WalletHub ranks these Texas towns among the best for starting a business. Photo via Getty Images

When it comes to launching a business in Texas, you might want to look into the suburbs that surround the state's major metros.

Personal finance website WalletHub ranked the best and worst small towns to start a business — and the Lone Star State had plenty of suburbs making the top 400 in the list of more than 1,300 towns.

The report found that Georgetown as the best small city in Texas for starting a business. The website classifies a small city as one with a population of 25,000 to 100,000. The Austin suburb appears at No. 70 on the list overall, and No. 1 in Texas. It scored particularly well in the access to resources category (No. 26) and business environment category (No. 31).

To determine the best small cities for startups, WalletHub compared the business-friendly nature of more than 1,300 small cities across the country. Among the factors it examined were average growth in number of businesses, labor costs, and investor access.

Houston suburbs didn't manage to crack the top 200, but four were recognized amongst the rest of the best small busissiness towns:

  • Texas City , No. 202
  • Baytown, No. 267
  • Deer Park, No. 362
  • Conroe, No. 369

Washington, Utah, nabbed the top spot nationally, along with four other Utah cities in the top 10.

“Size matters when choosing a city in which to launch a startup. As many veteran entrepreneurs — and failed startups — understand well, bigger is not always better,” WalletHub says. “A city with a smaller population can offer a greater chance of success, depending on an entrepreneur’s type of business and personal preferences.”

Elsewhere in Texas, other highly ranked small cities in include:

  • Farmers Branch (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 102
  • Pflugerville lands (Austin), No. 150
  • San Marcos (Austin), No. 181
  • West Odessa, No. 193
  • Leander (Austin), No. 250
  • Kyle (Austin), No. 258
  • Greenville (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 275
  • Cedar Park (Austin), No. 280
  • Waxahachie (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 306
  • Huntsville, No. 308
  • Hurst (Dallas-Fort Worth), No. 312
  • Socorro (El Paso), No. 339
  • Sherman, No. 368
  • Seguin (San Antonio), No. 375

Baytown, Port Arthur, and Texas City tied for first place in the U.S. in terms of highest average revenue per business.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

More square footage and cost of internet are two big reasons Texas stands out. Photo by Maskot/Getty Images

Texas punches in as one of best states for working from home, says study

remote possibilites

The meaning of “going to work” is swiftly changing. The Ladders career platform forecasts that one-fourth of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022.

“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overhype. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” Marc Cenedella, CEO of The Ladders, said in December. “Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic turned up the heat so we’re seeing a rapid flood of change in this space. It’s really rather amazing.”

Given the dramatic shift in what it means to go to work, some folks with remote jobs may be wondering where they should live. It turns out that Texas sits at No. 7 on a new list from personal finance website WalletHub of the best states for working from home. So, if you hold a remote job and already call Texas home, you might just want to stay put.

To identify which places are best for working from home, WalletHub compared 12 key metrics for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Those metrics include the cost of internet service and the size of a typical home. “Together, these metrics show how feasible working from home is in terms of cost, comfort, and safety,” WalletHub says.

Here’s how Texas fares in six categories, with a No. 1 position being best and a No. 25 position being average:

  • No. 1 for average square footage of homes.
  • No. 2 for cost of internet service.
  • No. 19 for share of potential telecommuters.
  • No. 25 for average price of electricity.
  • No. 25 for share of population working from home.
  • No. 29 for household internet access.

New Jersey grabs the No. 1 spot on the list, and Alaska ranks last.

“I believe that working from home will need to become a more viable option for many industries, regardless of the pandemic status, as we continue to see increasing fuel prices,” Sean Walker, professor of behavioral management in the College of Business and Global Affairs at the University of Tennessee at Martin, tells WalletHub.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Give credit where credit is due. The Woodlands falls in the "very good" category. Photo courtesy of Local Government Federal Credit Union

Houston suburbs charge ahead with some of the highest credit scores in Texas

fit for fico

Give the residents of The Woodlands some credit. They’re able to brag about achieving some of the highest credit scores in Texas.

