Monday, May 20, 2019

“Startups Weekly: There’s an alternative to raising VC and it’s called revenue-based financing - TechCrunch” plus 4 more

“Startups Weekly: There’s an alternative to raising VC and it’s called revenue-based financing - TechCrunch” plus 4 more


Startups Weekly: There’s an alternative to raising VC and it’s called revenue-based financing - TechCrunch

Posted: 18 May 2019 05:00 AM PDT

Revenue-based financing is on the rise, at least according to Lighter Capital, a firm that doles out entrepreneur-friendly debt capital.

What exactly is RBF you ask? It's a relatively new form of funding for tech companies that are posting monthly recurring revenue. Here's how Lighter Capital, which completed 500 RBF deals in 2018, explains it: "It's an alternative funding model that mixes some aspects of debt and equity. Most RBF is technically structured as a loan. However, RBF investors' returns are tied directly to the startup's performance, which is more like equity."

Source: Lighter Capital

What's the appeal? As I said, RBFs are essentially dressed up debt rounds. Founders who opt for RBFs as opposed to venture capital deals hold on to all their equity and they don't get stuck on the VC hamster wheel, the process in which you are forced to continually accept VC while losing more and more equity as a means of pleasing your investors.

RBFs, however, are better than traditional debt rounds because the investors are more incentivized to help the companies they invest in because they are receiving a certain portion of that business's monthly revenues, typically 1% to 9%. Eventually, as is explained thoroughly in Lighter Capital's newest RBF report, monthly payments come to an end, usually 1.3 to 2.5X the amount of the original financing, a multiple referred to as the "cap." Three to five years down the line, any unpaid amount of said cap is due back to the investor. When all is said in done, ideally, the startup has grown with the support of the capital and hasn't lost any equity.

At this point, they could opt to raise additional revenue-based capital, they could turn to venture capital or they could tap a tech bank to help them get to the next step. The idea is RBF is easier on the founder and it allows them optionality, something that is often lost when companies turn to VCs.

IPO corner, rapid-fire edition

Slack's direct listing will be on June 20th. Get excited.

China's Luckin Coffee raised $650 million in upsized U.S. IPO

Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity unicorn, dropped its S-1.

Freelance marketplace Fiverr has filed to go public on the NYSE.

Plus, I had a long and comprehensive conversation with Zoom CEO Eric Yuan this week about the company's closely watched IPO. You can read the full transcript here.

Second Chances

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Hosain Rahman, the man behind Jawbone, has managed to raise $65.4 million for his new company, according to an SEC filing. The paperwork, coincidentally or otherwise, was processed while most of the world's attention was focused on Uber's IPO. Jawbone, if you remember, produced wireless speakers and Bluetooth earpieces, and went kaput in 2017 after burning up $1 billion in venture funding over the course of 10 years. Ouch.

More startup capital

Funds!

On the heels of enterprise startup UiPath raising at a $7 billion valuation, the startup's biggest investor is announcing a new fund to double down on making more investments in Europe. VC firm Accel has closed a $575 million fund — money that it plans to use to back startups in Europe and Israel, investing primarily at the Series A stage in a range of between $5 million and $15 million, reports TechCrunch's Ingrid Lunden. Plus, take a closer look at Contrary Capital. Part accelerator, part VC fund, Contrary writes small checks to student entrepreneurs and recent college dropouts.

Extra Crunch

Our paying subscribers are in for a treat this week. Our in-house venture capital expert Danny Crichton wrote down some thoughts on Uber and Lyft's investment bankers. Here's a snippet: "Startup CEOs heading to the public markets have a love/hate relationship with their investment bankers. On one hand, they are helpful in introducing a company to a wide range of asset managers who will hopefully hold their company's stock for the long term, reducing price volatility and by extension, employee churn. On the other hand, they are flagrantly expensive, costing millions of dollars in underwriting fees and related expenses…"

Read the full story here and sign up for Extra Crunch here.

#Equitypod

If you enjoy this newsletter, be sure to check out TechCrunch's venture-focused podcast, Equity. In this week's episode, available here, Crunchbase News editor-in-chief Alex Wilhelm and I chat about the notable venture rounds of the week, CrowdStrike's IPO and more of this week's headlines.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.

