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Main article: Fundings Exits

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Acronis raises $147M from Goldman Sachs to expand its cyber security services

13:00 | 18 September

When you hear the name Acronis, chances are you’re thinking about products like its disk cloning tool True Image or maybe its backup services. The company, though, wants you to think about cyber protection and all of its products (and their marketing) are now focused on this direction. To expand on this vision, the company has now raised $147 million from Goldman Sachs at a valuation over $1 billion.

The company says it will use the funding to expand its engineering teams in Singapore, Bulgaria and Arizona, as well as to build new data centers and acquire other companies to fast-track its product development. The company also plans to invest in its business growth, specifically in North America, through its recently launched partner (and former Acronis business) Arconis SCS, which focuses on selling to the U.S. public sector.

“We are excited about Goldman Sachs‘ investment,” said Serguei Beloussov, founder and CEO of Acronis . “In 2018, Acronis achieved 20% business growth, and in 2019 it is on track for over 30% growth with the Acronis Cyber Cloud business growing by over 100%. Recently we announced the Acronis Cyber Platform, enabling third-parties to customize, extend, and integrate our cyber protection solutions to the needs of their customers and partners. The investment round led by Goldman Sachs will help us to fast-track the product development through acquisitions of companies and additional resources, and accelerate the growth.”

While you may not necessarily think of Acronis as a cybersecurity company, it has made quite a few strides in this direction and the Switzerland- and Singapore-based company’s products are currently in use by 80 percent of the Fortune 1000. With this new war chest of $147 million, chances are we’ll see Acronis pick up quite a few smaller companies in the near future as it looks to expand its product portfolio and strengthen its brand.

 


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Cybersecurity company Acronis hits unicorn status after raising $147 million led by Goldman Sachs

13:00 | 18 September

Cyber security solutions provider Acronis announced today that it has raised $147 million in funding led by Goldman Sachs, bringing it to unicorn status. The company did not disclose its valuation, but founder and CEO Serguei Beloussov told TechCrunch that it is between $1 billion and $2 billion.

Founded in Singapore as a data backup and recovery company in 2003 and now headquartered in Switzerland, Acronis currently has more than 1,400 employees in 18 countries. Its cyber protection technology is used by 5 million consumers and 500,000 businesses.

Beloussov says this is the first time the company has raised capital. In 2004, Acronis sold part of its business to an outside firm in a secondary transaction for $11 million. Since then it has been profitable, but it is now aiming for very rapid growth, targeting $1 billion in revenue by 2022. The company wants to take advantage of increasing demand for cybersecurity solutions by expanding its research and development teams and making several acquisitions in the cybersecurity space.

In a statement, Holger Staude, the vice president of Goldman Sachs Growth, said “We are excited to invest in Acronis at this stage of rapid growth. The traditional backup and data protection market is being disrupted by Acronis Cyber Protection, an innovative solution delivered efficiently through a vast channel of service providers.”

Acronis’ products include Cyber Protection to safeguard data, a platform that allows third-party developers to integrate Acronis’ technology into their own applications and Cyber Cloud, which enables enterprise IT to deliver Acronis’ cyber protection services to end customers. It plans to grow its product roster by acquiring companies that protect applications it doesn’t already support. Beloussov says that the company will also add long-term protection for applications and data and integrate more data destinations.

“We are growing because we have completely changed the company strategy from being a data protection company to a cyber protection company, from data protection applications to being a cyber protection platform, and being a data protection provider to building a cyber protection infrastructure,” says Beloussov, adding that demand is being driven by three trends.

The first is the increasing adoption of edge computing and end point computing, which means more devices outside of data centers need to be protected. The second is the increasing sophistication of cyber crime. Companies need to protect themselves against attacks, but also be prepared to perform recovery and forensics when they happen. The third is the cost of protecting large amounts of data, meaning providers who are able to offer the lowest pricing gain an advantage.

