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How To Win Followers And Influence People On Social Media

If you work in digital marketing, you’re probably familiar with how far organic reach has fallen on Facebook. Page managers can expect from about 1% to 6% of their audience to see a given organic post, down from an estimated 16% in 2012. Lush UK recently made headlines for abandoning its social accounts, taking a stance against the ever-elusive algorithms.

As Appeared On April 22, 2019

But don’t fret—despite all the challenges, social remains a valuable channel if you take the right steps to maximize your impact. Three social influencers who have mastered the art of building personal brands that bring in business shared their tips on growing a following and making social platforms work for you.

Mari Smith

Mari Smith, a leading social media marketing expert and author of The New Relationship Marketing, advises marketing professionals and businesses around the world on Facebook best practices. A power user since 2007, she’s often called the “Facebook Queen.”  Her inbox overflows with inbound leads from companies (including Facebook) thanks to the brand she has built on the platform.    

Dedicate a budget. To combat Facebook’s declining reach, Smith advises investing at least a nominal budget on paid posts. Though it sounds counterintuitive to have to pay for organic traffic, Smith says a few dollars per post will trigger Facebook’s algorithm to increase your organic reach.

Focus on video. Smith advocates using Facebook Live once a week. “Facebook’s algorithm loves video content,” she says. “In terms of brands and utilizing Facebook for business, there’s just no better way to connect with your audience other than in person.”


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She suggests a content mix of about 70% video (including Facebook Live), 20% images and 10% links to maximize engagement. Smith often notices brands over-posting in an attempt to attract more eyeballs, while the better strategy would be to consider the ROI of each post. One high-quality post a day or every other day goes further than a feed packed with content no one can see, she says.    

Cultivate groups. Facebookgroups offer a way to start communities around a specific topic or interest. All signs seem to signal niche networks and private messaging as the future of the platform. Because people crave more one-on-one connections, online groups have inspired exclusive, in-person meetups. Smith says she uses Groups to curate audiences for training sessions she offers and foresees Facebook adding features to help brand pages attract new members.   

Vic Styles

Vic Stylesa stylist and lifestyle content creator, recently led an Instagram workshop for a room full of aspiring influencers at the one-day Purpose PushHer 2019 speaker series in New York City. After the event she elaborated on some of the strategies that helped her grow a 41k-follower Instagram account and attract brand partnerships.

Start growth hacking. When trying to get a new brand off the ground or revitalize a dead page, Instagram pros like Styles recommend growth hacking. Find accounts that have already established an audience similar to the one you want to grow and engage with their posts. The comments you leave on highly trafficked pages will help advertise your page and attract new followers. “You can have the best content in the world, but if no one knows that you exist, if you have no visibility, what is the purpose?” says Styles. “Growth hacking helps get eyes on you from people who may not ordinarily be able to find you.”

Embrace hashtags. Instagram is one of the few platforms where it doesn’t hurt to pack your posts with hashtags. Business pages on Instagram include access to engagement analytics that show how people found your page. Styles says she once posted a picture with 15 hashtags beneath the caption, and the analytics showed 75% of the engagements were from people who weren’t following her—30k from hashtags alone. To find the best hashtags, she uses a mix of trial and error and online searches to learn which ones drive the most clicks from her audience.

Focus on your top 12. On Instagram, first impressions are everything. Because Instagram relies so heavily on visuals, quality and consistency matter. “On mobile you only see those 9 to 12 photos, and if they’re not captivating enough, I’m not even going to scroll down to see what else there is,” Styles says. “The top of the grid should always be something that reels your audience in.”

Find strong partners. Styles warns that brands sometimes make the mistake of thinking the more followers, the better. Instead she recommends looking for influencers who are actively engaging the right target audience and also align with the brand’s values. Once you’ve found a trusted partner, allowing that partner creative freedom yields the best results. “The [brands] that have the best engagement, the best ROI, are the ones that say, ‘Here’s the product, do what you do.’ Because it feels very authentic that way,” she says.

