The one podcast you need as a C-level Marketer, Director or Entrepreneur looking to rock your Business Growth. The Marketing Innovation Show is the official Podcast for our Global Digital Marketing Agency "Marketiu". With each episode, we bring you top performers in Marketing, Serial Entrepreneurs and renowned Digital Growth hackers. discussing top-edge Marketing Trends & Tactics, to help you skyrocket your success online. Topics will include Social Media Marketing, Strategy & Ads, Marketing Strategy, Performance Marketing & Google Ads Trends, Growth Hacking, Ecommerce, B2B Inbound Marketing & Lead Generation as well as Email Marketing & Automation. Tune in, and if you'd like us to cover specific subjects, let us know - we'll do it!
Thursday Feb 03, 2022
Thursday Feb 03, 2022
Join Andrei and our guest on today’s episode, Julius Solaris, as they will be discussing how to best use shared online experiences and events technology to redefine human connection in B2B businesses. Julius is the VP of Marketing Strategy and Events at Hopin, Europe's fastest-growing startup of all time, as well as a world-renowned event influencer.
𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐉𝐮𝐥𝐢𝐮𝐬:
𝐽𝑢𝑙𝑖𝑢𝑠 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑒𝑑𝐼𝑛: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliussolaris/
𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐀𝐧𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐢:
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𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑛: https://www.linkedin.com/company/marketiu
𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢 𝑜𝑛 𝑇𝑤𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟: https://twitter.com/marketiuagency
𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢 𝑜𝑛 𝐼𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑚: https://www.instagram.com/marketiuagency/
𝐸𝑚𝑎𝑖𝑙 𝑎𝑡 email@example.com
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Hi, there! This is Andrei, welcoming you to a new episode of The Marketing Innovation Podcast Show. Our special guest today is Julius Solaris, who is the VP of Marketing Strategy and Events at Hopin, Europe's fastest-growing startup of all time. And today, we'll discuss how to best use shared online experiences and events technology to redefine human connection in B2B businesses. Without further ado, Julius is a pleasure to have you on the show. How are you? How's the year started for you? I know you are in LA at the moment. So how was the weather there?
Thank you, Andrei, thank you for having me. It's such a pleasure to be with you. And, you know, the very exciting start of the year, as you know, we navigate through the uncertainty and you know, whatever prospect is out there, everybody's excited. In the marketing and events industry to kind of go back to in-person everybody's looking at virtual as well as a long term solution to the issue. So we're navigating for both personally. The United States is slightly different from the rest of the world. So I've been able been fortunate enough to attend several in-person events, one of those last weeks for 3000 people. So yeah, lots of insights, we're definitely going back to in-person, it's not as fast as we wanted it to be. But at the same time, you know, there's a lot of innovation happening in virtual so I'm stimulated by both parts, I guess, you know, I come from them in person. Ward, I come from analysing in person, the business of events. But I've always had a passion in technology. Therefore, I'm like, drawn into this battle between virtual and in-person that is happening right now. Yeah, so exciting times.
Yes, definitely. And I feel with, you know, with coming from the live space, and now going to digital and are coming back to life I think, however, that some changes are here to stay when it comes to the innovation that has been happening and the way that customers or actually people in general, as well as transposing the b2b space, have adapted to the COVID pandemic, and now going out of it, how they see events as part of their marketing strategy. So I'm really hyped for us to go through the ins and outs and have your insights from a technology point of view, as well as adoption and what you guys are developing at the moment. Let's see if we will go into AR and that side of things as well, if you want to, then that'd be really, really interesting. Because as you also know, this is a very hot subject nowadays, between our marketing audience. So exciting. I think a very good starting point would be to introduce yourself a bit to the audience. Tell us a bit more about Hopin, how you've come to be Europe's fastest-growing startup of all time because that's a huge statement. And I know from our discussion just a couple of minutes before, it's impressive as well. So if you'd like to take over the stage, it is all yours.