Beloussov says Acronis differentiates from other data backup and security companies, like Veeam or Carbonite, by providing a comprehensive solution that addresses what Acronis refers to as the “Five Sectors of Cyber Protection”: safety, accessibility, privacy, authenticity and security of data. By being able to rely on one provider for more of their cybersecurity needs, companies can save money. Acronis also has a flexible business model, allowing customers to combine its products in a way that saves on costs, Beloussov adds.

“We have very aggressive plans and hope to provide cyber protection for as many workloads, customers and people as possible,” Beloussov says.

 


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Normative closes a $2.1M seed to help companies automate carbon reporting

11:00 | 18 September

Normative, a startup that lets companies automate their carbon reporting — and in turn help them decrease their environmental footprint — has picked up $2.1 million in seed funding.

Backing the Stockholm-based company is ByFounders, with participation from Soundcloud co-founder Eric Wahlforss, Luminar Ventures, and Wave Ventures.

The modest injection of capital will be used by Normative to “accelerate growth” and expand to key markets in the EU and the U.S.

Billed as wanting to become the “Quickbook of carbon reporting,” Normative is a SaaS that plugs into various data — both a company’s internal systems and external databases on the environmental impact of good and services. It then automatically calculates carbon usage and emissions for reporting purposes, which is traditionally a time consuming and costly process. Existing clients include Summa Equity, Bonava and Ikano.

“It is widely recognized that corporate activities are by far the largest contributor to climate change,” Normative co-founder and CEO Kristian Rönn tells TechCrunch. “To use my own country as a case study, H&M, Ericsson and Electrolux reportedly have larger CO2 emissions than the entire population of Sweden put together. This highlights the reality that in order to mitigate climate change, large companies need to mitigate their emissions”.

However, Rönn says that the first step to mitigating climate change is for companies to measure their climate impact, but only around 5,000 companies of an estimated 200 million companies are thought to measure sustainability at all. To make matters worse, even when carbon emissions are measured, companies typically only include emissions that are easy to track, such as electricity and car fuel consumption, which is estimated to be less than 10% of total company emissions. Missing in much of the data is supply chain emissions, transport, travel, and the production of goods and services.

Which, of course, is where Normative steps in.

“Normative helps large companies to go from mapping 10% of their CO2 to mapping 100% of their emissions for every product, service and activity, by reading data directly from their existing business systems e.g. SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Visma etc.,” explains Rönn. “Moreover, sustainability reporting has been completely inaccessible for the small enterprise segment (who would afford to pay $50k-200k per year?), but Normative makes the whole process 10x times cheaper”.

product report

The timing looks good, too. With movements like Extinction Rebellion and a regulatory, shareholder and consumer push for companies to improve their environmental footprint, carbon reporting is becoming more mandatory. In Europe this includes an EU directive stipulating that all large public companies with more than 500 employees must “disclose certain information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges”. Rönn says similar laws are underway also in the U.S.

Adds the Normative co-founder: “Sustainability reporting is a pain and a huge cost in time and money. However, more and more stakeholders — everything from investors to consumers as well as the legislative sector — demands transparency about companies’ unpaid externalities. Recently many large investors have signed the UN PRI, saying that they will look at sustainability data and comprehensive reporting when they invest”.

 


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GoCardless launches U.S. debit payments solution and opens San Francisco office

02:00 | 18 September

GoCardless, the London fintech that aims to become the one-stop shop globally for businesses that want to let customers pay via recurring bank payments, has launched a U.S. debit solution.

The company has also opened an office across the pond in San Francisco’s financial district, headed up by Andrew Gilboy, General Manager, North America, who was previously the company’s Chief Revenue Officer.

Specifically, GoCardless’ new U.S. product supports debit payments on the ACH (Automated Clearing House) network. This means that businesses can use the GoCardless platform to offer U.S. consumers the option to pay by recurring bank payments, as an alternative to a credit card, for example. Likewise, companies can use GoCardless for debit payments for B2B transactions, such as relating to SaaS subscriptions, invoices or instalments.

It is the B2B use case where GoCardless thinks there is the biggest opportunity for recurring payments, since, unlike in the U.K., for example, the biggest competitor would be writing cheques. That’s costly and slow by 2019 standards and doesn’t provide anything like the visibility that direct debits and ACH affords.

