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What are the biggest mistakes startups can make?

David Spark of Spark Media Solutions popped over to our Best of the French Tech Tour event last week and asked attendees, “What are the biggest mistakes startups can make?”

Here are 36 of his favorite answers in less than 90 seconds.

Big thanks to all for participating:
Kevin Marks (@KevinMarks), Laurine Chassignon (@visiofair), Yuliya Dmytryshyn (@stanfy), Thibaut Duguet (@Ubifrance), Mathilde David (@Ubifrance), Lionel Roux, Sylvia Gallusser, Andra Tautu Robinson, Baptiste Lacroix, Ramon Jimenez (@Ubifrance), Phil Jeudy (@philjeudy), Guillaume Thomas (@aladom), Guillaume de La Tour, Tony Stilling (@tony2x), Brian Sherman (@clarityinfo), Nick Muldoon (@nickmuldoon), Shaun Saunders – @graffitipr), Ben Levy (@BootstrapLabs), JF Dechant (@bthecoach), Michael Nelson (@mbnel), Chase Beach (@chase_beach), James Teiser (@gonzoguru), Matthew Gonzales (@matthewgonzales), Frederic Dominioni (@rockingfred), Trevor Goss (@trevorgoss), Vassil Mladjov, Matt Fischer (@megosystems), Manuel Acevedo (@acevedo), Loic Gardiol (@loicgardiol), Steve Gurney (@sjg138), Nicolas Vilmert (@nvilmart), Daniel Chatelain (@danielchat), Arnaud Breton (@arnaud_breton), Clément Delangue (@clementdelangue), Yanni Giannaros (@yannigiannaros), Denny Arar (@dennyarar), Didier Baquier (@didierbaq), Peter Mullen (@pemullen), Gayle LaDoux (@gtotheld), Michael Compton (@easyzeke), Alex Lunev, Gregory Veran Caillavet, Claire Liot (@cstarleo), Marion Dessailly (@mariondesailly), Anne-Charlotte Chauvet (@ftt13), Jason Root (@ssgeek), Jai Decker (@jaidecker), Christian Arar, Sandira Calviac (@sandira), Valerie Morignat (@valeriemorignat), Melissa Glass (@missglass1821), Alfredo Coppola (@usmarketaccess), and Daisy the British Bulldog.

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July rocked thanks to Flurry and Outlook.com

A little late in posting this as I’ve been traveling around the wilds of NY and VT for the past few weeks.

But I needed to share the news ….

First, our Big Data Summer Bash with Flurry a was completely over the top where upwards of 500 of y’all joined us to celebrate Flurry’s newest success: AppCloud!  (Watch the slideshow and see!)



Flurry AppCloud
empowers developers to build better apps faster while seamlessly handling cloud storage, user account management, push notifications and more.  It’s awesome.   Join the beta here.

Then, the very next day after our bash with Flurry, we announced a “mystery event” on 7.31 that promised big news from a mystery company, complete with food, drink and stellar entertainment at a cool, new venue….  and no other details.  Hmmm. Who could it be??

In less than 3 hours time, after announcing the “mystery event” (via our meetup.com list and via on our ever-growing email list) it sold out!  Boom!  Just like that!

And then over the next six days, hundreds of people added their names to the waiting list.  Trust me, I did my best responding to the deluge of inquiries from folks (you?) who really, really wanted to be there.  Sorry if you got shut out but we had capacity issues, otherwise if wish EVERYONE could have been there because it rocked!

On the morning of 7.31, we revealed the secret everyone who registered and those on the waiting list…

The big reveal was the launch of Microsoft’s Outlook.com! outlook.com

Hats off to you SF New Tech peeps for being the cool kids in town who Microsoft chose to usher in a brand new era of email with a kick ass party at 620 Jones headlined by The Lumineers, a band you may have heard of, Hey Ho!

 

Needless to say we reveled in new tech in a new way in July… and it felt good. :)

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3 Questions With PointBurst

 

What Is PointBurst?