For sure, so I've been in the events industry for the past 20 years, 15 of those have been in media been writing about events. So I come from a content perspective. And I've been doing a lot of analysis on the use of technology and events. So that's been my passion since 15 years ago, and I've been one of the first looks at the impact that technology could have in events as well as the impact that social media could have in events. I've been sort of defining the trends for the industry for many years, and have hundreds of 1000s of event planners download in my resources website called Event MB that I sold in 2018 to skift. And then, at the beginning of 2020, I got hit like everybody else by the pandemic. And I started doing virtual events. We did webinars before. We sort of elevated the experience of more virtual events and in a space of a year with six events, we got almost 60,000 event planners to attend those events, which is five times the size have the biggest event for the event industry. So quite a sizable audience for our industry. And in February 2021, I made the move to event technologies or working with one company then ended up at Hoppin a few months later. I started at Hoppin four months ago, joining the revolution that this company is bringing along. I don't know if you know the story of Hopin, which is very inspirational. Our founder, Johnny Boufarhat, actually based in London at the time, was sort of confined in his home for autoimmune disease for two years. So we built this platform out of the need to connect with people and to create better experiences for people that are unable to attend in person. So in a sense, he anticipated what the pandemic kind of made us all go through during lockdowns. And therefore, a platform that was built with that kind of experience in mind nearly got a lot of traction and became a sensation, and experienced amazing growth from a handful of employees, three to six, almost 1000 spaced out from some seed funding to $1 billion funding, and incredible ARR. That's been published in different outlets. And you can check it out there. So it's a, you know, incredible story, a trajectory of virtual events that we've all experienced during the pandemic. But also it's a story of bringing that concept of coming together forward into the 2020s. In a sense, I think this is a movement that is going to define the next 10 years. And the way our CEO defined that was by acquiring strategic companies that deliver on that mission of feeling closer to the event, the opportunity, the content by buying first Stream Yard, which a lot of us used, personally saved my life last year when I was running events. And then other companies in the in-person business as well, Topy, Attendify, Boomset, three companies that if you've been in events and use technology for your events, you will know because they are very strong in the in-person business. Therefore, paving the way in terms of what's coming next for the connection, also companies like Jam, there is more sort of meeting oriented type of technologies. So coming together at every touchpoint possible to make sure that you can meet wherever, whenever and however you want. There's no definition in terms of meetings these days that shouldn't be there, we pursue radical inclusion of whoever wants to attend. But also given the freedom to planners and marketers to plan their activations their events, however, they want. There is no fixed agenda, you shouldn't be forced to plan a meeting and personal costs or virtual costs, or hybrid at all costs. But you should follow your audience where they are. And also your situation, your country, the pandemic, all these issues, but also sustainability. You know, these are topics that are on top of the minds of current and future generations. And we feel that at Hopin we're at the core of it.
Awesome! So tell us a bit about your journey through the past maybe two years. So ever since the pandemic started, because this has been, you know, a time of change for you personally and professionally as well. So maybe how did you move through the activity that you had before and now taking the lead on the marketing front with Hopin? What was something exciting that happened there? And how are things panning out for you? Or what were the opportunities that you saw as we moved through the changing market, the changes that were brought by the pandemic and obviously the b2b space that had to adapt as well?