“By using the ACH debit network on the GoCardless platform, merchants can pull payments directly from their customers’ bank accounts, at a lower cost than credit cards and without the overhead and burden of cash and cheques,” says the U.K.-headquartered company.

GoCardless adds that businesses using the GoCardless ACH debit solution gain increased visibility over payment flow via a “fully automated” collection system. This includes things like due dates, and whether or not a payment was successful or failed and why.

The addition of ACH debit means that GoCardless’ global debit network now covers over 30 countries accessible through a single API and platform.

Meanwhile, the 2011-founded company is no stranger to the West coast of America. In its formative years, the U.K. startup went through Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator where it initially struggled to find product-market fit before successfully pivoting to recurring payments.

If you happen to bump into GoCardless CEO Hiroki Takeuchi, ask him about the time he and his co-founders stayed up all night working the phones in a bid to win the startup’s first U.K. customers, lest they have nothing to show at YC Demo Day.

Now backed by the likes of Google Ventures, Salesforce, and Accel, amongst others, the company has come a long way since then.

 


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Macron announces €5 billion late-stage investment pledge from institutional investors

21:52 | 17 September

French president Emmanuel Macron announced in a speech ahead of France Digitale Day that the French government has convinced institutional investors to invest more heavily in late-stage VC funds and asset managers in one way or another. Institutional investors have committed to investing $5.5 billion (€5 billion).

“We’ll have €2 billion that will go in so-called late-stage funds and €3 billion for funds managed by asset managers specialized in tech,” Macron said.

In addition to that financial pledge, the French government wants to break down any hurdle that prevents French startups from raising $100 million+ funding round in France, becoming a unicorn and eventually going public.

A couple of years ago, Macron gave a speech at Viva Technology in Paris. It was the first time he addressed the startup community after his election. At the time, I wrote: “Macron wanted to send a message to the startup community — he still cares about technology very much, thank you for asking.”

Since then, the French tech ecosystem has thrived, but without any radical policy change to shake things up. But today marks a departure as it’s all about startups, startups and startups.

“I’m talking about the jobs of tomorrow” Emmanuel Macron

It’s clear that Macron believes that startups represent a huge opportunity when it comes to job creation, competitiveness and reshaping the economic landscape in France. In other words, according to him, if you help startups thrive, it’s going to trickle down all the way and have positive impacts on your neighbor who has never used a computer in her life.

Some will applaud such a move, others will say that it divides society.

“When I talk about startup funding, I talk about the ability to help those startups succeed,” Macron said. “I’m talking about the jobs of tomorrow. And I’m saying that for many French citizens who think that those are only financial numbers.”

DSC 2108

(Photo Credit: Aliocha Boi)

Financing hypergrowth

So here’s Macron’s plan. First, French VC funds have been good when it comes to funding startups at the seed, Series A and sometimes Series B level. But many startups then look for international investors for late-stage rounds. For instance, just last week, Akeneo raised $46 million in a round led by Summit Partners, a Boston-based VC firm.

“Numbers show that we’re getting there, and I want to start from there,” Macron said. “The goal when it comes to technology is that we should be one of the countries that matter. Fundraising from French startups keep setting new records — we had $3.1 billion in fundraising in 2017, $4 billion in 2018 and $5.5 billion in 2019 probably.”

Following a report from Philippe Tibi, the French government has been working on a way to foster late-stage funds and investments in public tech companies in France. “We managed to rally big insurance companies, asset managers and long-term public investment funds,” a source close to Macron told me.

Private companies, such as Axa, Generali and Allianz, as well as public investors, such as EDF, Caisse des Dépôts, the pension reserve fund, are all going to invest in late-stage VC. Overall, two-thirds of them are private companies, one-third of them are public institutions, according to the source.

They’ll have three ways to invest and take part in the initiative:

  • If they have their own VC fund, they can create a new late-stage fund.
  • If they are limited partners in various VC funds, they can invest in late-stage funds managed by third-party teams.
  • If they don’t know anything about venture capital, they can invest in a special fund of funds managed by Bpifrance. Bpifrance will then select various late-stage funds and invest that money in those funds.