It's springtime for India's startup financing industry and here's what made it happen - Economic Times

Posted: 19 May 2019 03:19 AM PDT

Last month, startup India saw a crossover that it was delighted with. Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India, quit to join Sequoia Capital and lead its early stage investment program Surge. Anandan is among India's most prolific angel investors with over 59 investments. He got a star's welcome.

"Rajan is a true angel," says Amarpreet Kalkat, co-founder, Frrole, an AI-powered social intelligence startup that offers services to businesses. In an ecosystem where business-to-consumer has been the flavour of the season and deep tech-based startups a rarity, Frrole has had its share of rough times. So, when in 2017 Kalkat was desperately trying to raise a bridge round, Anandan came to his rescue.

"I met him at an event in Jaipur. He took 10 minutes to understand the need and write a cheque. Once he was in, obviously, everyone followed," says Kalkat. That Rajan's move represents a leg up for the ecosystem is a view that echoes far and wide in the startup world.

"Indian VCs often have investment banker pedigree with little entrepreneurial experience. Rajan Anandan joining, with his vast experience, knowledge and networks, will give it a big boost," says Saurabh Srivastava, chairman, Indian Angel Network.

Anandan's move is ultimately just one executive movement in a large industry. But the timing as well as his role in championing India's internet economy and its entrepreneurs makes it emblematic of larger shifts underway in the ecosystem that funds India's startups. There are a number of other developments that are signaling subtle but important shifts underway in this space.

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"We are seeing both maturing and deepening of the investor landscape, which will have significant implications," says Alok Goyal, partner, Stellaris Venture.

Spring Follows Winter
The first wave of venture capital (VC) investors arrived in India in the early 2000s with global giants such as Sequoia and Norwest Partners. Homegrown companies such as SAIF Partners and Helion Advisors joined the fray, too. Often led by investment bankers with deal-making in their DNA, VCs in India behaved herd-like and topdown demonstrating low risk appetite. It was a good start.

"Remember, Silicon Valley is over a century old. It's the cycles of experiences that bring maturity. By that yardstick, Indian VCs have done a fantastic job in such a short time," says Murali Talasila, partner and innovation leader at consultancy PwC.

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In terms of fund availability, the harsh winter that set in late 2015 appears to have thawed well, with VCs retooling for the next phase of growth. Successful tech entrepreneurs such as Sachin Bansal (of Flipkart), Kunal Shah (of Freecharge) and Girish Mathrubootham (of Freshworks) turning investors has provided both heft and depth to the funding scene.

The behemoth of the investing world, Softbank, decided to quit being a 'tourist investor', opening its India office early this year. Temasek-backed Vertex, a global venture fund, has decided to drive India investment decisions through a local office rather than out of Singapore. Quitters are returning.

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Mohanjit Jolly, the erstwhile head of DFJ India, shut shop and relocated to the Silicon Valley in 2016. He is back. Last November, he set up Iron Pillar, a growth-stage venture fund. Amid tough times, many funds shut down, imploded or saw partners exiting. Wiser, many of those partners have resurfaced, launching new funds like A91 Partners, with a more focused investment strategy. Slowly, among a sea of generalists, more and more specialist funds with knowledge and expertise — for instance the agri-tech focused Omnivore Partners—are mushrooming.

Global incubators and accelerators in India are seeing frenzied growth. While Y Combinator is increasing its India intake, others such as Techstars and Entrepreneur First have rolled out their India programmes. "They will accelerate the maturity of the ecosystem," says Ashish Goel, co-founder, Urban Ladder. Specialist ones such as the SaaS-based accelerator Uppekha are entering the fray betting on new business models—it gets no equity until the startup achieves a pre-decided revenue milestone. The source of capital in India, too, is diversifying.

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A new breed of MNCs (Philips and Alibaba, for instance) are ploughing in funds. Multiple new funds from countries as diverse as Japan (Beenext), China (Shunwei), South Korea (Mirae) and Abu Dhabi (ADIA) are deploying their capital. Finally, domestic capital, too, is betting on startups. Indian corporations such as Reliance, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej and Hero Motorcorp are making investments in startups.

