Like any proud dad, Dave Crosby thought his daughter was a pretty good little singer. So he pointed a camera at the 3-year-old and uploaded a video to the internet to show friends and family — and the world.
Over the course of the next two years or so, Crosby left his job at Amazon, watched his daughter Claire become a mini-celebrity with more than a million subscribers on YouTube and two million followers on Facebook, helped her land television and movie appearances, competed himself as a singer on “The Voice,” and co-founded a tech company that sells smart-home products.
Crosby, 31, is the creative director and co-founder of Wyze, a young startup based in Kirkland, Wash., that offers low-priced home cameras such as the Wyze Cam and the Wyze Cam Pan, which launched at the end of May.
A native of Salt Lake City, Crosby moved to Seattle in 2015 to take a job on Amazon’s musical instruments team, selling everything from guitars and keyboards to headphones and recording equipment.
“I was a musician for a long time, and then when I had a kid I was like, ‘This isn’t really a great way to provide for my family; I’d have to travel and I don’t know how much money I’d make,'” said Crosby, who with his wife Ashley also now has a 3-year-old son and a 4-month-old daughter. “So I went back to business school and got an MBA and from business school I went and worked at Amazon.”
It was during that time that Crosby noticed that Claire, then 3, could sing pretty well. So he shot a video of her singing “Part of Your World,” a song from Disney’s “Little Mermaid.”
“I thought, ‘This is awesome, I’m gonna start a YouTube channel with my daughter,'” Crosby said. “Our first video goes viral. I just posted it on my Facebook wall and we had this crazy experience — she goes on some talk shows and all that stuff and basically our YouTube channel is born. From that it was just one experience after another.”
To this day, the video has more than 16 million views on YouTube, but it’s just one of many that have racked up a total of 200 million views since the channel launched in January 2016. Along the way, Claire has appeared on “Little Big Shots” with Steve Harvey and she’s been on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” at least five times. She’s been cast in a movie remake of “The Little Mermaid” that opens Aug. 17.
And her biggest viral hit alongside dad came last January, when they sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” the Randy Newman song from “Toy Story.” The video has been viewed 20 million times.
Judging by the amount of video content that Crosby was and still is producing — starring both himself and his daughter — it begged the obvious question: How did this guy find time for a day job?
He said throughout it all, the people at Amazon were really cool in working with him and allowing him to be away from Seattle to travel to Los Angeles and elsewhere. But when he finally got a call to compete on NBC’s reality/talent contest “The Voice” (he got knocked out in the battle round in episodes that aired last fall), he had to make a decision.
“It was getting to the point where I felt like I couldn’t do my job at Amazon,” Crosby said. “I couldn’t work in a corporate environment with everything that was happening. It didn’t seem like our YouTube channel was really slowing down, it was like, ‘This is going to get more and more crazy and there’s lots of cool opportunities with this.’ So I eventually had to leave my job.”
Crosby called it a weird position to be in. The traction and views he and Claire were getting on YouTube could have provided a living, but he couldn’t accept that scenario.
“It felt so wrong because it was so based on my 3-year-old,” Crosby said. “It was like, ‘What kind of dude wants to make a living off his 3-year-old and just bank on her to feed the family?’ It put me in such an awkward position where I couldn’t really hold a job but at the same time I couldn’t bring myself to take all this money from Claire because she’s the one that had earned it.”
His work at Amazon and the co-workers and friends he had there did inform his decision about what he thought he could do next in tech — and ultimately led to the creation of Wyze.
In categories across Amazon, Crosby and others noticed a trend around major brands — in his case, with guitar makers such as Fender and Gibson — and how they were being beat out on Amazon by no-name companies bent on offering a quality product at a lower price.
Crosby believed that e-shoppers just weren’t looking for brands like they used to, and that names didn’t hold as much value.
“What people look for is good reviews on Amazon and low prices,” he said. “If you can create that combination than you’ve got a winning product. We all had Amazon DNA. We want to build a company that focuses super hard on customer experience.”
Crosby also found the element that was missing while trying to juggle his YouTube career — creating his own company and working the hours he set. But it doesn’t mean he’s not still insanely busy.
“I never sleep. I’m either editing video or shooting video or working on music. The thing that I’ve kind of sacrificed, which has been sad for me, is my own personal music.”
Crosby did manage to put out an EP of his own music last year, and his own YouTube channel — with about 37,000 followers — is a mix of original songs and covers. He also helps create videos for the Wyze channel.
But the appeal of a 5-year-old who can hold a tune is apparently no match when it comes to attracting an audience.
“With the internet there are so many of these mini celebrities,” Crosby said. “She’s had some awesome success, but every day you find people on YouTube with a million subscribers that are these people you’ve never heard of before, that are doing awesome. The internet has just made it so easy for that many people to have that kind of success. It’ll be interesting to see if it gets bigger than that or just kind of stays where it’s at.”
And whether Claire — who loves performing right now — will remain dedicated to making music and videos and everything else as she gets older will be up to her, her father said. YouTube is a super fun hobby for the family and he intends to keep it that way.
They shoot a few times a week as it is, avoiding the grind of a daily video log, or vlog, and what they sing is pretty much left up to Claire.
“I focus on making good content. I want content that touches people emotionally,” Crosby said. “If I were trying to make the next viral thing I would do a better job of riding viral trends, covering songs that people are searching. We created a ‘Moana’ song right when ‘Moana’ launched — that video gets millions of views just because people are searching for it. But that’s not always the stuff that Claire wants to do.”
He said their big hit — “You’ve Got a Friend In Me — was already 20 years old when they decided to sit on the couch and shoot a video of themselves singing.
“That song was not relevant at all, but it was just a song that Claire loved, so we did it,” Crosby said. “Creating the content that we enjoy making, that Claire’s really into … it’s good music that will touch people.”