Eventually, the French government hopes that there will be at least 10 French VC firms with a late-stage fund above €1 billion. By pushing them to redirect some of their investments in VC, the French government thinks that they’ll invest more regularly in venture capital in the future.

When it comes to going public, the French government wants to make European stock exchanges more attractive. They're hoping the new influx of late-stage cash will convince banks and other financial institutions that manage huge positions in tech companies to create local teams in Paris.

Attracting foreign VCs too

French startups still want to become global players and the French government is well aware of that. And foreign VCs shouldn’t be at odds with French VC firms.

That’s why the French government also invited around 40 partners of venture capital firms and limited partners for a couple of days in Paris this week. They’ll meet key people in the ecosystem as well as promising startups.

I covered the first edition of this tour last year. The message was clear: Foreign VC firms should think about investing in French startups. Some are already doing it while others never thought about it. And the thing is nobody wants to be the first one to invest in something new, but nobody wants to be the last one, either.

This year, the French government is inviting a new batch of foreign investors from Khosla Ventures, Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, etc. There are more Asian investors in the mix this time round.

But Macron said that France should control its own destiny when it comes to startup funding. “When I talk about sovereignty, I deeply believe in that concept. It’s a politically-charged word, but I think it’s at the heart of your approach. I believe in technological and economical sovereignty,” Macron said.

DSC 2041

(Photo Credit: Aliocha Boi)

Transforming La French Tech

The French Tech Mission, also known as La French Tech, is a government-backed initiative that promotes French startups around the world and provides a few services to help startups.

And the government is going to overhaul the French Tech Mission drastically. This is as significant as the late-stage funding news. In addition to the small core team, every French ministry and administration will have a French Tech correspondent — Urssaf, INPI, AFNOR, Banque de France, customs, etc. Eventually, there will be 150 people spread out across the entire government working in some way or another for French startups.

“We’re not alone, we get to coordinate with everyone,” French Tech Mission director Kat Borlongan told me. “The overarching announcement is that France is going all in.”

La French Tech is going to become a one-stop shop for tech startups to overcome any administrative hurdle. La French Tech is going to pick 40 (and later 120) top-performing startups and give them the label Next40 and French Tech 120 — a play on words with the CAC40 and SBF 120 stock indexes. Those companies will automatically be able to access this fast-track administrative system — every startup will get a representative for their particular needs. This special treatment proves that startups have become a center piece of France’s economic policies.

“The coolest thing is that they can ask us for anything: ‘I’m about to do bizdev in China’, ‘I’m launching a rocket and I need to test it on a space facility’ or ‘I’m hiring 50 people and I need them and all their families here’,” Borlongan told me.

All companies that are unicorns or have raised more than €100 million are automatically in the Next40. Then, the government is looking at growth rate and annual turnover to find the most promising 40 and 120 startups.

“I’ll leave you with a goal: there should be 25 [French] unicorns by 2025,” Macron said at the end of his speech.

 


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Ironclad raises $50M Series C round for its digital contracting platform

16:00 | 17 September

Ironclad, a startup that makes it easier for legal teams to manage their contracts workflow, today announced that it has raised a $50 million Series C round led by Y Combinator Continuity, with participation from Emergence Captial, as well as existing investors including Access and Sequoia Capital. This round brings Ironclad’s total funding to $83 million, according to Crunchbase.

In addition to the new funding, Ironclad, which was part of Y Combinator’s Summer 2015 class, also today announced the launch of its Workflow Designer. This tool allows teams to easily create their own custom workflows based their individual business processes and timelines. Setting up those workflows looks be a pretty straightforward process. After tagging the existing contract, teams can then set up their processes based on what’s in a specific document. If a contract is over a specific value, for example, they can add a payment clause, or set up an approval process based on that value.

Workflow Designer complements the service’s existing tools for managing the contract lifecycle and collaborating on legal documents.

The company says it will use the new funding to expand into new geographies and expand its product.