So I always tell this story. In November 2019, that was the time when I was Editor Chief and we would write the trends for next year, every time so that's when we will actually publish them. And my top trend for 2020, so 2019 looking at 2020 was trying to anticipate a little bit with my crystal ball that I have here that I use to look at trends all the time. So try to anticipate and to be the top trends of 2020, where virtual events. Right, for all the possibly completely different reasons that what happened, I couldn't anticipate a pandemic. But to me, that was where the industry was going towards, because there was a need to include people that couldn't attend, there is a correlation between attendance online and attendance in person. The more people attend online, the more they tend to turn up in person. And also, there's a sustainability crisis that we kind of forgot during the pandemic, came back recently. But this is not a trend, this is a problem a lot of people are dealing with. This becoming a marketing problem to a lot of events as well with younger generations where they can't afford to be non-sustainable. And this is a big problem with some parts of the event industry, especially large trade shows that create monumental amounts of waste. And, you know, if you think about all the travel that it's involved, it's an incredible direct contribution to pollution and all the crises that we're experiencing right now. So, therefore, I was kind of positioned in February 2020, I was looking at the situation being Italian, I was looking at whatever was happening in Italy, like two, three weeks in advance compared to the US. And I put out a tweet saying: ”Listen, we should seriously look at virtual events because I don't think we're going to be able to do in-person events going forward.” And then March came, all the cancellations came. And, you know, everybody started to sort of congregating into virtual environments and the learning curve it's been incredible. You don't join the event industry, because you like technology, right? It's counterintuitive, you join the event industry because you'd like to stay close to people, you're like that offline feeling of co-creating experiences. But you know, through the years, I've seen the evolution of that some of the planners have been strategic about what they do. This is a tiny margin compared to the industry. So the whole industry has been going through a crash course in understanding technology. To be honest, with incredible resilience. I've seen businesses completely destroyed. I've seen people that have worked in the industry for 20 - 30 years to move away and like do real estate, or something else like, which is very, very sad. And we still have to get to terms with the impact of that. Because it's still ongoing with the last waves, we've seen again, and again, the same issues. So, therefore, a very, very tough time. But still, an exciting time on the other end to see all this experimentation from an industry. As much as we all value in a person. We all recognise right when we attend events that some events are better than others. Right, not all events are great, right? We've all attended conferences, there are boring, like with sales pitches from, you know, salespeople that have 10 point font presentation, and nobody could read, bullet, bullet, bullet points, and you just want to die, right? So the level of experimentation has been incredible. I like to think we've been at the forefront of some of that by experimenting with new formats. And then you could see all this attention in event technology. It's not just Hopin, the whole event technology spectrum, has experienced unprecedented venture capital investment, like never before. Like you have to think that the one of the biggest deals I remember before the pandemic was double dutch, raising $30 million, and then another 20 million. That was mind-blowing to us. It was an absurd amount of money. So to think we're now in the regions of 1 billion at Hopin is this incredible. So it's the time of our lives for people that have been in technology for a while in the events industry.
Okay, so, then it was 2020, the change was happening. And then how did you meet Hopin and how did you take the lead there on the marketing front?
So I was at another company before in technology. And, you know, one thing led to another I had the pleasure to interview the CEO of Hopin, Johnny, a few times in my previous endeavours as Editor-Chief, so we develop the relationship. And, you know, there was a need from companies like up in to be a thought leader in events. It's a company that comes from technology a lot, there's a lot of people that have worked in Facebook, Airbnb and Google. There's also a need within the company to grow people that have been in the industry for a while. And I was part of that plan to bring me on board is to give voice to some of our wider marketing initiatives being grounded in what the event planning industry is about. So to bring that voice in, and, you know, give more resonance to all the content initiatives we would do. And you know, more companies, I feel this is a wide marketing trend or navigating towards becoming media companies almost right. So there's a clear direction in that sense. And therefore, I feel more and more companies are hiring sort of ex-editors, ex-content creators to become part of their marketing effort. And I feel that was the thinking behind it. I don't know, we should ask the company about that.
Well, I'm sure your experience as an editor chief and media person in that sense, as well as an influencer, if you want. As far as your roster of achievements in the back, I'm sure that was counting a lot towards you joining or needing their team there. So if we were to think about the last couple of months, because November is not so much ago, like so much time ago, and it used to be a time when you were publishing this Trends report in the past. I'm sure that you know, the behaviour was still there when the time came so you're already looking at trends for 2022, assessing what was happening, and what was there to stay, obviously, the new Omicron variants and stuff, probably not many knew exactly how that's gonna unfold. But what are you seeing changed forever in the b2b event space? And also what do you see as happening, most likely, in 2022, when we will be able again to meet maybe as much as we want at conferences, and expos and these types of events may be towards the year?