Jessica Higgins

Serial entrepreneur, consultant and author Jessica Higgins, JD MBA, has leveraged thought leadership on LinkedIn to build a community and attract new prospects. Her strategy is to lead with information, not marketing tactics.

Don’t sell. “The last thing anybody wants is a pitch. People want interesting, relevant things that they connect with,” she says. One of her pet peeves on LinkedIn is what she calls the “buzzword frenzy.” She stresses that your LinkedIn persona should reflect real-world experience because it’s easy to see through hype. LinkedIn offers an opportunity to make authentic connections and shouldn’t be used as a transactional space, she says.

Make social your side hustle. Higgins recommends devoting at least an hour a day to building your social presence. “I tell everybody, ‘If you’re worried about time, you’re not doing it right. [Social media] is a full-time job, but you can integrate it into your job.” Sitting on the bus? Answer a question. Riding in a cab? Post an article. “We all have tons of extra minutes each day. If you just allocate those extra minutes, then it doesn’t take a huge hit on your day,” she says.

Spark dialogue. Higgins says she caught some flack on social media for her contrarian take leading up to the 2016 elections. While most news outlets were predicting a clean sweep for Hillary Clinton, Higgins found evidence that Trump could win. “I believe that if you have a well-researched approach … not just a complaint but some sort of solution and you put that out there, then there’s no such thing as bad publicity around that because you at least get people talking about it,” she says.

The work Higgins puts into her content doesn’t always have an immediate payoff. But she recalls an investor once contacted her company based on a 6-month-old article she’d written. Goes to show content marketing is all about the long game.

Krystle M. Davis

Krystle M. Davis Forbes Staff

I am a senior manager with a focus on content marketing and brand strategy for Forbes. You can follow me on Twitter @krystle_davis.

Soy RICO? The Perils of Cannabis Investing in Light of Racketeering Laws

At the risk of being labeled a “square” this article is intended to outline some of the potential perils and pitfalls of investing in the Cannabis industry in light of the Federal RICO laws.

Some Helpful Laws to Know

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that any powers not delegated to the Federal Government by the Constitution are vested in the state governments and ultimately the people.

Article I , Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution is frequently referred to by anyone who went to law school as the “Commerce Clause” which basically regulates any commerce involving more than one state or a foreign country. Basically, if you conduct any business that somehow involves someone in another state – the Federal Government is now involved.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as codified under 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq. or RICO is a Federal law that says that a person who has committed at least two acts from a list of 35 crimes (27 of which are Federal crimes and 7 are state crimes) within a 10 year period and such acts are related to an enterprise (any individual, partnership, corporation, association or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not through a legal entity) is guilty of racketeering.

The Controlled Substances Act lists a giant pile of substances under which the manufacture, importation, possession and use of certain drugs is regulated.  These drugs are set forth in various schedules ranging from the highest potential for abuse to the lowest. Under Schedule I as found in Section 102, no prescriptions may be written for these substances and there is no currency accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and there is a lack of accepted safety for using the drug or other substance under medical supervision. Schedule I, Section (c)  – Hallucinogenic Substances includes subsection (17) TetraHydroCannabinols (which is Cannabis a/k/a Marijuana, Pot, Reefer, Ganja, Grass, and Doobie).

High Crimes

Under RICO, the felonious manufacture, importation, receiving, concealment, buying, selling or otherwise dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in Section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), which is punishable under any law of the United States is considered a racketeering act. Do it twice and you’re a racketeer (its as simple as that). For those of you playing along at home, the sale of any amount of Cannabis is a felony under Federal Law as is the cultivation of any amount of marijuana. Basically, if you sell Cannabis twice or you grow it and sell it or any other combination thereof you are considered to be a Racketeer (and not in a good way).

But its legal in Colorado / Nevada / California / DC et al!

Although it may be legal under state law and this may cause people to open businesses and believe that the legality conferred by a state may somehow insulate them from liability at the Federal level, to the extent that the enterprise leaks out beyond the borders of a state – the state laws no longer govern.