Much like HootSuite, TweetDeck, Seeismic, Etc, PointBurst is a social media syndication platform that allows its users to post to multiple platforms. The BIG difference with Pointburst is, “Organizations can also rapidly share every asset they create with their franchisees/resellers/affiliates/partners (“affiliate”) multiplying their reach, ensuring brand consistency, and providing valuable content to support the affiliates’ social media efforts.”

A great example of the above mentioned description is as follows: Lets say brand “X “isn’t great with social media (like most brands), so they have “X” amount of affiliates, and/or brand partners, who each have their own accounts to mange. When brand “X” posts one update, it then reaches out to each “affiliate”, who then is notified, and then decides if they would like to allow to publish to each one of their accounts, should they choose to do so (awesome sauce).

Who Is PointBurst’s Target Audience?

Any organization(s), with any amount of affiliates, trying to reach the masses or be more effective with their marketing. So, pretty much you, me, anyone trying to effectively brand themselves or company with a simple post. Time is money, and most people simply don’t have the time to post on everything, all day. With PointBurst you don’t have to worry about all that time.

What Social Sites Does PointBurst Publish To?

Currently, you can publish to FaceBook, Twitter and LinkedIn (waiting on Google+ and Pinterest API’s). Between you, me and the interwebbs, Flickr, MySpace, Instagram and WordPress will be the next sites to hit PointBurst within the next three months, so be ready for said awesome-ness.

If you are as convinced as we are, why not try them out for a free thirty day trial? After that pricing will depend number of affiliates and modules you choose to use.

Side note: If you want the 411 on PointBurst in full, may I suggest you attend our event next week. Word on the street is you will get more than thirty days, but I wont tell you how much more unless you show up (see what we did there?).

Also … this just in for attendees of the event on 4/11:

PointBurst is offering a FREE, 3 month subscription for an upgraded Publisher Account with library sharing privileges.  With an upgraded Publisher Account you have the ability to publish through the social media sites of your affiliates as if they published it themselves.  You can exponentially expand your audience with the click of single button.  No longer will you have to hope your affiliates are maintaining a social media presence and no more worrying about keeping your brand consistent!  With library sharing you can seamlessly share assets of your choice from your library with your selected affiliates.  This is a special offer for SF New Tech attendees only and you can register on location at the PointBurst table.  All of those who register will be eligible for the raffle of a new iPod Shuffle!

Shweet!!

 

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Learn with Udemy: Special deal just for our fans!

We are pleased to announce our partnership with Udemy.

We wanted to thank you for being our fan by providing you more ways to learn and hone in your awesome skills! Udemy is offering two really sweet deals, just for SF New Tech fans.Check them out!

(Please click on the links below to see each course special)

Deal 1:

Dave McClure, Adeo Ressi, and Naval Ravikant – teaching you how to Raise Capital for your Startup. These guys are investors in Twitter, Foursquare, Mint, SlideShare (list goes on… way on), and they’ve run dozens of companies themselves (i.e. they know both sides of the table).

The problem is, you can’t learn from folks like this unless you know them. Luckily, problem solved because the guys at Udemy have put together a killer online course called  “Raising Capital for Startups. The course features Dave, Adeo, Naval (and more), and this week they’re hooking us up with 60% off (making it $39… retail price $99). Grab it while it’s hot.

Deal 2:

iPhone, iPad, iOS. It’s getting a little crazy out there with 187 million iDevices, more than 300,000 apps, and dozens making over $1,000,000 in revenue. That’s why I’m very excited to announce a deal from the guys at Udemy on their online courseLearn to Develop iPhone & iPad Apps in 4 Weeks.”

The course is taught by Bess Ho, who is quickly becoming something of a silicon valley legend given her ability to take business folks (with zero programming skills) and have them build real functional apps in less than 6 hours. She teaches at places like Hacker Dojo, but if you can’t make it to a class she’s put together an awesome version of her course online at Udemy.com. It retails at $250, but the Udemy guys are hooking it up with 60% off making it $99 for this week only. Enjoy!