Totally. So the word forever, it's a tough world these days, to be honest. Because it's almost impossible, not even my crystal ball can give me that level of insight into the future. Oh, my god is changing so fast. Everybody's caught off guard, in most cases, you can anticipate, but nobody really knows. You know, you can see like science even changes every day. And when science changes every day, oh, my God, that's a clear signal that business is going to change even more, right? Because we try to shape strategies, and we try to gather feedback from a certain moment in time. So it was October time, we were here in Las Vegas, and one of the largest trade shows where the event industry 12,000 people, everybody was like, celebrating the return of in-person, and then a new variant hit. And you know, cancellations are happening again. So, therefore, it's tough to say forever. Said that there are things that we can talk about, there are practical, actionable, things that your audience specifically can think about. Whenever they're evaluating their marketing programmes, and thinking about their strategy to get closer to their customers, I feel that there's a new category is born. And we're just year two within that category. And that's virtual events. Virtual events have been around for 15 years, they've never been like the ones we've seen in the past few years. I'd like to say that we've seen more change in the past 20 months in terms of event technology platforms than in the past 20 years. The level and speed at which event technology platforms have been delivering features and change have been incredible. So if you think that, you know, virtual event platforms, because you had some experience in March 2020... So my number one tip and action for those listening is to go back and reevaluate platforms. Because there's been an enormous amount of change. There's been incredible feedback. It's almost like these platforms have been co-created with the feedback of planners and marketing professionals. For the past few years, this level of innovation has been incredible. I can think we ship new features on a daily basis and often, so it was just like, I can't even keep track of how many things we're shipping to respond. So the new categories are born and where does that sit? That's the major trend I feel for marketing professionals. So if you used events before as a strategy for your b2b marketing efforts, 75% of them professionals grip on them, or marketing professionals, pre-pandemic said that events are the number one tactic for b2b marketing the most effective tactic. So this is a study done by North America. Let me tell you exactly what's called, North America Content Marketing Institute. Pre pandemic. And constantly events rank in the top-performing tools in the toolbox of b2b marketing professionals. But let's say marketing professionals in general, the problem with events is being they are intangible. They're very tough to measure. Yes, you have the technology to measure the in-person experience with its cumbersome can be expensive. Plus, you have to travel people, there is no certainty. One thing we all know, when you work in events, finger things are going to go wrong. So all at all times, you can expect a crisis. It's not an easy undertaking compared to running a campaign on Facebook, right? And where are you left? Your left in person here at the top is one of the most direct, closer intimate types of interaction with your audience where you co-create the message with your customers, you can change it real-time stuff is incredible, very difficult to do. And then you have probably the next step is social media where you create that persona by your brand. There used to be nothing in between, maybe you have an email list, maybe you have a community if you're really forward-thinking. But that was that right? Now, enter a new category in the middle of the funnel, which is virtual events that are a much closer way to interact with your audience. That is not probably as personable as in-person events as direct as that, but creates an environment of intimacy that removes the noise of social media, and creates a much more direct touchpoint, if done properly, where your audience and the advantages are that is incredible, because if you think about the trend, the wider trend of community and brands becoming communities for audiences to come together, we believe that event-driven community so a community that has multiple instances of events, is probably the best way to kind of channel all that energy that gets created among your customers into content that you can create into closer brand interactions, into better in-person events that require less marketing to be promoted and attended. So that's the new biggest fan, that that we can talk about hybrid, we can talk about different interactions with that I feel the birth of this new category is there and we're just here to like we're just at the beginning of it, then we can talk about the metaverse as an iteration of that. But you know, this is like the beginning of it.
Got you. Okay, so now talking about this new category, you guys have a tonne of customers that you work with from loads of industries and obviously gather different products at them or them using you in different ways. For the people out there that may be taking some webinars or some basic online events within their b2b sort of marketing strategy. Do you have some case studies that they can get inspiration from in terms of how they can use events technology to adapt to how things are going this year and are going to go in the future and potentially step up their game when it comes to digital online events in this case or hybrid?