In the event that a Cannabis company could make a compelling argument that what they were doing was in no way related to interstate commerce and therefore their conduct should be regulated exclusively by the laws of the state in which they do business – they might have an argument for the inapplicability of RICO. That said, in the modern economy it would be practically impossible to devise a solution that had no component of interstate commerce.

An interstate of mind

Ever since 1942, when the US Supreme Court essentially declared that essentially everything commercial (or quasi-commerce) undertaken in modern America falls under the definition of interstate commerce and thus is the purview of the Federal government, it has become essentially impossible for businesses to rely upon the exclusive jurisdiction of state law as the determining force of regulation.

Some examples of what now may constitute interstate commerce are: (a) accepting credit cards, (b) accepting cheques, (c) bringing in supplies from another state, (d) employees in another state, (e) customers in another state, (f) using the internet, (g) providing or receiving financing across state lines. To the extent that some enterprising Cannabis company figures out how to engage in none of the above acts, anything else that might be interstate commerce, and has investment comprised solely from residents exclusively from their state – I tip my hat to them.

Possible problems for investors and companies seeking investment

Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and SEC Rule 10b-5.

Section 10(b) of the Exchange act forbids the use of any manipulative or deceptive device in contravention of the SEC rules and regulations for the protection of investors. Rule 10b-5, adopted by the SEC pursuant to section 10(b), prohibits fraudulent devices and schemes, material misstatements and omissions of any material facts, and acts and practices that operate as a fraud or deceit on any person in connection with the purchase or sale of a security. Each offering participant, including the issuer, its officers and directors, the underwriters, accountants and other experts, is potentially liable under this provision.

One might easily argue that the omission of the material fact that every transaction undertaken by the company was a violation of the Controlled Substances Act and that taken together the company is almost certainly engaging in a violation of RICO. “Oh by the way, everything we do is a Federal crime.” is a difficult thing to adequately disclose to investors as a risk factor.

O Canada

Investors may believe that hopping the border to our Northern Neighbor might somehow immunize the risk of RICO claims in light of the fact that the activities are taking place IN CANADA. That would be all well and good if the investor is Canadian although for purposes of this article we are assuming an investor who is American investing in Canadian Cannabis. Unfortunately, for the budding international cannabis investor, US Federal laws apply to acts by Americans which, while they may be legal in the country they are conducted in, are illegal in the United States of America. This should also give pause to anyone considering investing in a foreign sex tourism company.

Final Thoughts

Inevitably, promoters of Cannabis investments will claim that the risks outlined herein are overstated and that the likely risk of prosecution “in the real world” is low because there are so many companies doing it and it does not “actually hurt anyone”. Notwithstanding the merits of these arguments, the contention here is that the juice (the potential returns from a Cannabis investment) is simply not worth the squeeze (the risk of Federal prosecution) at this time.

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What the buyers of Bitcoin futures seem to have missed about the nature of cryptocurrencies and futures contracts

I have made no secret of my general disinterest in cryptocurrencies. At best, they seem to serve as a surrogate arbitrage between electricity rates across distance insofar as they are “mined” using a fairly linear power consumption calculation. That said, the focus of this article is about why the CBOE Bitcoin futures contract has effectively ruined Bitcoin and underscored the fundamental lack of understanding of both cryptocurrencies and futures contracts.

The Value of Bitcoin

The value of Bitcoins are best described as being derived based upon the scarcity of Bitcoins insofar as they are created through mining (like Gold) at a self-stabilizing rate using the computational power of computers to solve specific math problems, which become more complex (and thus require more power) the more Bitcoins are mined. Moreover, and potentially more significantly, Bitcoins value are said to be derived based upon the fact that there can only ever be 21 Million (less 3 bitcoin cents) mined and thus there is a scarcity factor that creates value – like a currency that is not subject to a central monetary authority printing additional fiat.