"Indian VC ecosystem has been nascent. Most investors in their institutional capacities have never built startups," says Jay Krishnan, ex-CEO, T-Hub. The playbook has mostly been about customer acquisition and market growth, not profitable business. Exits have been poor. The funding drought between 2016 and 2017 has taught some tough lessons. There are early signs of a reset and a rethink in the investor landscape.

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New Government, New Hope
The frothy boom days of 2014 may be a faint memory. But exactly five years back, this was another world. NDA government had just taken over the reins. 'Achhe din' held out new hopes. And India's startup world was on an adrenaline high. Amid irrational exuberance and mostly copy-cat entrepreneurs, competitive funds-flush investors chased deals and flavours of the season, driving up valuations. Entrepreneurs big and small, including the likes of Ratan Tata, set up family offices and turned angel investors.

NDA government's Startup India campaign in 2015 helped along with momentum and some funds. The sobering reality hit home shortly afterwards. Many VC funds such as DFJ, Sherpalo and Canaan Ventures closed shop or exited India. Several startups such as TinyOwl and Stayzilla folded up. In 2016 alone, more than 1,000 startups reportedly shut down.

Snapdeal is perhaps the best example of the good and the bad times. In 2015, it bought Kunal Shah's Freecharge for $150 million. In 2017, starved of funds, Snapdeal sold Freecharge for $60 million and later laid off many employees.

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The startup India story had begun to sour. Poor exits, declining valuations, troubled investments and funding squeeze became a recurring theme. Japanese giant Softbank wrote down $550 million in its India investments Ola and Snapdeal. Here's the macro picture: Since 2006, some $38 billion is estimated to have been invested in India's startup ecosystem, of which $34 billion is foreign money. Even if one takes a 2X return, this would mean at least $76 billion that ought to return. The VC ecosystem has not even returned $38 billion.

"So, there is obvious pain in the ecosystem," says Sharad Sharma, co-founder, iSPIRT Foundation. 2019 is looking like a replay of sorts for both India and startups. A new government is set to form next week amid hope and optimism. Green shoots are visible in the startup world too.

"Both investors and entrepreneurs have learnt lessons. India is maturing. The confidence in the ecosystem is returning," adds Sanjay Nath, managing partner, Blume Ventures.

A Higher Orbit
The reset is at multiple levels. The first thing Krishnan notices is that the deal size is getting bigger ($1 million plus at seed stage) and entrepreneurs older (often more than 40 years), and therefore, more experienced. After chasing fancy targets like GMV (gross merchandise value) and market share, there is a greater appreciation of basic values such as favourable unit economics, strong management team and great consumer experience.

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"VC funding is a marathon, not sprint. Investors realise it now. From growth at any cost, they are now focusing on business foundation, customer experience and efficiency," says Sanjeev Aggarwal, who has co-founded Fundamentum, a technology fund, with Nandan Nilekani.

Share of domestic capital is rising. Sudhir Sethi, founder of Chiratae Ventures, says when they raised their second fund, the contribution of domestic capital was just 20%. "Last October, India's share crossed 50% in the fourth fund we raised. We learnt very early that rupee capital is stable and also brings a lot of knowledge and networks," he says.

Chiratae—with people like Ratan Tata, Infosys cofounder Kris Gopalakrishnan, Asian Paints' Manish Choksi on his advisory board — aims to bring a lot more than just capital to startups. Partly linked to this is a slight recalibration of how entrepreneurs and their family offices are making investments.

"In 2015, many Indian family offices and UHNIs (ultra high networth individuals) — from Ratan Tata to Mohandas Pai— got excited about investing directly in startups. Many of them are now routing their funds through institutional vehicles," says Arun Natarajan, founder, Venture Intelligence.

Others are moving on to their next stage of evolution cycle as the gen-next takes over. Previous waves saw both Indian investors and startups inflicted by imitation syndrome with a venture factory strategy, a phenomenon that has played out in other markets like China as well.

