Danna's a Giftish.ly old-timer. Mitchell recruited her as a barely paid intern right out of Berkeley through the sheerest and dumbest of luck. She quickly blossomed as a designer and a leader, and now has enough internal credibility to qualify as a de facto co-founder of the company. She's become one of precisely two reasons why Giftish.ly matters at all (the other being Mitchell's actual co-founder), and the third person in the room for all-important conversations. Like tonight's. After a quick sip, she adds, "Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but can the company really afford this?" She again raises her glass (WhistlePig on a big-ass cube, he knows without asking).
Mitchell shakes his head. "Not to worry; tonight's on me." Not that he's any more flush than Giftish.ly. He stopped paying his own salary a month back (and also stopped servicing his six-figure medical debt). But Danna doesn't know this. Not even his co-founder knows, and they go clear back to high school. Because as CEO, it's his job to sacrifice. The general eats last or something, right? "Besides," he adds, ambushing her with an upbeat note. "We have something to celebrate. Ten thousand Likes, right?" Danna just posted mock-ups of Giftish.ly's mobile redesign to Dribbble.com, a peer-review site where designers critique each other's work with ruthless candor. There's no grade inflation on Dribbble, and her new user interface has been received rapturously.
"Onyx's redesign got twelve thousand Likes last quarter," she sniffs, citing another startup's Dribbble posting.
Mitchell smiles despite his grimness. The girl just can't take a compliment! Not even from him, despite how comfortable she's come to feel around him, and his co-founder, too. She'll smile, joke, and even be playful when it's just the two or the three of them. Otherwise, she's cool and aloof at work, while exuding an otherworldly competence. Unless something pisses her off, then look out. Seeing he'll have to sell her a bit harder on her own Dribbble triumph, he notes, "But it took them three months to rack that up. You got to ten thousand Likes in just days."
Danna shrugs indifferently. But she can't keep a glimmer of pride from her face—a truly illuminating one, in that any hint of animation makes her stunning. She can pass under the radar when she stays scrupulously neutral (as she almost always does). This is surely why she's always so nonplussed at work: it cuts down on unwanted gazes in the tech world's boy-choked corridors. She's also forever hoodied, her ebony Bettie Page bangs and dark, solemn eyes under wraps. All this stems from a certain deep-seated paranoia. She calls this her "Achilles bicep," as it's both a strength and a vulnerability (yes, it keeps her out of trouble, but it can also drive her to be more isolated than she should be).
Just then, Mitchell's phone hums a staccato pattern that feels like a complex secret handshake. This signals a money-saving opportunity, and he's broke, so he checks it despite himself. On the screen, a photorealistic five-dollar bill dissolves to a swank Bond-like avatar in a tuxedo. "For her next round, give her a Deep one," the ad urges in a lurid red font beside a sparkling Deep Rye logo. Below, a bar chart brags that Deep Rye contains 30 percent more alcohol than WhistlePig—the booze in Danna's hand at this very
instant. A caption reads, "More BANG for the Buck!" And in case anyone could possibly fail to catch the drift here, a naked hussy's silhouette sprawls beneath this.
"Ewww!" he says, flipping the screen to Danna.
Examining it, she rolls her eyes. "Works every time. A slug of Deep Rye, and I'm countin' ceiling tiles."
"Their tag line should be 'Roofie in a Bottle.'"
"What's the offer?"
"Five bucks off."
"Take it!" she commands, only half-playful.
"And support this mindset?"
"Austerity, remember? We're broke!"
Mitchell puts the phone back in his pocket, shaking his head. "I can't believe Bourbon & Branch would work with them." Them being Phluttr—makers of the sketchy app that just hijacked their conversation. Ostensibly a social network, Phluttr peppers its users with coupons, recommendations, breaking news, handy info, and jaw-dropping bits of hyperlocal gossip, all of it surgically targeted to the user's interests, location, and/or state of mind.
"These guys?" As she gestures at the snug bar, Danna's face lights up with a pained, you-dumb-shit look. And just like that, she's again gorgeous. "No way would Bourbon & Branch work with Phluttr. It would ruin their name."
"Then how does Phluttr...do that?"