A new study from personal finance website WalletHub shows the median credit score of a Woodlands resident is 757. Among the 2,572 U.S. cities covered in the study, The Woodlands nabs a 287th-place tie for cities with the highest median credit score.

FICO, the primary producer of credit scores in the U.S., characterizes 757 as a “very good” credit score. On the FICO scale, credit scores range from 300 to 850. A credit score anywhere from 740 to 799 is above the U.S. average “and demonstrates to lenders that the borrow is very dependable,” according to FICO.

WalletHub based the study on September 2021 data from TransUnion, one of the three major credit-reporting bureaus. In the study, The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, is the only city where the median credit score is above 800 — 806, to be exact.

Two other Houston-area suburbs — Montgomery and Friendswood — ranked among Texas cities for the highest credit scores, coming in with a median credit score of 738 and 732, respectively.

Here are the other cities in the top 15 statewide:

  • Colleyville (Dallas-Fort Worth), 777, 23rd nationally.
  • Flower Mound, 762, tied for 185th place nationally.
  • Coppell (Dallas-Fort Worth), 758, tied for 262nd place nationally.
  • The Woodlands (Houston), 757, tied for 287th nationally.
  • Keller (Dallas-Fort Worth), 756, tied for 300th nationally.
  • Allen (Dallas-Fort Worth), 750, tied for 428th nationally.
  • Georgetown (Austin), 749, tied for 446th nationally.
  • Frisco (Dallas-Fort Worth), 748, tied for 467th nationally.
  • Cedar Park (Austin), 743, tied for 568th nationally.
  • Plano (Dallas-Fort Worth), 740, tied for 629th nationally.
  • Montgomery (Houston), 738, tied for 681st nationally.
  • Friendswood (Houston), 732, tied for 784th nationally.
  • Rockwall (Dallas-Fort Worth), 732, tied for 784th nationally.

Among Texas’ biggest cities, Austin is the only one where the median credit score exceeds 700. In the Capital City, the median score is 713, tied for 1,208th nationally. San Antonio is next in line, at 664 (tied for 2,236th nationally), followed by Houston (662, tied for 2281st nationally), Dallas (661, tied for 2,299th nationally), and Fort Worth (615.5, tied for 2,545th nationally).

Bad news for Sugar Land, which is the only Texas city with a median credit score below 600. According to the study, the median score there is 571, putting it in 2,563rd place nationally. FICO identifies that as a “poor” credit score.

J. Keith Baker, a CPA and certified financial planner who teaches at Dallas College’s North Lake campus in Irving, tells WalletHub that the best way to improve or maintain your credit score is to pay your credit card balances in full every month.

“Some folks will close a credit card account thinking it will help them manage their spending and protect them from identity theft since they are not using an account,” Baker says. “While this may make sense for an individual’s financial situation, do not assume it will automatically improve your credit scores.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Common Desk, which has locations across Houston, has been acquired — and other innovation news. Rendering courtesy of Common Desk

Houston startup secures big contract, coworking company acquired, and more local innovation news

short stories

Houston is starting 2022 strong in terms of innovation news, and there might be some headlines you may have missed.

In this roundup of short stories within Houston startups and tech, the Bayou City is ranked based on its opportunities for STEM jobs, a Houston blockchain startup scores a major contract, Rice University opens applications for its veteran-owned business competition, and more.

Data Gumbo announces contract with Equinor

After a successful pilot, Equinor has signed off on a contract with Data Gumbo.. Courtesy of Data Gumbo

Houston-based Data Gumbo, an industrial blockchain-software-as-a-service company, announced that it has signed a contract with Equinor. The global energy company's venture arm, Equinor Ventures, supported the startup's $7.7 million series B round, which closed last year.

The company's technology features smart contract automation and execution, which reduces contract leakage, frees up working capital, enables real-time cash and financial management, and delivers provenance with unprecedented speed, accuracy, visibility and transparency, per the release.

“Equinor is an industry trailblazer, demonstrating the true value of our international smart contract network to improve and automate manual processes, and bring trust to all parties,” says Andrew Bruce, founder and CEO of Data Gumbo, in a news release. “Smart contracts are playing a critical role in driving the energy industry forward. Our work with Equinor clearly demonstrates the benefits that supermajors and their supply chain customers, partners and vendors experience by automating commercial transactions. We are proud to continue our work with Equinor to help them realize the savings, efficiencies and new levels of transparency available through our smart contract network.”

Equinor opted into a pilot with the company a few years ago.

“Since piloting Data Gumbo’s smart contracts for offshore drilling services in 2019, we have worked with the company to continually refine and improve use cases. We now have the potential to expand Data Gumbo’s smart contract network to enable transactional certainty across our portfolio from the Norwegian Continental Shelf to our Brazilian operated assets and beyond,” says Erik Kirkemo, senior vice president at Equinor. “GumboNet reduces inefficiencies and processing time around contract execution in complex supply chains, which is a problem in the broader industry, and we look forward to realizing the streamlined process and cost savings of its rapidly expanding smart contract network.”

WeWork acquires Dallas coworking brand with 6 Houston locations

Common Desk, which has six locations in Houston including in The Ion, has been acquired. Photo courtesy of Common Desk

Dallas-based Common Desk, which has six locations in Houston, announced its acquisition by WeWork. The company's office spaces will be branded as “Common Desk, a WeWork Company,” according to a news release.

“Similar to WeWork, Common Desk is a company built on the concept of bringing people together to have their best day at work," says Nick Clark, CEO at Common Desk, in the release. "With the added support from WeWork, Common Desk will be able to not only leverage WeWork’s decade of experience in member services to improve the experience of our own members but also leverage WeWork’s impressive client roster to further build out our member base.”

Here are the six Common Desk spaces in Houston:

Here's how Houston ranks as a metro for STEM jobs

Source: WalletHub

When it comes to the best cities for jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math, Houston ranks in the middle of the pack. The greater Houston area ranked at No. 37 among the 100 largest metros across 19 key metrics on the list compiled by personal finance website, WalletHub. Here's how Houston fared on the report's metrics:

  • No. 36 – percent of Workforce in STEM
  • No. 74 – STEM Employment Growth
  • No. 43 – Math Performance
  • No. 16 – Quality of Engineering Universities
  • No. 2 – Annual Median Wage for STEM Workers (Adjusted for Cost of Living)
  • No. 90 – Median Wage Growth for STEM Workers
  • No. 75 – Job Openings for STEM Graduates per Capita
  • No. 88 – Unemployment Rate for Adults with at Least a Bachelor’s Degree

Elsewhere in Texas, Austin ranked at No. 2 overall, and Dallas just outranked Houston coming in at No. 34. San Antonio, El Paso, and McAllen ranked No. 51, No. 65, and No. 88, respectively.

Rice University calls for contestants for its 8th annual startup pitch competition for veterans

Calling all veteran and active duty startup founders and business owners. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice University is now accepting applications from Houston veterans for its annual business competition. To apply for the 2022 Veterans Business Battle, honorably discharged veterans or active duty founders can head online to learn more and submit their business plan by Feb. 15.

“We’re looking forward to giving veterans the opportunity not just to share their ideas and get financing, but learn from other past winners the lessons about entrepreneurship they’ve lived through while growing their businesses,” event co-chair Reid Schrodel says in a news release.

Over the past few years, finalists have received more than $4 million of investments through the program. This year's monetary prizes add up to $30,000 — $15,000 prize for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place.

Finalists will be invited to make their business pitch April 22 and 23 at Rice University. Click here to register for the event.

City of Houston receives grant to stimulate STEM opportunities

Houston's youth population is getting a leg up on STEM opportunities. Photo via Getty Images

Thanks to a $150,000 grant from the National League of Cities, the city of Houston has been awarded a chance to provide quality education and career opportunities to at-risk young adults and students. The city is one of five cities also selected to receive specialized assistance from NLC’s staff and other national experts.