The Structure of the Commodity Contract

The XBT-Cboe or the USD denominated Bitcoin futures contract is a futures contract that was created by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) for the purpose allowing speculation and hedging on the future price of a Bitcoin at certain dates in the future. The CBOE are the wonderful people who brought us the ability to trade futures contracts on things like the S&P 500 and the VIX (the volatility index). Futures and to some degree options have been around since time immemorial as they allow asset holders to hedge their risk of a future price change and create an opportunity for speculators to take the other side of a hedge and earn substantially move (via leverage) than of they bought or sold the asset itself.

The problem with the XBT-Cboe Structure

The Bitcoin futures contract has one major and fatal flaw: it is a cash settled contract. This may not seem like a problem given that the CBOE options are generally cash settled. The value of the index is derived from the Gemini (a Bitcoin exchange company owned by the Winklevoss Twins) reported auction price in USD.  By being cash settled, this means that the contracts can be created with cash (as opposed to having to actually deliver a Bitcoin) which means that you can trade them without the hassle of ever having to go find one.

Without the risk of having to locate a Bitcoin, it would be almost impossible to short squeeze a Bitcoin futures contract as you can keep shorting it (with more and more cash) until the market gets tired soaking up the supply of additional (synthetic) Bitcoins created by shorting the Bitcoin futures contract.

Shorting a Bitcoin future basically creates more Bitcoins

Yes. Every time you short a contract, you are borrowing the contract from someone and selling it. When you close out of the position, you have to settle out the contract; which traditionally meant delivering one of the thing you previously sold. Without the requirement of ever having to go find a Bitcoin, market participants can continue to create additional Bitcoins through short contracts without ever having to decrease the supply by delivering them. As such, every short side of a Bitcoin futures contract takes away a would-be buyer of an actual Bitcoin because they own a futures contract tied to a Bitcoin and therefore do not need to duplicate their position with a Bitcoin.

How Bitcoins are different from Gold, S&P contracts and US Dollars

A Bitcoin enthusiast might see this and think that such an argument would equally apply to futures contracts in Gold or the S&P or the trading of any currency such as the US Dollar. The problem is that for all of these Futures contracts there are fundamentally extrinsic reasons why investors purchase them.

For example, Gold is used in things such as jewelry and electronics and therefore if the price of Gold were to get too cheap, given that Gold futures require physical delivery of the Gold, end users of Gold would continue to purchase them until the price returned to its otherwise equilibrium price as they are consuming Gold (by using it and taking it out of circulation in the markets). There is a finite amount of Gold and so the creation of synthetic speculation in Gold will incent the users of Gold to buy up any irrationally excess inventory, which will force the short-sellers to ultimately have to deliver the Gold in the contracts, thus necessitating that they buy actual Gold to cover their positions – bringing everything full circle.

S&P contracts are cash settled because they can be constructed and deconstructed from the actual basket of 500 companies for which there are extrinsic buyers (those interested in the shares of the underlying companies).

If the price of the S&P futures contracts were to drive imbalanced short interest versus the actual value of the underlying shares of the companies, equity investors would simply take the other side of the contract and at settlement receive the equivalent price of the companies as their rate is established based upon the individual share prices, which themselves are derived by assets and profits.

Bitcoin will never have the delivery problem because the nature of a Bitcoin itself is synthetic. The owner of a Futures contract (created through a short seller betting against the future price of Bitcoin) derives the same utility from owning the Futures contract as they do from owning the actual Bitcoin itself.

The reason for this is that there is nothing you can really do with a Bitcoin in and of itself. You cannot eat it, use it in jewelry, burn it for energy, deconstruct it into a basket of other assets, or in any way benefit from it as a method of exchange.

Finally, fans of Bitcoin resort to the argument that Bitcoin is not really like a commodity or an index of equities it is more like a currency as a means of stored value like the US Dollar or the Euro. Again the problem here is that currencies are created by governments which are also known as taxing authorities. Taxes have the interesting effect of creating a level of extrinsic demand in the currencies insofar as the citizens subject to taxation are required to deliver (think physical settlement) the currency to the government, which is the issuer of the currency, thus effectively removing it from market circulation.

