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Famed digital media pioneers join forces to launch Brain+Trust Partners

(BUSINESS NEWS) What happens when five industry pioneers finally merge their expertise and experience to form a company? Brain+Trust Partners, that’s what.



Five heavyweights join forces

After moving far beyond their initial industry fame to lead massive teams and companies across America, five digital media pioneers (that anyone in tech, marketing, or communications can name) have come together to form Brain+Trust Partners.

“Five years ago, there were roughly 500 [marketing technology] tools on the market, and now there are over 5,000,” said partner Tim Hayden. “It has become tough to believe the 55 emails a day that business leaders get, proclaiming there’s a better conversion tool, a better social listening tool.”

That’s the crux of Brain+Trust, “to come in as a common sense, experienced partner for a build-to-buy strategy, to offer strategic guidance and insight” to companies and executives inundated by the noise of the onslaught of promises the tech industry offers.

You know the five founders:

The five partners are all names you know for their work at Ford, GM, the US Missile Defense Agency, Comcast, Zignal, IBM, Edelman, Voce, and their many industry-altering efforts that have landed them in college textbooks and countless case studies (in alphabetical order):

Hayden tells us that all of the partners have learned from the front lines, noting that the corporate world is changing – Walmart acquired, Unilever acquired Dollar Shave Club, Starbucks developed their own payment system prior to partnering with Square. Brands are “making economic moves in acquiring proven technologies instead of building them [in-house].”

And that’s where we predict Brain+Trust Partners’ sweet spot will be. They’re experts on all corners of the process and have experienced the ups and downs of the market.

Hayden says they’re a “light solution to standard consulting partners,” as their focus is strategy as they “vet vendors, tools, and agencies, reducing the cost of business with assured confidence.” Brands now have help in going to market and move forward with plans with more confidence. #CompetitiveAdvantage

“I’m thrilled to be part of Brain+Trust,” Barger opined, “because my partners are all brilliant thinkers who fit this mold; we share outlooks and approaches, and we have a similar desire to emphasize business results. When you find a cadre of colleagues who share your perspectives and priorities, AND you enjoy working with them and consider them friends, the sky’s the limit on what you can accomplish — for yourselves, and for your clients.”

Why headquartered in Austin?

If you note in the list above, the partners live all over the nation, but the company will call Austin home (as do we at The American Genius). But why?

Hayden noted six sensible reasons they’re headquartered in Austin:

  1. It’s business friendly. Hayden says they were advised by counsel that Texas is the most business friendly, from a taxation, court, and regulatory perspective. If they were seeking VC funds or going IPO, they would have considered other cities.
  2. Austin offers better access. If you’re in California and want to meet Tim Cook or Ross Perot, Hayden notes it might take six weeks if you’re able to get a meeting. In Austin if you’re an entrepreneur seeking to meet with Brett Hurt or Michael Dell, it could be this week. Austin is collaborative.
  3. Austin is the center of an “incredible engineering community,” supported by so many universities like the University of Texas, the Austin Community College system, Texas State, St. Edward’s University, Southwestern University, and even nearby Texas A&M.
  4. People stay. When Trilogy shipped in people from across the nation years ago, they stayed. When Dell brought in so many MBA folks, most stayed. Tivoli? They stayed.
  5. Austin has a burgeoning cottage industry – Whole Foods, Central Market, Sweet Leaf Tea, the list goes on.
  6. Logistics. “We’re in the middle of the country, and it’s only a 3.5 hour flight anywhere in the nation,” said Hayden.
  7. “Plus, it’s home,” asserts Hayden, who spent the last two years in the valley, keeping his home in Austin unoccupied and furnished for an eventual return. “Austin has the best of combined values, environment, and ecosystem for an organization that is about change and tackling the future with confidence.”

We’ll be watching for Brain+Trust Partners here in our own back yard to start their next professional chapter as a united front and be referenced in even more case studies and college textbooks.


Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Business News

Wal-mart can’t keep up even with fresh online technology

(BUSINESS NEWS) Wal-mart had hoped to keep online retailers from encroaching on their turf with AI assisted shopping start up Jetblack, but unfortunately that didn’t work.




Wal-Mart’s exclusive delivery service, JetBlack, is no more. What’s the deal?

Wal-Mart’s acquired start-up, JetBlack, had an interesting challenge: getting affluent New Yorkers to purchase goods from Wal-Mart, instead of other places. Now, about two years after its initial launch, JetBlack has been shut down. So, what’s the deal?

JetBlack was a delivery service with an interesting twist: it utilized AI to respond to text message requests. For instance, users could send a text like “I need more toilet paper” and drawing from initial information input into the system, past experiences, and the occasional “professional shopper,”, JetBlack would hook the user up with a delivery.

The AI could also give suggestions if users asked questions. Don’t want to shop for your niece’s birthday present? No problem, JetBlack would give you ideas of what to purchase and then deliver the gift to your door, gift-wrapped and everything.

By increasing the convenience of the shopping experience, Wal-Mart hoped to use JetBlack to lure wealthy households back to buying from Wal-Mart. Membership fees were $50 a month, which seems steep, but Wal-Mart asserts it was actually losing about $15,000 per member on a yearly basis. Awkward.

So, what went wrong?

Part of the problem might be just how much work went into a small percentage of customers. For instance, it took effort to get new users onboarded. Best case scenario, this was a phone call to tackle basic needs and interests, but users could also opt to have employees visit their home and assess their preferences in person. (It’s also incredibly creepy, but hey, at least there’s additional convenience?) Point is, these personal touches aren’t exactly sustainable for a growing market.