Totally. We work with companies such as the Atlantic, TechCrunch, Paleton, Target and all the biggest brands you can think of use Hopin to extend the level of their content marketing efforts into a more personal direction. So first mistake that I see all the time is using meeting technology to do events. So there's a difference there. Basic difference. So the tool that we're using right now to interact, oh, you know, there's multiple tools that we use every day in an office environment, I don't want to give names, because there's nothing personal against all of these great brands. But you know, a four-way, five-way meeting tool, it's a great tool for Team interaction, but it's not built to run an event. An event is a different game, especially if you're willing to reach scale. And if you run events, say, our customer Paleton, with hundreds of 1000s of attendees, you know, you cannot use meeting technology to do that. But even like at 500 attendees, even 200 attendees, you can't achieve through interaction engagement. So number one mistake is that don't assume that they're using meeting technology to do events is going to deliver on the number one issue that we have, with events, which is engagement. You got to get people to engage, you got to get people to interact, you got to get people to feel connected to what you're saying to the content and agenda you're creating otherwise is just a YouTube video. Right? What's the difference between YouTube and Hopin? It's interaction. People have the ability to get together, the ability to comment up both ask real-time questions, but also visit busy exhibitors booths, creating activations around their being connected in networking. One of the features that I love the most about Hoping is the type of roulette networking that you have, you get randomly assigned to meet someone that creates that kind of serendipity. So we've been seeing a lot of clients using it very strategically, even like matching two separate groups, to investors, and pictures for new startups, for example, you know, that's a great example of mixing and matching. But you know, there's a lot of activations is of all breed examples that we've seen on how people use our platform to create engaging experiences. So we've had people, for example, using Streamyard, and going around in the back of in person, sort of event showing the back end and like what was happening in the behind the scene, almost of the event and getting people to participate, virtually. We had people are limiting, like for example, inviting the audience to say like if you have something to say, say it now and come on stage and talk to us inviting them to a private screen yard link and be on stage doing a breakout sort of follow up session to discuss together, the issues presented. We had people doing activations, we had the National Student Pride of, for example, doing LGBTQ+ transactivation, such as, you know, drag aerobics, gender diverse cabaret, you know, transpose makeup masterclasses. We had people, for example, that disabled all the different parts of the platform to just focus on the content and just create a simple content experience for those that want to just engage with that. We had people that survey the audience before the event and actually asked, What would you like to see and then use that very survey into creating the virtual schedule for their virtual event. We are people that create, for example, premium tracks for their event with multiple tracks and make attendees pay just for one track. So they're able to monetize. We have people that immediately record all the sessions and post an on-demand video library Netflix type where you can pay on-demand to access those or you can access or repurpose those as assets for their social media, and why their marketing initiatives. So a million dollar type of case study that you can think of at the end of the day, gets down to the experience that you have.
Yeah, guys, so for you that are working in b2b and are looking at revamping or re-planning your strategy for events, Hopin also has an events Planning Toolkit on their website, which you can download. So you have the link in the description to get onto the website, but go there check out because you know, like these, if there's somebody that you can learn about event planning in today's age, they are your guys. So Julius I'm sure that you know if people want to reach out to you one to one, they can find you on LinkedIn probably as well as If you have any other platforms that you publish content that is relevant. And you'd advise people to go to shout out,
for sure. LinkedIn Julius Solatie, at to Julius everywhere, @tojulius on Twitter, which is my go-to platform other than LinkedIn, and Instagram as well. So yeah, that's where I hang out most of the time, I'm not young enough to do Tik Tok.
Super. So I'm very insightful, very cool stuff. And I think we could discuss this for hours and still have a lot to go through. But I would like us to actually just me wanting to pick your brain on this. But you know, the metaverse stuff and the AR and everything is going so fast these days. And you know, NFT's are everywhere. I personally had a couple of interesting discussions with some guys that are developing this, like NFT systems for the events industry. And this is just popped up in my head now. But I'm sure that this is on your planning list for new releases and technology for the coming months. So I'm just curious, as much as you can give away. How do you see this space evolving? Like how do you see AR and VR being applied to b2b events? And maybe how soon do you see this happening? As well as do you see blockchain and NFT's playing a part in the way that events are being ticketed or, you know, integrated?