“This award is a big win for young people. They will benefit from significant career development opportunities made possible by this grant,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner in a news release. “These are children who would otherwise go without, now having experiences and connections they never thought possible. I commend the National League of Cities for their continued commitment to the future leaders of this country.”

According to the release, the grant money will support the Hire Houston Youth program by connecting diverse opportunity youth to the unique STEM and technology-focused workforce development.

"Our youth deserve educational opportunities that connect them to the local workforce and career exploration, so they can make informed choices about their future career path in Houston’s dynamic economy. Houston youth will only further the amazing things they will accomplish, thanks to this grant," says Olivera Jankovska, director of the Mayor's Office of Education.

Folks in The Woodlands spend big bucks on the holidays. Visit Houston Texas

3 Houston suburbs lead sleigh full of cities with biggest holiday budgets

shopping spree

If you live in The Woodlands, Sugar Land, or League City, you may be making a holiday shopping list as long as a stocking and checking it more than twice.

These three Houston suburbs rank among the 10 U.S. cities with the fattest holiday budgets, according to a new study from personal finance website WalletHub.

The Woodlands ranks third nationally, at $3,073, while Sugar Land comes in fourth ($3,023) and League City lands at No. 10 ($2,778). Pearland ranks 13th ($2,669) and Missouri City appears at No. 80 ($1,499), while Houston ranks 372nd ($783).

“To help consumers avoid post-holiday regret, WalletHub calculated the maximum holiday budget for each of 570 U.S. cities using five key characteristics of the population, such as income, age, and savings-to-monthly expenses ratio,” the website says.

A suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth wraps up the No. 1 spot on the national list. Flower Mound, according to WalletHub, boasts the most Santa-friendly budget among all the cities: $3,427. Flower Mound ranked second last year ($2,973) and third in 2019 ($2,937).

Seven other DFW cities unwrap rankings in the top 100:

  • Allen, No. 12, $2,688.
  • Frisco, No. 30, $2,133.
  • Plano, No. 33, $2,044.
  • Richardson, No. 43, $1,857.
  • Carrollton, No. 56, $1,698.
  • North Richland Hills, No. 76, $1,544.
  • Irving, No. 89, $1,439.

The two biggest cities in North Texas are on the Scrooge-y side: Fort Worth appears at No. 257 ($920), and Dallas ranks 365th ($787).

In the Austin area, the holiday budgets are more on the lean side, like Santa on a diet:

  • Cedar Park, No. 48, $1,770.
  • Round Rock, No. 134, $1,200.
  • Austin, No. 188, $1,049.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio area’s two entrants on the list feel like they’ve earned lumps of coal:

  • New Braunfels, No. 196, $1,034.
  • San Antonio, No. 371, $783.

“In general, consumers are ready to spend and to have social experiences both within and outside the home. This spurs consumption in multiple categories, including food, décor, apparel, and gifts. This trend toward increased spending is mitigated by lingering COVID health concerns, including reticence to shop in physical stores, gather in groups, and travel,” Barbara Stewart, interim chair of the University of Houston’s Department of Human Development and Consumer Sciences, tells WalletHub.

The National Retail Federation predicts a record-shattering holiday season for retail sales, growing between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. Meanwhile, professional services firm Deloitte envisions a 7 percent to 9 percent spike in holiday spending this year versus last year. Commercial estate services provider pegs the projected increase at 8.4 percent.

“The outlook for the holiday season looks very bright,” says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “The unusual and beneficial position we find ourselves in is that households have increased spending vigorously throughout most of 2021 and remain with plenty of holiday purchasing power.”

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

The Owls have soared to the top again. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Rice rises to top of new ranking of Texas colleges and universities

hoot there it is

If Texas had one Ivy League school, it would have to be Rice University.

Time after time, the Houston school ranks as the best college or university in Texas and one of the best in the country. Personal finance website WalletHub just added to Rice's accolades with a No. 1 ranking in Texas and a No. 6 ranking nationally among colleges and universities.

In Texas, Rice appears at No. 1 for admission rate, graduation rate, gender and racial diversity, and post-school median salary. Not every ranking is that stellar, though. Rice ranks 50th for on-campus crime among 55 Texas schools and 52nd for net cost.