Now wiser, a grounds-up differentiated approach with a focus on deep-tech, innovation-led startups, is beginning to emerge. Not surprisingly, B-to-B startups are gaining both traction and funding. With them, hybrid funds straddling multiple markets – especially the US and India – are gaining currency.

"We are seeing world-class Indian startups looking to build global business. I am excited about investing in them," says USbased Sumant Mandal, managing director, March Capital. Investors have often misjudged the India market.

In the 1990s, MNCs such as Nike and Levis got their business calculation wrong by overestimating their target segment and India's middle class at 300 million. That mistake "basically got repeated by VCs chasing the internet middle class in the last decade," says Sharma.

As a result, VCs mostly funded undifferentiated B2C startups, often copycats from the West chasing urban online consumers, thus ignoring startups that solved real problems of Bharat. Not surprisingly, amid bruising competition and deep discounts, the path to growth, profitability and exits was not easy.

In fact, many investors missed some of the biggest waves such as digital payments. Humbled, many are course correcting. The strategic shift to Bharat is now discernible. Sateesh Andra, managing director of Endiya Partners, says specialised niches like cyber security and semiconductors have begun to get attention.

Thanks to Reliance Jio, India's digital consumer base has been surging (pegged at over 500 million), thus gaining a critical mass and opening up new possibilities. "What we were dreaming about the internet economy now looks possible," says Sunil Goyal, managing director, YourNest Venture.

Softbank Effect
Two opposing but important trends are playing out. On the one hand, we are seeing the emergence of full-stack investors such as global giant Sequoia, who are expanding to have funding continuum across a startup's lifecycle from Pre-Series A to late stage. Simultaneously, there is a rise of niche, specialised investors who are focussed on specific sectors (Omnivore) or specific lifecycle stage.

Fundamentum, focused on growth stage startups, says it offers patient capital with a time horizon up to 10 years. Partly, Sequoia's Pre-Series A bet is a natural progression. Globally, Sequoia is a full-stack investor. After a decade of existence in India, it is now feeling bolder to enter earlystage investment. Also, among the world's top five startup ecosystems, a bigger India play has become critical for most global investors.

"Since Sequoia came slightly later in startup's lifecycle, it missed a few good opportunities. Surge will help solve that problem," says Mark Kahn, managing partner, Omnivore. But he also hopes that Surge will improve things for early-stage entrepreneurs.

"Hopefully, deals will get fairer. Sometimes, especially the not-so-well connected entrepreneurs, have to give away too much for too little."

But there is another factor that is pushing Sequoias of the world to rethink their strategy, in India as well as globally. Talk about Softbank and their disruptive play with the $100 billion Vision Fund. "Think of it like this. Everybody is fighting, competing for the deals. Suddenly, somebody gets a nuclear weapon. How do you deal with that?" says a Bengaluru-based serial entrepreneur and investor, who has dealt with Softbank in a few deals.

A mega $100-billion fund disturbs the ecosystem and skews the power structure is a unanimous view among investors. "Imagine, you have 10% stake in a startup and Softbank comes and takes 40%. Suddenly, your ability to exit 10% is now at Softbank's mercy. Well… god save you if you are in competition. There is no way you can compete with its muscle power," says another NCR-based entrepreneurturned-investor.

Getting into early-stage investing is more complex and logistically difficult but it does help investors like Sequoia have a good deal flow and also gain entry at a lower valuation. At the beginning of another growth curve, India's startup world is brimming with new hope. With funding drought fresh in investors' memory, clear-headed rationale guide their investment strategy. But in this volatile world of startup financing, where boom-and-bust cycles are part of the game, irrational exuberance will return some day.

Billionaire Robert F. Smith pledges to pay off Morehouse College Class of 2019′s student loans - The Washington Post

Posted: 19 May 2019 04:05 PM PDT

It was a hot, sticky morning in Atlanta on Sunday when billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith stood atop an outdoor stage on the campus of Morehouse College, and started delivering a speech that the nearly 400 graduates probably thought would be the usual commencement fare.