It also might just be that Wal-Mart wasn’t really skilled at putting this newly acquired start-up to work. An interview with Business Insider reveals that the ordeal, while expensive, also served as a massive learning process.

While JetBlack has ended its current run (and lost a number of employees in the process), the technology developed by the company will live on. In fact, Wal-Mart is going to try to strengthen their infrastructure and hopefully integrate JetBlack’s texting and AI capabilities in a wider release. Who knows, maybe in the future, more of us will be able to send off a text to have someone else take on the challenge of purchasing our niece’s birthday present.

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Business News

How remote work has changed over the last decade

(BUSINESS NEWS) let’s reflect on how remote working and telecommuting has changed in recent years and look to how it will continue to change in the 2020s.



remote at home

As someone who often works remote, it’s interesting to see how much that means for work has evolved. The increase in commonality has been steady, and shows no signs of slowing down. Go Remotely has developed an insightful graphic showing the changes in trends regarding remote work over the years.

“For decades, the established economy dictated that you should pick one job, visit the same office for the next 40 years, and then retire,” reads the graphic’s intro. “However, recent remote working stats suggest the working world might be in for some revolutionary changes.”

From there, the graphic is broken down into five facets: Flexible Workspace Policy, Entrepreneurial Minds, Telecommuting is a Growing Trend, The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World, and The Future of Telecommuting.

With Flexible Workspace Policy, its suggested that telecommuting could be a solution for costly issues including lack of productivity caused by employee distractions, health problems, etc. It is said that employers lose $1.8 trillion annually due to these issues.

The end of 2018 found 35 percent of the US workforce working remotely. This is only expected to climb. Ten percent of employees don’t know if their company offers flexible work policies (this is something to check into!)

Bills and laws for virtual jobs passed by governments reflect the need for accessibility, economic stability, and emigration concerns. Companies with flexible work policies have reported seeing increases in productivity and profits. (Funny those both start with pro, no?)

With Entrepreneurial Minds, a few interesting things found include: remote workers are less likely to take off if they are sick, the majority reports better productivity when working alone, the majority reported lower stress levels. However, there is a problem with not being able to unplug after work which is an issue for some.

Telecommuting is a Growing Trend finds that there has been a seven percent increase between 2012 and 2016, with the majority (80-100 percent) reporting they work remotely. Industries seen embracing remote work include: transportation, computer/information systems/mathematical, arts/design/entertainment/sports/media, finance/insurance/real estate, law or public policy, community/social services, science/engineering/architecture, manufacturing or construction, healthcare, education/training/library, and retail.

The Role of Companies in the Remote Working World finds that the pros to hiring remote workers includes: finding talent outside of your geographic area, improves retention on work/life balance, increases productivity by decreasing commute time, and saves money by requiring less office space. The cons include lack of timeliness when it comes to receiving information from employers.

Finally, the Future of Telecommuting suggests that in 2020 the US mobile worker population will surpass 105 million (and will account for 72 percent of the US workforce). Hiring managers predict that telecommuting will increase tremendously, most skills will become even more niche over the next decade, and many think that 38 percent of their full-time workers will be working remotely in the next decade.

How do you feel about the increase in remote working and telecommuting?

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Business News

ClickUp team productivity app is gorgeous and wildly efficient

(BUSINESS NEWS) Seeking to improve your productivity and speed up your team, ClickUp is an inexpensive option for those obsessed with efficiency.




Back again to obsess over productivity apps – ClickUp, is a project management tool seeking to knock the frustration out of PM. It’s getting some good reviews, so I gave it a try for a week by setting up my current job search as a project and getting a feel for the app. And as you’ve read in my other reviews, we will address features and design.

On the feature front, ClickUp offers a pretty standard set up of tools for a productivity app. What stands out first and foremost are the status options. In general, most productivity statuses are simple: not started, started, in progress, done, etc.

But ClickUp lets you set up custom statuses that match your workflow.

For example, if you’re doing instructional design projects, you may assign projects based on where they are flowing in an ADDIE model, or if you are a Realtor, you may have things cataloged by sold, in negotiation, etc.

Customization is king and custom status is the closest you get to building your own app. And if you like it simple, you don’t have to customize it. The assigned comments feature lets you follow up on specific comments that originate action items – which is useful in team collaborations.

You can also assign changes to multiple tasks at once, including changing statuses (I would bulk assign completion tasks when I finished applications that I did in batches). There a lot of features here, but the best feature is how the app allows you to toggle on and off features that you will or won’t use – once again, customization is front and center for this platform.

In terms of design and intuive use, ClickUp nailed it.

It’s super easy to use, and the concept of space is pretty standard in design thinking. If your organization uses Agile methodology, this app is ready for you.

In terms of view, you can declutter the features, but the three viewing modes (list, box, and board) can help you filter the information and make decisions quickly depending on what role you have on a board or project. There is also a “Me” board that removes all the clutter and focuses on your tasks – a great way to do focused productivity bursts. ClickUp describes itself as beautifully intuitive, and I can’t disagree – both the web app and mobile app are insanely easy to use.

No complaints here.

And the horizon looks good for ClickUp – with new features like image markup, Gannt charts (!!!!!! #nerdalert), and threaded comments for starts.

This application is great, and it’s got a lot of growth coming up to an already rich feature base. It’s free with 100MB of storage, but the $5 fee for team member per month that includes team onboarding and set up (say you’re switching from another platform) and Dropbox/Google Docs integration? That’s a bargain, Charlie.

ClickUp is on the way up and it’s got it all – features, a beautifully accessible UI, relentless customization, and lot of new and upcoming features. If you’re into the productivity platform and you’re looking for a new solution for your team, go check it out.

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