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The Sunshine Economy

'It's A New Miami': 5 Questions For Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen

Emily Michot
Miami Herald staff

As a regular digital feature of The Sunshine Economy, we'll be asking local CEOs how they got where they are and what they think of the business community in South Florida.

Kickstarting our series is Brian Brackeen, founder of Kairos, a facial-recognition software company. Brackeen worked in Silicon Valley for Apple and then IBM before moving to Miami. His company was named last year one of the top 24 start-ups by the Wall Street Journal.

What was your first job?
My first job was a bus boy at the now defunct West Mill Inn in Flourtown, Penn., where I grew up. I was 14, and I have been working ever since.

What's the best career advice you've ever received?
The best career advice I ever received was not at work at all. It was from my bus driver in eighth grade. I was the last stop, and we inevitably had 15 to 20 minutes a day to chat. Paul was a retired gentleman, maybe 63 years old. On the day of his retirement he told me, "Brian, I can already tell that you're special and you're going to go on to great things, as long as you believe that. If you believe in yourself and your own abilities, the sky is the limit. You have what it takes already, and you're just a kid." Then he closed the door and I never saw him again, but he left me with that gift. I will never forget him. Thank you, Paul.

What do you look for when you hire?
A thirst for knowledge of our field. A person who wants to work for Kairos so badly that they would pay us. A person who cares so deeply for their fellow humans that it's second nature to praise, love, support, teach, etc. Someone full of focus, intellect, and empathy.

What's your favorite job interview question to ask and why?
My favorite job interview question was no question at all. Interviewers who listen more than speak are the best.

What's the biggest misconception about the business climate in South Florida?
Well, that there is not one. I think people imagine Miami and think South Beach (and for good reason, it's an amazing place) but we have so much more to offer potential employees: great mentors, great cultural institutions, a growing and bustling downtown, a increasingly walkable city. It's a new Miami.