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New Sponsor Deal

News Flash! Sponsoring SF New Tech just got better! Read more…

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MonAmour = 30 $10 tickets on 3.30 for the Best of French Web 2.0

MonAmour = 30 $10 tickets on 3.30 for the Best of French Web 2.0

Happy Monday! Today only, 30 tickets to the best of the French Web 2.0 on Wed are only $10! Secret code: MonAmour

Read more…

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The Coming Startup M&A Shakeout (And What To Do About It)

The Coming Startup M&A Shakeout (And What To Do About It)

Guest author Nathan Beckord is founder of VentureArchetypes.com, a startup strategy consultancy. Nathan acts as part-time CFO and business development consultant to startups that are raising money, building partnerships, or getting acquired. He also produces the StartupExits.com event series. You can follow him on Twitter at @Startupventures

A few weeks ago, I organized an event called StartupExits.com, where Naval Ravikant of Venturehacks gave an excellent keynote on the Rise of the Super Angels.  He was discussing whether there was a new seed investment bubble forming, and one of his comments particularly intrigued me– namely, that while the number of seed investments has grown 20x, the number of acquisitions has barely risen.

The implications of this trend are rather profound; at its most basic, it means we could soon see a serious glut of startups populated by impatient investors, founders, and equity-incentivized employees, but not enough buyers to make everyone happy.  It’s a classic supply and demand imbalance, and my conclusion (echoed by Naval) is that startup failure rates will rise.

So, what are the takeaways for early stage startups?  What should you do now to prepare for this game of ‘M&A musical chairs’?

  • Determine if you really need external funding. Any startup that takes outside capital is obligated to generate an exit for their investors either through an IPO (extremely long odds), or through an acquisition (very long odds).  However, it has never been cheaper to start a startup, particularly in the software / SaaS / Internet space.  In addition, many startups are great at generating healthy cash for their founders, but will never be “M&A material.”  In short, if you can bootstrap your way to cash flow positive, you can control your own destiny, and avoid any M&A shakeout altogether.
  • Work on your exit strategy now. I genuinely believe that entrepreneurs should strive to build something great, and not ‘build to flip’.  But successful exits do not just happen; they need to be part of a startup’s broader strategy and gameplan.  Developing an exit strategy is worthy of its own blog post, but in brief an exit plan covers topics like: when to sell (ASAP, or let the chips ride?); minimum acceptable valuation (at what price would you sell your baby, and give up control?); type of acquirer (who is likely to buy you and why?); type of acquisition (are you ok with an earnout, and working for the acquirer for another 3 years?).  A key exit strategy goal is to set and align expectations for the above between founders, investors, and employees; failure to do so now creates fertile ground for lawsuits down the road.
  • Build acquirer relationships early. Startup acquisitions can happen quite quickly– sometimes in as little as a few months– but in most of these cases, a relationship already existed long before acquisition talks heated up. This can take several forms; for example, Google often buys startups founded by ex-Googlers–they already know the folks they’re buying.  Similarly, many large companies acquire startups with which they have an existing business development relationship.  The key point is to get on the radar of potential acquirers early, and to stay on it; reach out to their business development, developer relations, or corporate development group and start exploring ways to work together.
  • Be ready to pivot faster and more frequently. I’ve worked with startups for more than a decade now, and something I’ve noticed recently is that the cycle speed of business model “pivoting” is accelerating.  Entrepreneurs are getting better at experimenting with different business models, testing and measuring feverishly, quickly scrapping things that don’t work, until they lock on something that clicks with customers (which is usually the point at which acquirers and investors start to pay attention as well).  The classic example is PayPal, which went through multiple, completely different business models before settling on one that was successful.  In most cases I think this experimentation is a very healthy thing, and acquirers are often willing to pay a huge premium for startups that have successfully “figured out” their business model (cue Steve Blank here) and are now ready to scale rapidly.
  • Fail sooner. This might be a controversial one, but the moment it becomes apparent that your great idea is, in reality, just the 22nd Twitter desktop client or the 56th Groupon clone– and you do not have a clear, better idea for a pivot– I would argue that you should fold up shop quickly and return as much money as you can.  This is advantageous for your investors– $0.40 on the dollar is better than $0– and it’s advantageous for you, allowing you to get back in the game with a fresh start (and fresh cap table) and try again.

That’s it for now.  Let me know your thoughts, and let me know what other topics related to startup exits you’d like to see covered.

