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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

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?



Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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Business News

RIP office culture: How work from home is destroying the economy

(BUSINESS NEWS) It’s not just your empty office left behind: Work from home is drastically changing cities’ economies in more ways than you think.



An empty meeting room, unfilled by work from home employees.

It’s been almost six months since the U.S. went into lockdown due to COVID-19 and the CDC’s subsequent safety guidelines were issued – it’s safe to say that it is not business as usual. Everyone from restaurant waitstaff to start-up executives have been affected by the shift to work-from-home. Even as restrictions slowly begin to lift, it seems as though the office workspace – regarded as the vital venue for the U.S. economy – will never truly be the same.

Though economists have been focusing largely on small businesses and start-ups, we are only just beginning to understand the impact that not going back into the white-collar office will have on the economy.

The industries that support white-collar office culture in major cities have become increasingly emaciated. The coffee shops, food trucks, and food delivery companies that catered to the white-collar workforce before, during, and after their workday, are no longer in high demand (Starbucks reported a loss of $2 billion this year, which they attribute to Zoomification). Airlines have also been affected as business travel typically accounts for 60%-70% of all air travel.

Also included are high-end hotels, which accommodate the traveling business class. Pharmacies, florists, and gyms located in business districts have become ghost towns. Office supplies companies, such as Xerox, have suffered. Workwear brands such as J. Crew and Brooks Brothers have filed for bankruptcy, as there is no longer a need to dress for the office.

In Manhattan – arguably the country’s most notorious white-collar business mecca – at least 1,200 restaurants have been permanently lost. It is also is predicted that the one-third of all small businesses will close.

Additionally, the borough is facing twice as many apartment vacancies as this time last year, due to the flight of workers no longer tied to midtown offices. Workers have realized their freedom to seek more affordable and spacious residence outside the city. As companies decentralize from cities and rent prices drop, it isn’t all bad news. There is promise that particular urban white-collar neighborhoods will start to become accessible to the working class once again.

Some companies, like Pinterest and REI, are reporting that their shift to work from home is in fact permanent. The long-term effects of deserted office buildings are yet to make themselves evident. What we do know is that the decline of the white-collar office will force us to reimagine the great American cities – with so much lost due to the coronavirus, what can now be gained?

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Business News

2020 Black Friday shopping may break the mold

(BUSINESS NEWS) Home Depot states their new plan for deals and discounts over two months, in place of a 1-day Black Friday event.



Men shopping in an empty aisle, Black Friday to come?

Humans change and adapt – that’s just in our nature. Retail stores have struggled to maintain their sales goals for years as more and more people move to ordering online. Online prices still seem to be within customer expectations and often come with free shipping. Additionally, people that may have preferred to shop in an actual brick-and-mortar store have changed their shopping habits dramatically in 2020; it’s hard to social distance and be safe in crowded stores or in small aisles. Black Friday may be next to change.

Amazon and other big box store’s online ordering platforms have simplified getting what you need delivered right to your front door. According to Statista, “Amazon was responsible for 45% of US e-commerce spending in 2019 – a figure which is expected to rise to 47% in 2020.”

Retailers count on the holiday season, specifically Black Friday deals (the day after Thanksgiving), to bring in up to 20% of their annual revenue. It’s hard to just remove that option completely. But considering the times of social distancing, wearing masks in public, and especially avoiding large crowds, the tradition of Black Friday will need to look different this year.

It will also be interesting to see what supply chain disruptions from early 2020 will have the most effect this shopping season. We saw predictions in March that said the United States would see the biggest disruptions in about six months. Black Friday falls right on that timeline.

Home Depot has announced their plans to go ahead and give the deals over a two month span, starting in early November through December (both online and in stores with the possibility of adding some special deals around the actual Black Friday date) to help encourage a more steady stream of shoppers versus so many packing in on the same day.

The home improvement chain has actually seen a great sales year. This is likely due to people working from home and being interested in doing more home projects (and possibly having a bit more time to do them as well). As of May 2020, “The Home Depot®, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, today reported sales of $28.3 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2020, a 7.1 percent increase from the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Comparable sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2020 were positive 6.4 percent, and comparable sales in the U.S. were positive 7.5 percent.”

Home Depot, along with many other retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy have confirmed that they will be closed on Thanksgiving Day, which may not be new for all of them but has always signaled the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.

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