you for the places you’re ultimately heading. You’ll look back in amazement at how you couldn’t have planned it better yourself

What’s left to do: Apart from all the myriad business developments, the focus is on maintaining balance in all areas of my life and spending quality time with my family

“I see this opportunity to turn this entire digital marketing ecosystem – currently built on the exploitation of data – on its head”

Join us to celebrate the 2019 Forty under 40 Awards on January 30, 2020, at the Westin Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit