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Is your salmon habit supporting North Korea?

(BUSINESS NEWS) As working conditions and business reports come to light, it’s important to know where your salmon is being supplied from.

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I love salmon. You probably love it, too. Sophisticated enough for a fancy dinner with the boss, but easy enough for a quick tasty meal at home, salmon may have become a healthy staple in your diet, as it has become for me.

However, according to a new report conducted by the Associated Press, some of what you spend on that flaky delicacy (which we all know, can be a lot) is being sent back into North Korea, ostensibly supporting the funding of nuclear weapons.

The investigation found that the North Korean government has been sending its workers into factories worldwide, notably numerous seafood processing plants in China, who then export their fish to the U.S. as well as other countries worldwide.

The catch here, is that these North Korean workers are required to sign contracts which bind them to these plants for two to three years with no way out. They are forced to work hard conditions, with less sick days and days off than their Chinese counterparts.

These North Korean workers are paid similar wages to what the Chinese workers make, but anywhere from 50-70% of the money they make is sent back to the North Korean government.

Despite all that, workers are forced to work shifts up to twelve hours long, six days a week, sometimes only bringing home $90 per month.

Aside from the detestable work conditions and the manner in which it is forced upon North Koreans, the worry here could be that the American public is putting money straight into North Korean hands by buying this seafood shipped in from overseas.

After researching the trade records and interviews, the AP found at least three seafood processors that ship to the U.S. and employ North Korean workers.

These companies reportedly sent more than 100 cargo containers, each containing 2,000 tons of fish to the U.S. and Canada this year alone. Among the American distributors that are importing this fish from China, one company, The Fishin’ Company, assured AP that they have cut ties with the processors who have North Koreans in their employ.

However, that fish may stay in the supply chain for over a year, they say, which wouldn’t really matter much considering the purchase has already been made.

The latest says that U.S. officials are working to encourage companies to examine their supply chains, doing more research into where their product is truly coming from and, subsequently, where their money is going once the purchase has been made.

John Connelly of the National Fisheries Institute told AP, “While we understand that hiring North Korean workers may be legal in China, we are deeply concerned that any seafood companies could be inadvertently propping up the despotic regime.”

Will hails from Northern California, earned a B.A. in English from Texas A&M University, and now calls Austin, Texas home where he works at a tech startup. He likes riding his bike an ungodly amount of miles and his favorite aesthetic is an open road. If you see him around he'll likely be reading a classic American novel and drinking a Topo Chico.

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Business News

List of Austin tech companies recalling staff to the office (or not)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Many Austin tech companies were reluctant to send people home when COVID-19 hit – will they be equally reluctant to put employees back in desks?

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The masks are coming off in America and agree with that practice or not, many employers are in an ongoing series of meetings regarding bringing staff back into the office.

Large companies are quickly playing commercial real estate hot potato – we recently broke the story that Dell had not only sold some of their massive campus near Austin, but rented out the third floor of their building to the Army Futures Command (AFC). As the dust settles on these contractions, the next step is bringing humans back into said buildings.

The spectrum of individuals’ emotions regarding this return varies from enthusiasm, to trepidatious, to complete refusal to return.

As the global pandemic hit and employers were responding so differently to sending folks home, our list of Austin tech companies sending folks home (or NOT sending employees home) went viral.

At the time, we noted that keeping humans in the office makes sense for some sectors (service, hospitality, medical, even financial), called it an “impossible situation” for business leaders, but some employers were stupidly insensitive…

One executive told workers as they were allowed to work from home to not expect it to be a “corona vacation” (which did NOT go over well).

Our question is: Will employers handle a return to the office more gracefully than when they sent folks home?

Just as protocols were untested sending employees home, as some employers get the itch to call them back into the office, a whole new set of unchartered protocols will be implemented.

What follows are quotes from employees telling us about their companies’ statuses. We will update this list over time as we learn more. If there are updates to your company’s status, let us know here.

– Cognite AS

“As of June 1, remote/on-site as we wish. Fridays in-office preferred for team lunch/team building days. Must be vaccinated with shot record proof uploaded to our HR system to attend in-person events.”

– EpisodeSix

“Devs and project related roles remote. HR in office. C level occasionally in office.”

– FEMA/DHS

“Currently 100% Telework. Plan to start coming back to office August 31, however, it has not yet been decided that everyone will return to office. Some may continue some % telework.”

– Indeed

“Currently remote – working on hybrid and fully remote scheduling when offices reopen.”

– NFP

“One week on, one week off since May 1 until they bring everyone back full time. No announcement yet but it can’t be far away. No masks if you’re vaccinated. Verify health status every day with an app.”

– PayPal

“Continuing with remote work until at least September. Expecting more details on the return to office plan in the next few weeks. Likely it will be a hybrid model depending on the team/business unit.”

– StitchFix

“Fully remote CX based in Austin (90 mile radius).”

– T3

“Going back to the office September 13 with a hybrid wfh/in-office blend we are currently working on team by team. With this (and the most exciting part) we’re also figuring out meetings days or times vs no fly zones so we can all focus on working time more. Not sure about masks – I think you’d only come in office if you’ve been vaccinated. We’ve also hired a lot of people not in Austin recently, so T3 is very open to remote workers.”

– Verb

“Currently, the office is open for those who want to use it, but not required. We’re told we’ll be hybrid but we’re still waiting to hear what the stipulations of that are.”


Click here to add your company to the list or to update the information listed above.


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Business News

Go with the Floww: A company matching startups, venture capitalists on merit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Floww has created an effective, modern way to raise millions of dollars for many startups and venture capitalists virtually.

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A tablet open to stocks and investments numbers venture capitalists use

As data-driven decision-making continues to become the standard across multiple industries, one company is bringing the philosophy to venture capitalists.

Floww, a marketplace designed to allow founders to pitch to investors based on merit, announced that it has raised a staggering $6.7 million to date in seed funding from angel investors and family offices. Current investors include Google’s head of FinTech in the United Kingdom Pip Baker, Angus Davidson, Ramon Mendes De Leon, and more. According to Floww, the money will be used to build out the platform and give startups access to over 500 VCs, accelerators, and angel networks.

“In an age of virtual meetings and connections, the need for coffee meetings on Sand Hill Road or Mayfair is gone,” said founder and CEO of Floww Marijn De Wever. “What we need now are global connections, allowing VCs to engage in merit-based investing using data and metrics.”

Floww charges a monthly fee to venture capitalists, accelerators, and other private equity firms to use their platform. Startups, on the other hand, have the option of using Floww’s services for free or enrolling in a premium model that allows their deal to be sent to multiple VCs. Floww then provides the startups with a suite of tools and materials to create a digital profile, with dynamic charts and tables that highlight a business’s potential to VCs. Floww also claims to handle deal-sourcing, CRM, and reporting for investors.

Floww’s claim is a bold one, especially considering that many VCs handle deal-sourcing and CRM in-house. The company also doesn’t explicitly say what constitutes “merit” in matching VCs with startups. Other than it clearly being a data-driven pairing, there aren’t any specifics as to what thresholds a startup will need to meet in order to match with a VC. The closest existing competitor to Floww is AngeList, a website also aimed at matching investors with various startups.

Whether or not Floww’s merit-based matching system will take off is still under review, but VCs willing to pay the monthly fee for Floww’s service will expect, at a minimum, that founders will have thought through these obstacles before looking for an investment.

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Business News

Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it

(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.

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Loop Team product page, trying to create an office culture experience remotely.

Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”

Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.

How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.

Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.

The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.

I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.

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