“This round and our continued momentum highlights how big the opportunity is to streamline contracting for every type of company in the world,” said Jason Boehmig, co-founder and CEO of Ironclad. “Our newest investors bring a depth of later stage company experience and a vision for what Cloud companies will look like in the future. Our new funding will fuel continued product innovations, like our new Workflow Designer, which is accelerating contracting time by 85% for our customers.”

 

 

 


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GitLab hauls in $268M Series E on 2.768B valuation

16:00 | 17 September

GitLab is a company that doesn’t pull any punches or try to be coy. It actually has had a page on its website for sometime stating it intends to go public on November 18, 2020. You don’t see that level of transparency from late-stage startups all that often. Today, the company announced a huge $268 million Series E on a tidy $2.768 billion valuation.

Investors included Adage Capital Management, L.P, Alkeon Capital, Altimeter Capital, Blackrock, Inc., Capital Group, Coatue Management, D1 Capital Partners, Franklin Templeton, Light Street Capital, Tiger Management Corp and Two Sigma Investments LP.

The company seems to be primed and ready for that eventual IPO. Last year, GitLab co-founder and CEO Sid Sijbrandij says that his CFO Paul Machle told him he wanted to begin planning to go public, and he would need two years in advance to prepare the company. As Sijbrandij tells it, he told him to pick a date.

“He said, I’ll pick the 16th of November because that’s the birthday of my twins. It’s also the last week before Thanksgiving, and after Thanksgiving, the stock market is less active, so that’s a good time to go out,” Sijbrandij told TechCrunch.

He said that he considered it a done deal and put the date on the GitLab Strategy page, a page that outlines the company’s plans for everything it intends to do. It turned out that he was a bit too quick on the draw. Machle had checked the date in the interim and realized that it was a Monday, which is not traditionally a great day to go out, so they decided to do it two days later. Now the target date is officially November 18, 2020.

Screenshot 2019 09 17 08.35.33 2

GitLab has the date it’s planning to go public listed on its Strategy page.

As for that $268 million, it gives the company considerable runway ahead of that planned event, but Sijbrandij says it also gives him flexibility in how to take the company public. “One other consideration is that there are two options to go public. You can do an IPO or direct listing. We wanted to preserve the optionality of doing a direct listing next year. So if we do a direct listing, we’re not going to raise any additional money, and we wanted to make sure that this is this is enough in that case,” he explained.

Sijbrandij says that the company made a deliberate decision to be transparent early on. Being based on an open source project, it’s sometimes tricky to make that transition to commercial company, and sometimes that has a negative impact on the community and the number of contributions. Transparency was a way to combat that, and it seems to be working.

He reports that the community contributes 200 improvements to the GitLab open source product every month, and that’s double the amount of just a year ago, so the community is still highly active in spite of the parent company’s commercial success.

It did not escape his notice that Microsoft acquired GitHub last year for $7.5 billion. It’s worth noting that GitLab is a similar kind of kind of company that helps developers manage and distribute code in a DevOps environment. He claims in spite of that eye-popping number, his goal is to remain an independent company and take this through to the next phase.

“Our ambition is to stay an independent company. And that’s why we put out the ambition early to become a listed company. That’s not totally in our control as the majority of the company is owned by investors, but as long as we’re more positive about the future than the people around us, I think we can we have a shot at not getting acquired,” he said.

The company was founded in 2014 and was a member of Y Combinator in 2015. It has been on a steady growth trajectory ever since. hauling in over $436 million. The last round before today’s announcement was a $100 million Series D last September.

 


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Apple awards another $250 million to precision glass maker Corning

15:28 | 17 September

As part of Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund, Apple is investing $250 million in Corning, a supplier that has been working on glass for the iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad. Apple had previously invested $200 million in May 2017.

The company says that the new investment will support research and development for precision glass processes. While Corning has supplied glass to Apple for every generation of iPhone and iPad, Apple says that glass in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro is even tougher than before. Apple also uses glass for the back of the device in order to enable wireless charging.

As Apple mentioned before, the company has spent $60 billion with 9,000 American suppliers in 2018. It represents 450,000 jobs.