More students soon will be able to take advantage of Rice's top-tier education. In March, the school said it would enlarge its undergraduate enrollment by 20 percent — to 4,800 — by the fall of 2025, up from more than 4,200 in the fall of 2020.

In a news release, Robert Ladd, chairman of the Rice Board of Trustees, called expansion of the student body "a strategic imperative."

"Expanding the student body now will also expand Rice's future alumni base across the nation and around the world," he added. "Welcoming more students to the Rice campus today will have an impact on the university for generations to come."

Elsewhere on the WalletHub list, the University of Houston lands at No. 10 within Texas and No. 238 in the country.

To determine the top-performing schools, WalletHub compared more than 1,000 institutions in the U.S. across 30 key measures, including student-to-faculty ratio, graduation rate, and post-school median salary.

Here are the top 15 colleges and universities in Texas, according to WalletHub, along with their national rankings:

  1. Rice University, No. 6 nationally.
  2. University of Texas at Austin, No. 45 nationally.
  3. Trinity University in San Antonio, No. 61 nationally.
  4. Texas A&M University in College Station, No. 127 nationally.
  5. Southwestern University in Georgetown, No. 144 nationally.
  6. University of Dallas, No. 152 nationally.
  7. Southern Methodist University in University Park, No. 178 nationally.
  8. Austin College in Sherman, No. 192 nationally.
  9. LeTourneau University in Longview, No. 231 nationally.
  10. University of Houston, No. 238 nationally.
  11. University of Texas at Dallas, No. 252 nationally.
  12. Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, No. 253 nationally.
  13. Baylor University in Waco, No. 357 nationally.
  14. Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, No. 375 nationally.
  15. Southwest Adventist University in Keene, No. 407 nationally.
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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Following $50M gift,Tilman Fertitta reveals goals for eponymous medical school at University of Houston

Q&A

As Houston’s most high-profile billionaire and owner of the posh 5-star Post Oak Hotel and Houston Rockets, Tilman J. Fertitta has become synonymous with over-the-top opulence and big-time entertainment.

But the CEO of the massive Feritta Entertainment empire’s latest move has nothing to do with penthouses or point guards, but rather a legacy, game-changing appropriation meant to aid his home state’s health.

The longtime UH board member and former chairman and his family have just pledged $50 million to the University of Houston College of Medicine. In turn, the new medical school has been christened the Tilman J. Fertitta Family College of Medicine.

The projected school, upon completion. Rendering courtesy of University of Houston

This landmark gift aims to address the state’s critical primary care physician shortage, (especially in low-income and underserved communities), as well as attract innovation-focused scholars, UH notes.

Additionally, the grant is meant to further clinical and translational research, with an emphasis on population health, behavioral health, community engagement, and the social determinants of health, according to a press release.

Here is how the Fertitta family gift will be distributed:

  • $10 million funds five endowed chairs for faculty hires who are considered national stars in their fields with a focus on health care innovation. This portion of the gift will be matched one-to-one as part of the University’s “$100 Million Challenge” for chairs and professorships, doubling the endowed principal to $20 million.
  • $10 million establishes an endowed scholarship fund to support endowed graduate research stipends/fellowships for medical students.
  • $10 million will cover start-up costs for the Fertitta Family College of Medicine to enhance research activities including facilities, equipment, program costs and graduate research stipends/fellowships.
  • $20 million will create the Fertitta Dean’s Endowed Fund to support research-enhancing activities.

No stranger to writing big checks, Fertitta donated $20 million to UH Athletics — the largest individual donation ever — in 2016 to transform UH’s basketball arena into the now high-tech Fertitta Center.

CultureMap caught up with the CEO (who just sold his Golden Nugget gaming for $1.6 billion), best-selling author, and Billion Dollar Buyer to discuss his landmark gift.

CultureMap: Congratulations on this legacy grant, which has been a long time coming. What does this gift mean to you, now that it’s finally official?