The penalty for failure to deliver here is frequently jail. As Bitcoin is not the creation of a taxing authority who can compel its citizens to physically deliver (which would create a short squeeze) there is a structural and unbalanced short bias against the Bitcoin future.

What kind of asset is a Bitcoin?

Bitcoins, if not commodities, indexes or currencies is actually much more like a Baseball card. Baseball cards have their value in excess of the cost of printing by virtue of the fact that there are people who want to own them and have some form of attachment to them (see “think they are cool”) and others who based upon historic trends buy them on the blind assumption that they will be worth more in the future because they have gone up so much in the past (see “irrational stupid investors).

Take the case of a Mickey Mantle baseball card. Mickey Mantle was a top notch baseball player who was (and still is) beloved by countless baseball fans. There are people who buy Mickey Mantle baseball cards on the basis of their love for Mickey Mantle and their belief that more people in the future will love him even more. Right now, a quick search on eBay shows Mickey Mantle baseball cards selling for about $250.

Except in this universe of Bitcoin, when you buy it on eBay you never actually get mailed the card. You are told the card exists in a safety deposit box somewhere and you are never allowed to visit it. You receive a picture of Mickey Mantle that you can tell all of your friends about and get a certificate saying that you’re entitled to one Mickey Mantle baseball card provided that you agree to never take it out of the safety deposit box and never go visit it.

You are free to resell it in the future but since nobody can ever go visit it there are an infinite number of other sellers on eBay who are selling the right to borrow their certificate to claim that you own one of these super cool baseball cards at some point in the future. Since the right to borrow the certificate looks and feels identical to the actual right to claim you own one of the certificates, many would-be buyers are just buying those and thus more futures contracts continue to be created and suck buyers out of a finite pool of people who love Mickey Mantle.

When the craze of Mickey Mantle buyers has its run because people all the sudden decide that actually Lou Gehrig is much cooler to be a fan of (true story I actually own a Lou Gehrig baseball card because the man was a legend), then all of the speculators rush to get their money out of the Mickey Mantle cards crushing the price of both the actual certificates and the right to get the certificates in the future (from short sellers repurchasing those rights and locking in their profit).

Mortimer, We’re Back.

Meet The Female Leaders Of Finance: “Inequality is about power dynamics; Those in power have to give some up in order for those not in power to achieve parity” with Jessica Higgins & Tyler Gallagher

This is a deeply rooted cultural issue that transcends gender alone. Inequality is about power dynamics. Those in power have to give some up in order for those not in power to achieve parity. The problem is, so many business professionals today are unwilling or unable to see the bigger picture in doing so. Those who do will have access to a whole new set of human capital. The startup world knows that innovation comes from outsiders. 1. Embrace the concept of open collaboration, i.e. 1+ 1 = a numerical equivalent of the intelligence and diversity in any room. 2. The best people and ideas for your business will come from outside of it, so begin seeking them out. 3. Watch what the power of what diversity does to improve your business and your returns. Otherwise, be eaten by the speed at which innovation impacts your industry. Innovation eats status quo for lunch.

As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Higgins, JD MBA is a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and fund of funds manager who has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, USA Today, Thrive Global, Newsweek and thousands of other publications. She created Curated Fund of Funds, LP in January of 2019, quickly amassing over $10M in assets under management in less than one month, which has generated over 15% annualized returns to date. Her investment strategy is to seek to generate attractive, absolute returns by opportunistically and tactically investing in areas where conventional sources of capital are disproportionately unavailable. Her fund of funds was formed to expand the spectrum of opportunities for investors seeking risk adjusted returns that are less correlated to other markets. For more information

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the Banking/Finance field?

I’ve always taken an interest in complicated areas of business. Finding them, understanding them, and then breaking down the barriers to make these opportunities human, connecting and accessible to the average person, with special emphasis on helping women. I noticed that finance was one particular area in which most people disproportionately do not understand, and therefore, do not participate. My goal is to help change this.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far?