Today’s investment is part of a commitment to spend billions of dollars in U.S.-based companies with its Advanced Manufacturing Fund in order to build new facilities and help manufacturers. Apple originally planned to invest $1 billion, but it has deployed the entire initial fund.

Apple has now spent $1 billion out of its $5 billion subsequent fund. For instance, Apple has invested $390 million in Finsar, the maker of the TrueDepth camera and $10 million in Elysis, an aluminum maker.

Apple Corning Harrodsburg Plant iPhone Apple Watch Glass 091719

 


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Data storage company Cloudian launches a new edge analytics subsidiary called Edgematrix

15:00 | 17 September

Cloudian, a company that enables businesses to store and manage massive amounts of data, announced today the launch of Edgematrix, a new unit focused on edge analytics for large data sets. Edgematrix, a majority-owned subsidiary of Cloudian, will first be available in Japan, where both companies are based. It has raised a $9 million Series A from strategic investors NTT Docomo, Shimizu Corporation and Japan Post Capital, as well as Cloudian co-founder and CEO Michael Tso and board director Jonathan Epstein. The funding will be used on product development, deployment and sales and marketing.

Cloudian itself has raised a total of $174 million, including a $94 million Series E round announced last year. Its products include the Hyperstore platform, which allows businesses to store hundreds of petrabytes of data on premise, and software for data analytics and machine learning. Edgematrix uses Hyperstore for storing large-scale data sets and its own AI software and hardware for data processing at the “edge” of networks, closer to where data is collected from IoT devices like sensors.

The company’s solutions were created for situations where real-time analytics is necessary. For example, it can be used to detect the make, model and year of cars on highways so targeted billboard ads can be displayed to their drivers.

Tso told TechCrunch in an email that Edgematrix was launched after Cloudian co-founder and president Hiroshi Ohta and a team spent two years working on technology to help Cloudian customers process and analyze their data more efficiently.

“With more and more data being created at the edge, including IoT data, there’s a growing need for being able to apply real-time data analysis and decision-making at or near the edge, minimizing the transmission costs and latencies involved in moving the data elsewhere,” said Tso. “Based on the initial success of a small Cloudian team developing AI software solutions and attracting a number of top-tier customers, we decided that the best way to build on this success was establishing a subsidiary with strategic investors.”

Edgematrix is launching in Japan first because spending on AI systems there is expected to grow faster than in any other market, at a compound annual growth rate of 45.3% from 2018 to 2023, according to IDC.

“Japan has been ahead of the curve as an early adopter of AI technology, with both the governmetn and private sector viewing it as essential to boosting productivity,” said Tso. “Edgematrix will focus on the Japanese market for at least the next year, and assuming that all goes well, it would then expand to North America and Europe.”

 


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FairMoney raises $11 million for its challenger bank for emerging markets

14:25 | 17 September

Fintech startup FairMoney is building a challenger bank in Nigeria. The company first started offering microcredit and now plans to expand to current accounts and savings. FairMoney just raised an $11 million Series A round (€10 million) led by Flourish, DST Global partners and existing partners Newfund, Speedinvest and Le Studio VC.

FairMoney lets you get a loan from its mobile app. After answering a few questions and sharing financial information, the startup analyzes this data set as well as your geolocation, other apps installed on your phone and other factors to give you an answer in a few minutes.

On average, people borrow the equivalent of $33. Eventually, if you always repay on time, you are able to borrow as much as $415. Interests vary depending on repayment periods and other factors, but the maximum annual percentage rate is 13%.

When you apply for a loan, FairMoney then uses traditional bank transfers to credit the money — bank transfers occur within a few minutes in Nigeria. You can then repay using cash with partner bank tellers, bank transfers or SMS.

FairMoney has a lending license in Nigeria to operate. The company will partner with microfinance institution to launch current accounts, savings and facilitate payments. Eventually, FairMoney hopes that it’ll get its own microfinance license from the central bank.

Like many challenger banks, FairMoney wants to become your financial hub for all your banking needs — one app to rule them all. That’s why the ability to hold money in your FairMoney wallet will be key. For users without smartphones, the startup is also working on an SMS interface to transfer money.

 


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