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Apple’s OSX App Store: Live on January 6th

Apple’s OSX App Store: Live on January 6th

Apple’s new App store for Mac OSX systems will be opening up on January 6th, 2011 according to a post on San Jose Mercury News. This will allow for OSX users to install programs from iTunes similar to how apps are searched and installed from the iPhone store. Also, developers for OSX applications will be able to use iTunes to deploy and sell their applications.

apple store in nyc

In addition to this, Apple has published final details of the pricing scheme for developers. Similar to the current pricing structure for the iPhone, the Cupertino-based company will take a 70% share of all revenue from all paid desktop apps sold over the Mac App Store. 30% will go to the developers. Free apps will continue to be free to deploy using the Mac App Store.

Currently, Apple has still not yet released any implementation details about changes to their OSX SDK.

Apple’s use of iTunes as a program and package management solution has dramatic consequences for both developers and users of OSX applications. Deploying applications over iTunes has the potential to dramatically decrease the time to develop and sell an OSX application.

It remains to be seen how the development community will react to Apple’s pricing scheme, or how Google or Microsoft will respond to this development. For more on that, check out my previous post –  Economics, Strategy, and World Domination – What the New Mac App Store Means to Apple.

(photo credit: philipp Klinger)

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Why Japan Night? Plus Some Surprises For SFNewTech Peeps

Why Japan Night? Plus Some Surprises For SFNewTech Peeps

The first ever JapanNight ( twitter hashtag #SFJN ) is just a day away! Are you as excited as we are? SFNewTech and Btrax are jointly hosting this event featuring top startups from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Late last week, I caught up with BTrax CEO and founder Brandon Hill and asked him to tell us more about this unique cross-cultural tech event.

What inspired you to start Japan Night?

Brandon: I have attended many of the SFNewTech events before and observed how you were doing French Night that showcased French Companies and then Belgian Nights that featured Belgian Startups. So that really inspired me to see if there could be a Japan Night for showcasing up and coming Japanese tech companies.
We also thought that we (Btrax) were a pretty good company to organize the event. Besides that, there are so many Japanese companies who try to get exposure overseas but there is no single event for them to present their apps or services in front of the US tech audience.

Is this a one time event or do you plan on doing Japan Night with SFNewTech regularly?

Brandon: Initially we thought this was going to be a one time thing. But, we got so much attention from both the United States and Japan, that we have decided to do this regularly. Hopefully twice a year, so one Japan Night every 6 months.

Who will we be seeing in the first Japan Night?

Brandon: There are 6 companies presenting at Japan Night. Coopa, Drrop, GazoPa, Lang-8, myGengo and Spysee!

Were you aware of what these companies were doing before you established a connection with them?

Brandon: I was aware of only a couple of companies because they are friends of mine. For the rest of the companies, when we publicly announced the event we got over 40 applications. We auditioned these companies and then chose the remaining four.

Do you have any surprises for the SFNewTech fans that you would like to share right now? Or, do you want to keep it a surprise?

Brandon: We actually are in the process of getting the surprises. We did, however, just receive an event prize from one of our clients. Movies.They have donated a Japanese DVD package for us.

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Meet btrax, A Cross-Culture Web Design Company with Unique Service Offerings

Meet btrax, A Cross-Culture Web Design Company with Unique Service Offerings

Legend has it that he can spot a pixel off on the screen from as far as 30 feet away! Late last week, I met Brandon Hill to confirm this story, and also to get to know his company btrax and get the real story behind why he decided to organize the 1st in a series of cross-cultural tech event that we are calling “Japan Night”. So here goes….

brandon hill btrax founder and ceo photo

Brandon Hill - CEO, Founder of BTrax

You call yourself a cross-culture branding and web consulting company. So, what exactly do you mean by that?

Brandon: The people in this company are all multi-cultural, basically, most of them are 100%. I myself grew up in Japan, so I have a background of Japan. I came here 15 years ago so I have a background. As a matter of fact, my father is American. So I have a dual cultural background. Likewise there are people who came from Japan in this company and there are some Chinese people and even some Americans in this company have some multi-national background. Such as guys who used to live in Japan, who used to live in Asia.