Smith described being bused to a high-performing, predominantly-white school across town in Denver, where he grew up. He said he'll never forget climbing onto bus number 13 to Carson Elementary.

"Those five years drastically changed the trajectory of my life," he said. "The teachers at Carson were extraordinary. They embraced me and challenged me to think critically and start to move toward my full potential. I, in turn, came to realize at a young age that the white kids and the black kids, the Jewish kids and the one Asian kid were all pretty much the same."

Smith told the graduates how he launched his lucrative career. He gave them wise words on grit and success. Then he deviated from his prepared remarks.

"My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans!"

The grads and their families were speechless for a moment — before erupting in cheers and disbelief.

"There was amazement in the room, people's mouths dropped open," said Morehouse President David A. Thomas, who learned of the gift the same moment as the students. "Students were looking at each other like, 'What did he say?' Parents hopped up to hug each other."

It's hard to estimate the cost of Smith's gift to the 2019 graduates of the all-male historically black college, but it could be in the range of $10 million, according to estimates. There were 396 graduates in the class, and tuition, room and board and other costs run about $48,000 per year, Thomas said.

The audience exploded in chants of "MVP!" after Smith's announcement. Thomas said that could have either stood for Most Valuable Player, or as Thomas prefers, Most Valuable Philanthropist.

Finance graduate Deionte Jones, 22, grew up in Northeast Washington, in a household with a single mother. He's the first in his family to graduate college, and accrued about $25,000 in student loan debt after the academic scholarships he was able to secure. Jones, who graduated from the District's McKinley Technical High School, said tears of joy filled his eyes when he heard Smith's news.

"It was a sense of a new start on life," Jones said. "It can be challenging to be an African American in this society because we sometimes don't come from strong economic backgrounds. This lifts a huge weight off my family's back."

Jason Allen Grant, 22, said he'd been at the graduation site since before 6 a.m., and was starting to get tired as the speeches wore on. Then he heard Smith say something about eliminating debt.

"It had been a long day," said Grant, who has about $45,000 in student loan debt. "When he said that, Oh my gosh, I perked up. My father almost passed out."

His father, who is a banking examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, was planning to work another 10 years to pay off his son's college. Now, at age 57, he might walk in Monday and retire.

"I'm a third-generation college student and we're still having to pay loans," Grant said.

Class Salutatorian Robert James, 21, said he did not have any student loan debt. Still, the business administration major said he has watched friends struggle financially through the years.

"A few of my friends have gone through difficulties, and knowing they will graduate and not have to struggle anymore is a really emotional moment," James said. "It's really liberating."

Thomas said the gift will open the door for students to follow their chosen career paths without being saddled by debt.

"It will allow them to more quickly go toward what they are passionate about," he said. "When you move toward what your passion is, you can make your greatest contribution to the world."

Smith said he wanted students to understand that part of receiving this gift is that they will also think about taking care of people behind them when they are able.

"Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward," said Smith, who received an honorary doctoral degree Sunday. "I want my class to look at these (alumni), these beautiful Morehouse brothers, and let's make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American Dream."

At the beginning of his speech, he said earning a college degree is one of the "greatest and most impressive" accomplishments in a person's life.

"But success has many parents," he continued. "And as hard as each of you has worked to achieve what you all have achieved today, you've had a lot of help along the way. We are the products of a community, a village, a team."

Smith talked briefly about his family, saying one of his daughters is graduating from New York University this week, another is finishing high school and will attend Barnard in the fall, and his niece is graduating from his alma mater Cornell next week.

He said that before he got in to private equity and made his fortune, he was a chemical engineer who "spent pretty much every waking hour in windowless labs doing the work that helped me become an expert in my field."

That, he said, was the foundation for his success.

"Only after I put in the time to develop this expertise and the discipline of the scientific process that I was able to apply my knowledge beyond the lab," he said. "Greatness is born out of the grind. Embrace the grind."

He encouraged the graduates to enjoy their diplomas, but also impressed upon them the responsibility to do great things with it.

"The degree you earn today is one of the most elite credentials that America has to offer," he said. "But I don't want you to think of it as a document that hangs on a wall and reflects what you've accomplished up till now. No. That degree is a contract — a social contract — that calls on you to devote your talents and energies to honoring those legends on whose shoulders you and I stand."