Tilman Fertitta: This was a vision of our chancellors and, you know, I’m on my third, six-year term and not been the chairman for eight years — and we started working on this, seven, eight years ago.

To be able to be in the beginning and the nucleus, and the idea, and what we wanted, and to get the approval from Austin—to watch it come to fruition, how often does somebody get to do a naming gift at the same time they had a lot to do with the creation of the school? So, it was very special in my heart.

CM: Many know you as the CEO of a hospitality empire, author, and even TV personality. But not many know of your commitment to healthcare.


TF: I think there’s one thing in this world that we definitely should always be treated equally on, and that's that’s equal health care for all. This medical school will serve the whole community.

We’re trying to recruit students who want to be primary physicians who will take care of the community that we live in. It’s just something that was very important to me in my whole family.

CM: Academia, scholarship, and research aside, this could essentially be looked at as seed capital for a fledgling operation. Is that a fair assessment?

TF: I know where you’re going with this and yes, it’s no different than business.

I have the vision to know that being in nearly the third largest city in America and a top 100 university in the United States — as University of Houston is according to U.S. News & World Report — that I know what this is going to be in 50 years. It’s no different than looking at another business that you start and you can have the vision to see how successful it'll be in the years to come.

Being on the ground floor of the University of Houston Medical School and being a part of it from its inception, and to help the seed money that will attract other money, I know that in the years to come what a special nationwide medical school this is going to be — because it’s in one of the great cities of America.

So, to be a part of it today and still be a part of it when I’m not here 50 years from now, maybe even sooner than that [laughs], you know, it’s going to be something very special to always be attached to.

CM: Other Houston medical schools here have distinctions in pivotal research or groundbreaking procedures. Is there a specific direction you’d like UH Med to take, going forward?

TF: Honestly, you know, what I’ve been saying? There’s a significant shortage of primary care physicians, not only in the country, but in the state of Texas. We ranked number 47th in the nation.

What we need in the state of Texas, as well in Houston and everywhere, is primary care physicians to take care of your everyday people—and to see them to know if you need a specialist.

I hope that this medical school looks back and we see that they’re graduating more primary care physicians than any other university in the United States and that's our goal. We’re going to be a med school of the community.

CM: You have zero problem with issuing directives, Tilman. What’s your message to the first graduating class, the one that will initially benefit from this $50 million gold mine?

TF: Go out and take care of the people.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Creative Houston art duo unveils dreamy new tech world in downtown's hottest destination

simulation stimulation

Aclever, Houston-based duo has unveiled a new digital art experience at downtown’s hottest hub. Creative technologist Billy Baccam and multidisciplinary artist Alex Ramos, founders of Input Output Creative Media Lab, have launched “Simulation,” the first artist residency at Post Houston. The show runs through June 30.

The creative team has transformed part of POST Houston's X atrium into a creative media lab. There, Baccam and Ramos have experimented with various kinds of emerging technologies to prototype and develop art experiences.

Mediums in the show include projection mapping, 3D printing, body tracking, camera vision, augmented reality, LEDs, and computer simulation, per a press release.

The “Simulation” layout utilizes the glass wall as an interface for the public to experience the art. Internally, viewers can see an amalgamation of machinery, wires, gizmos, and gadgets similar to the inner workings of a computer.

Externally, viewers can explore and interact with the art through the glass wall via body tracking sensors, augmented reality via QR codes, and just by merely watching. Various books, movies, and other memorabilia have been scattered throughout the space to showcase inspiration on the subject matter of simulations and their influence on culture, a release notes.

“We’re super excited to be able to share the art we have diligently been working on for ‘Simulation,’” the team notes in a statement. “We’ve been able to explore a variety of new mediums such as 3D printing and augmented reality while also getting a chance to dive deeper into our previous works based on projection mapping, interactivity, and computer simulations. As we continue to create, learn, and iterate, the pieces will also evolve to reflect our growth. We thank the public for engaging with our work and bringing about moments of joy and wonder.”

For more information on the duo, visit www.inputoutput.space or @1nput0utput on Instagram.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.