We ourselves are very mult-national and multicultural. When it comes to what we do most of our clients are related to Asian Countries? Or other companies in Asian countries. Our core service motto is doing design web consulting for companies in the United States who are connected to the Asian countries or companies in the Asian region. So, that’s exactly what we do.

That’s why we call ourselves cross culture branding and web consulting company?

Can you tell us what your major offerings are?

Brandon: We mainly do three things.

One is web strategy, web consulting work. So anything related to web, including web design, web development, mobile website design development for the United States and overseas countries.

The second one is branding. We design logos, we come up with branding strategies and we do brand positioning and brand marketing.

The third one is localization. Specifically for localizing web services to the oversea countries.

Those are the 3 key services we do. At the same time we do provide web design and development services in general. Some of our clients are US companies for the US market, we can definitely provide services to those clients.

Can you walk us through your design process briefly? Do you start your process analytically with sketches on paper, or wireframes? Or are your main initial concepts for a web design client or branding likely to come in a flash of inspiration?

Brandon: We have a very solid process on web design branding services. We start the process by listening to the client, their objectives, their goals, time-line, budget, whatever they have to say. We listen to them first and we come up with the best possibly solutions to match their objectives. Starting from there we go through a whole process of pre production. Pre-production process includes things such as creating function specifications, wire framing, creating flow charts, coming up with brand concepts, design concepts, usability goals and branding ideas.

Once the pre-production part is finalized we move onto production. Production is design, web design, UI design, branding design. The actual design work is done by designers and developers. Then the next step is post production. Post production includes usability testing, marketing, creating marketing plans, things we do after the website goes live or the design elements go live.

That’s pretty elaborate.

Brandon: Yes.

If you think of yourself as a web designer do you generally see information architecture as being part of what a web designer, either you or somebody else in your company does? Or do you bring somebody else onto your team specifically to do information architecture work?

Brandon: That’s a very good question. Information architecture is very important role for web design field because it really decides the usability quality and usability experience for the users of the web site. In this company, I used to do that type of work myself. Fortunately one of the designers in this company has computer science background. So she understands anything from the system to usability and the user experience, UI design. There is a designer who specializes in commercial architect part. So she does both design and IA type of works.

Many formally trained designers are also artists. So, do you consider yourself to be an artist and do you have any specific artistic skills or experience that you sort of incorporate into your design that you consider as unique?

Brandon: My answer would be really controversial. I define artist as somebody who creates something without making any money. I really value a person with artist skills who can also contribute his design or artistic skills to the society. We call those people designers. Those who can not possibly contribute to society or make money, I call them artists. It’s a really convenient word I think. I do think design and art, mostly design consists of 90% of training and education and 10% inspiration and artistic talent. In this company in particular, I do not hire a designer without having basic knowledge and design skills, but only relying on the artistic talent.

So artistic talent is very important, but 9 out of 10 times basic design skills and knowledge and training work a lot better in the real world.

Some people say a web designer who does everything is a thing of the past and the future will be increasingly specialized. Meaning the web designer doesn’t do everything so that translates into larger teams. What’s your experience like with this? Are the majority of the people you have here, including yourself wearing a variety of hats? Or, do you have specialists for each role in the design and implementation process.

Brandon: I think web design process takes a lot of talents or skills. It’s definitely possible that a person creates a website without any problems. That’s definitely possible. However, in this company, each person has 2 to 3, 2 to 4 specialized skills. Such as, wire-framing and UI design. Or UI design plus html coding. Or htmls css coding plus php coding. Or, flash design plus flash development.
So, I tend not to tend somebody who specializes in one particular field. But, usually I look for somebody who has several different skill sets. Otherwise we would need to hire 20 or 30 people.

What are some telltale signs that a web designer needs more education? If someone comes to interview with you as a web designer. What do you look for in him or her, and what tell you this person needs more training or experience?

Brandon: First of all I look at the portfolio of designers. Portfolio is definitely important. However equally or more equally I look for personality. Especially the designer has to have a normal personality. Many designers who call themselves designers or artists, they have weird personalities. This could turn into a communication problem. Because unique people are okay, but if a person is too unique I find myself having a hard time communicating with the person. That has happened before so I make sure that I can communicate with the person and the person can express what he is thinking to the team. Otherwise, the team work doesn’t work. So, I would say 50% is in skills, 50% personality.