I can't speak on behalf of the company. I'm far detached from product development or acquisitions or anything on that. So I'm sorry, I cannot give you the inside scoop on it. But like if you follow Johnny Boufarhat on Twitter, he tweets on the metaverse and he has a very, very strong opinion on it. So I would definitely invite your audience to check him out and keep an eye on his tweets because he likes to tweet very directly on these issues, and his experiences with them. But I feel you know stuff like blockchain. This is not like a trend of now. I think I covered blockchain in the use of blockchain for ticketing in 2017, for the first time, so it's been like four or five years in the making. There are companies that have been doing it for a while. It's inevitable. And I feel it's a direction that a lot of companies will take for security reasons for, you know, scalping, and all those issues that are associated with large ticketing. I think ticket masters and the likes have acquired blockchain technology companies in the past, therefore, that's not even a trend anymore. I feel it's just an evolution of where the ticketing technology is going towards, in a sense. The metaverse's an interesting topic. I agree with the founder of Meetup when he said on Twitter that meetup.com. He said on Twitter that Twitter is the 3d version of the metaverse and, you know, I agree with that. I feel that social media is already the metaverse in action. That's why the biggest social media companies in person investing in it. They see sort of the 3d version of the metaverse the interactive part of the metaverse as the next iteration of social media platforms. But I think in between those, we've experienced the first wave of what the metaverse will look like with the virtual events, revolutions that happened in the past two years or so. Because we were drawn into an online environment where we needed to interact with each other. And we were forced to do that. That's the biggest experience the world has had so far into the metaverse. So if you like that experience, that's what it's up for you in the next few years. If you didn't like it, then you got to build something to change it. I believe so. You know, it's pretty much in the making, for now, is just a buzzword. I like to reiterate what let me get you the Scott Galloway says that he actually thinks that Apple is the company that will develop the metaverse, not necessarily Facebook, it's very interesting to follow that because he's looking into patents and he says the Apple has a patent for cameras on air pods, which could really change the way we interact with our environment. So yeah, keep an eye on that. It's very exciting for the time being for me is just keeping an eye on things understanding the dynamics. There's a lot of buzzes, there's a lot of crypto bros making taking advantage of other people. Right now also in the NFT words, there are people just there for the money. I think there are concepts such as DAO, they're extremely interesting for the future of communities. So I'm keeping an eye on all of these. But until the market says we like this, you know, it's just buzz words.
Yep. Cool. Agree. Awesome. So as we are getting to the final of our episode, and I know you're a busy man, so your days start now and is full from now until the end. So what would be a closing note that you'd like to say now, at the end of the episode? Where would you advise our guys here that our marketing leaders are planning for 2022? How should they look at events? How could they find using the best technology? And if they don't have a lot of experience, before, where do you where would you guide them?
So experiment. Experiment with virtual gets on with it. We have a free version of Hopin, for up to 200 people. Just get on it and use it. Streamyard is free to use, up to a certain point. So you can experiment with this stuff with no cost involved, just your time and thinking and creativity, to be strategic about what you do. That's what it takes. We're enabling experienced creators as we call them, to do whatever they want, like you never had this many tools available for free, ever. So it's the number of tools available today to create experiences or content are just incredible. So dive into those and get started with it. Don't overthink it, just get on with the action and do stuff and make mistakes. Now's the time to make mistakes. In like two years time, you won't have that luxury to make mistakes, people will have very high expectations. They would expect you to have figured it out by then. They will have their preferences, they won't be able to discount your inexperience, they're already getting nervous. With some of it, I'm seeing people that are like year three, I cannot tolerate someone to be muted on a call, come on sorted out, you know what I mean? Like you got to be alert now. So our behaviours are evolving. So experiment, make mistakes, get on with it, build the tension with virtual but remember, the only way to release the tension that you build with virtual is in person. So don't forget that meeting in person is never going to go away. The stadium they're building here in Las Vegas, the biggest banners that they're building is for gamers. For Esports. This community meets online all the time. They're building huge venues for them to meet in person, meaning that the more you meet online, the more you want to meet in person. So that correlation, it's incredibly powerful if you know how to use it.
Love it. Awesome. Julius, this was a great pleasure. I'm super happy that you were able and happy to join us today. I think it was very valuable. And this is also the first time ever in our podcasts when we touch on events and events technology. So it's a premier. And I'm happy to have had that with somebody like you. Great pleasure. Thank you for the time. Guys, feel free to go and check out Julius's platforms, you have the links in the description of the episode. Make sure to check Hopin as well and download their free events Planning Toolkit. And until next time, Julius, thank you for being on the show again, wishing you all the very best. Rock it this year, and I'm looking forward to following your journey as well.
Thank you so much for having me. Let's crush it.
Yes. Thank you speak soon!
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