Smith, who is chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a software and technology investment firm, is a famously private person and declined to be interviewed for this article.

But with this gift, he's raised his profile, and has a lot of people talking.

He gave the grads some parting advice: "Whatever it takes, never, ever forget to call your mother. And I do mean call, don't text."

Actress Angela Bassett also received an honorary degree along with Smith. His announcement comes after he had already pledged $1.5 million to the school in part for student scholarships and new park on campus.

Read more:

On the cusp of 112, a whirlwind tour for World War II's oldest veteran

This mom of three went back to college when her twins insisted she join them

India’s Money Engine Is Broken - Bloomberg

Posted: 18 May 2019 05:00 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]India's Money Engine Is Broken  Bloomberg

A $55 billion funding market is drying up and threatening a chain reaction. The next prime minister must fix it, and quickly.

YouTrip Raises $25 Million for a Digital Wallet: Travel Startup Funding This Week - Skift

Posted: 16 May 2019 11:55 PM PDT

Each week we round up travel startups that have recently received or announced funding. Please email Travel Tech Editor Sean O'Neill at so@skift.com if you have funding news.

This week travel startups announced more than $611 million in funding.

GetYourGuide, a tours and attractions booking agency, raised a $484 million Series E funding round, led by the SoftBank Vision Fund.
Away
, a luggage and travel accessories retailer, raised $100 million, led by Wellington Management.

Here were some other fundings announced this week:

>>YouTrip, a multi-currency travel wallet that links with pre-paid cards run by bank network MasterCard, has raised $25.5 million in pre-Series A funding.

Insignia Ventures Partners participated in the round.

YouTrip, founded in Hong Kong, debuted its product in Singapore in August 2018. The digital wallet allows users to pay for goods overseas in more than 150 currencies with no hidden fees and, it claims, at wholesale exchange rates. Several companies have attempted to make overseas purchases cheaper and easier for travelers, including Airwallex, although Airwallex has since pivoted to a different, non-travel financial technology focus.

YouTrip, which has more than 70 workers, has processed more than 1 million transactions, said co-founder and CEO Caecilia Chu.

YouTrip claimed it has made technical advances that allow it to hedge for sudden shifts in exchange rates and wring inefficiencies out of the system, enabling it to charge lower fees than legacy financial providers. It earns commissions from merchants who are partners with MasterCard's bank network.

>>Anyplace, a marketplace for serviced apartments, extended stay hotels, short-term rentals, and co-living companies, raised a $2.5 million seed round.

UpHonest, FundersClub, and East Ventures, participated.

Anyplace has a roster of about 50 properties in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Miami, Houston, Sacramento, Montreal, and Guadalajara that it offers to people with temporary housing needs, such as workers relocating briefly or students doing study abroad programs.

The San Francisco based company has raised $3 million in total since its founding in 2017. It has 13 full-time employees.

Skift Cheat Sheet:
We define a startup as a company formed to test and build a repeatable and scalable business model. Few companies meet that definition. The rare ones that do often attract venture capital. Their funding rounds come in waves.

Seed capital is money used to start a business, often led by angel investors and friends or family.

Series A financing is typically drawn from venture capitalists. The round aims to help a startup's founders make sure that their product is something that customers truly want to buy.

Series B financing is mainly about venture capitalist firms helping a company grow faster, or scale up. These fundraising rounds can assist with recruiting skilled workers and developing cost-effective marketing.

Series C financing is ordinarily about helping a company expand, such as through acquisitions. In addition to VCs, hedge funds, investment banks, and private equity firms often participate.

Series D, E and beyond These mainly mature businesses and the funding round may help a company prepare to go public or be acquired. A variety of types of private investors might participate.

Check out our previous startup funding roundups, here.

Photo Credit: YouTrip's co-founder and CEO Caecilia Chu. The startup, founded in Hong Kong, helps travelers save money when making purchases in a foreign currency. It has raised $25.5 million in pre-Series A funding. YouTrip

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