What is the percent of projects where you actually meet the clients face to face? If it is less, is it because you’re using Skype or other online collaboration tools or is it the distance?

Brandon: Facetime pretty much depends on where the client is located. If our clients are located in the area, we definitely go meet the client or invite them to the office, so that we can better communicate with them. I do think that in person meeting is better than skype, phone or email communications still. If that’s possible we try to do it. If that’s not quite possible we do use Skye phone, basecamp to communicate with the client. Which is okay.

Currently we have a client in Malaysia and we have several clients in Japan. We used to have a client in the UK and we do have clients all over the United States. So it definitely requires good communication skills to communicate with remote clients.

What is the most recent client work you have executed?

Brandon: We are executing an average of 5 to 10 projects at the same time. So we are working on several different projects. But one of the projects we are completing pretty soon is the web design, web marketing for an Iphone app from a Japanese company. Who is trying to distribute Japanese Manga, which are comics through an Iphone App.

You must have obviously heard of site like 99 design and other online branding, logo, and web design sites. How do you differentiate your service from that? Do you think these types of sites are affecting companies like you?

Brandon: I think if we were doing normal web design or design services, maybe. But again, we provide all the unique services in terms of cross-culture. So, it is not effecting much or at all, I’d say. Even if one can get a good design from crowdsourcing or sites like 99 design we still need to provide the consultation in terms of the localization or cross-cultural works.
There are many clients who like to work with real humans. I’d say maybe 90% of clients can get services from sites like 99 design, but at the same time there is a 10% who do want to get services from people like ourselves.

Now we move onto a different section, background. Tell us about yourself, your background. I mean you spoke about it a little bit and how you ended up in San Francisco and founding BTrax.

Brandon: I grew up in Japan. I was born and raised in Japan, area called Sapporo which is the Northern part of Japan. After high school I came to San Francisco. The reason why I came to this county is simply because I have US citizenship. I spent 18 plus years in Japan so I thought that would be enough for me to live in Japan. I decided to come to the United States to see how the life would be in this country. So that’s the reason.

The reason why I came to San Francisco was simply I wanted come to California which is closer to Japan, although my Dad is from the East Coast. Why specifically San Francisco ? Because I just thought LA was just not a safe place to live, for the most part. I started going to college in the city and quickly realized that this multi-media and web industry is very cool. I once was struggling with whether I should pursue my career as a musician or designer or artist. Because I really enjoy playing music, at the same time I have been very good at drawing or creating art pieces. I was trying to pursue those too but I didn’t know what to do to accomplish that. When I took a multi-media class I quickly realized that was the thing that I should pursue. Because you can merge sound, music, motion graphics and design. I got so attracted by the field and later in the 1990’s the city was full of web businesses. The first .com boom was coming. So everyone in the school was learning about web I got attracted to web design development field. I started taking web design development classes by the time I was in my second year in college I started working as a freelance designer. Mostly for Japan related companies, or Japanese companies. Immediately after I graduated from the University I started this company BTrax, which is 6 years ago. Simply because my ego was too strong so I couldn’t work for somebody else. I thought I was the best designer or developer in the world, and I thought I could do the best work. Immediately after I started this company I realized that there are so many better designers out there and I shifted my thinking from expressing my skills to hiring better designers. Which makes things easier for me because I do not have to struggle myself in terms of designing things.

What about BTrax, the company, how many people do you have and what’s the distribution in terms of designers, illustrators and coders?

Brandon: We currently have 15 people and those 15 people are roughly in 3 major groups. Design team, development team and marketing team. I would say those 3 teams are equally divided. Unlike other design firms we are very heavily on the marketing part because we understand designing and creating the website is important but more importantly promoting the site or doing marketing for the client is important. So we have a really good balanced team in terms of marketing the design.

btrax team photo

Team BTrax on the rooftop of BTrax HQ in San Francisco. (Photo Credit: Tim Wagner)

Are you guys hiring?

Brandon: We are always hiring. Even if we aren’t, and if I see anybody who is a good match to the company there is always an exception.

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