What comes to mind, for me, was overcoming my own biases with this industry. I always thought of finance as synonymous with the Wolf of Wallstreet, and the stories of the finance ‘boys club’. When I started my fund of funds I was quite terrified of harassment, discrimination, and a whole list of other issues. The first group I worked with was Charleston Capital Management, and the team was more polite and respectful than in the business world, and much more so than in the legal field. They truly respect people for their results, and couldn’t care less that I am a woman. I said “Wow, where here has this been my whole life!?” As silly as it seems, I went into finance and experienced the opposite of Wolf of Wallstreet. Maybe I got lucky.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

After the success of Fund I and II, I am now in the process of putting together Fund III with our investment strategy being to invest in and build businesses through leveraging our own intellectual capital. In basic English, we’re taking everything that we have learned as venture capitalists to build successful companies, and scaling it across businesses with similar features to clone our success over and over, which is very exciting.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I am a female-owned business woman with a non-traditional background who leads with my core values. I come from marketing, law, data science and management consulting, which are all of the components — I believe — that make me able to understand the investment-worthiness of an asset, but few of which are the traditional finance background. However, understanding operational design, and the executability of teams and marketing strategies, lets me see investments from all directions, unlike the traditional finance pros who just audit the numbers. Above that, I care deeply about people and value personal connection, so I’m high-touch on any investment, but in a friendly and encouraging way that I don’t always see from VCs.

Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?

The statistics continue to show rampant inequality. Ask me again when that changes.

Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and /or c) society to support this movement going forward?

This is a deeply rooted cultural issue that transcends gender alone. Inequality is about power dynamics. Those in power have to give some up in order for those not in power to achieve parity. The problem is, so many business professionals today are unwilling or unable to see the bigger picture in doing so. Those who do will have access to a whole new set of human capital. The startup world knows that innovation comes from outsiders. 1. Embrace the concept of open collaboration, i.e. 1+ 1 = a numerical equivalent of the intelligence and diversity in any room. 2. The best people and ideas for your business will come from outside of it, so begin seeking them out. 3. Watch what the power of what diversity does to improve your business and your returns. Otherwise, be eaten by the speed at which innovation impacts your industry. Innovation eats status quo for lunch.

You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.

The traditional views of risk, and of investment-worthiness, are not evolving as our culture is. The financial collapse was only one example of this. Don’t believe the rules and standards just because they exist. They were created prior to the world we live in today. Instead, examine everything.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There is one particular mentor who always believed in me, and was responsible for my entrance into this space. I will not mention him by name because he chooses to avoid media attention, but I will recommend that you find someone who sees your value, believes in you unconditionally, and is more successful than you, and then follow whatever that person says so long as the advice aligns to your values. Even at the cost of that advise being wildly outside of your zone of comfort.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We honor the dream by doing the work.” — Cleo Wade

It was when I taught myself to absolutely fall in love with me, and believe that I will be my own best friend and companion, that I became this unstoppable, crazy, positive force that I am now. Dreams are a multiple of your time and relentless pursuit of them. Find your dream and honor it. A purpose-driven life is one that is very worthwhile.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Let’s all be kinder and gentler with each other. The end.

Thank you for joining us!

About the Author:

Tyler Gallagher is the CEO and Founder of Regal Assets, a “Bitcoin IRA” company. Regal Assets is an international alternative assets firm with offices in the United States, Canada, London and United Arab Emirates focused on helping private and institutional wealth procure alternative assets for their investment portfolios. Regal Assets is an Inc. 500 company and has been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Market Watch and Reuters. With offices in multiple countries, Regal Assets is uniquely positioned as an international leader in the alternative assets industry and was awarded the first ever crypto-commodities license by the DMCC in late 2017. Regal Assets is currently the only firm in the world that holds a license to legally buy and sell cryptos within the Middle East and works closely with the DMCC to help evolve and grow the understanding and application of blockchain technology. Prior to founding Regal Assets, Tyler worked for a Microsoft startup led by legendary tech giant Karl Jacob who was an executive at Microsoft, and an original Facebook board member.

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