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Sittercity Founder Genevieve Thiers at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

07/08/2014

Genevieve Thiers at Chicago Founders' Stories with Pat Ryan at 1871

In June we were proud to host Genevieve Thiers, founder of Sittercity, at our taping of Founders’ Stories @1871.

A trained singer and actress, Genevieve calls herself the “first opera-singing entrepreneur.” She started Sittercity while studying at Boston College after watching a very pregnant mom try to post her own flyers around town. Genevieve had no prior business experience, and no knowledge of web design or programming.

What she did have was an uncanny ability to sell herself, a thriving network of moms from years of babysitting, and an unstoppable determination to make her idea work.

Today, Sittercity is America’s first and largest network to connect parents with caregivers online – from childcare and pet care to home care and tutoring. It brings millions of users together in a two-sided marketplace that operates in the USA, Canada, and the UK.

Genevieve Thiers at Chicago Founders' Stories at 1871

Genevieve’s story is an inspiring one, especially for founders with non-traditional backgrounds. In her case, success came with healthy doses of persistence and creativity. When building her site, Genevieve achieved critical mass by printing nearly 20,000 posters and displaying them around college campuses.

She even chased down mothers in supermarkets (“I just pitched them in the frozen food aisle”).

When it came time to introduce Sittercity to the world, Genevieve was relentless. In our interview, I call her the “ninja” of startup PR. By intricately crafting and selling the perfect pitch to busy producers, Genevieve scored segments on Ellen, the Today Show, and the CBS Morning Show. She even spent time as the babysitting expert on iVillage.

In the full video below, Genevieve gives us all a crash course on how we can be better promoters of our businesses. She also talks about the details of finding the right price point in a bootstrapped business (they only sought seed funding after five years of operation), and the delicate but potentially rewarding practice of exiting the company.

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Genevieve, and look forward to the taping of our next Chicago Founders’ Stories@1871 with WyzAnt co-founder Andrew Geant on July 16th! Click here to sign up for the event.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX Digital as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX Digital was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

“Opening Acts” featuring TempoIQ co-founder Justin DeLay (VIDEO)

06/27/2014

Pat Ryan and Justin DeLay of TempoIQ (formerly known as TempoDB) at Chicago Founders' Stories @ 1871

We had a great time chatting with Justin as our “Opening Acts” guest to introduce his new company, TempoIQ. On select evenings, we interview exciting new startups during Opening Acts while people are grabbing beer and pizza before Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871.

TempoIQ is undergoing a transition. It first started as TempoDB, where it worked in data storage. Now it’s moving from a basic storage model to higher value aspects of sensor data, which has ushered in a new name with its revisioned outlook. TempoIQ is set to launch in just a couple of weeks.

So what does TempoIQ do that makes it so interesting that both Chicago Ventures and I decided to invest?

It has to do with “the Internet of things” — or, rather, the transformation of a business that relies on physical products to a business that focuses on products as services. With TempoIQ, customers can analyze sensor data in real time. These analytics help customers evaluate how to increase revenue or opt for more efficient operations in their own companies.

Justin DeLay of TempoIQ (formerly known as TempoDB) at Chicago Founders' Stories @ 1871

“We humbly think we can help our customers transform their business and their markets and ultimately get to a more efficient and accountable future,” Justin told us.

Check out the short video for more about how TempoIQ is helping revision the next wave of technological transformation.

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Justin, and look forward to the taping of our next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with WyzAnt co-founder Andrew Geant!  Click here to sign up for the event.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX Digital as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX Digital was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

FeedBurner Co-Founder Eric Lunt at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

06/11/2014

Eric Lunt at Chicago Founders' Stories at 1871 with Pat Ryan Jr. of Incisent Labs

In May we were proud to host Eric Lunt, co-founder of FeedBurner and CTO of BrightTag, at our taping of Founders’ Stories @1871.

Eric has enjoyed a fascinating career. He walked us through the various iterations of his determined web consulting organization, Burning Door Network Media, citing past Founders’ guest Jason Fried as one of his inspirations when creating web products.

In 2003, he and co-founder Dick Costolo (now the CEO of Twitter) created FeedBurner. The feed management platform allowed RSS publishers to syndicate content, while simultaneously receiving analytics about what they produced.

Eric Lunt at Chicago Founders' Stories at 1871 with Pat Ryan Jr. of Incisent Labs

Similar to Jason’s own belief in solving your own challenges, Eric and Dick developed FeedBurner after experiencing their own pain points with RSS. Then, in 2004, Google, which owned popular blogging platform Blogger, adopted the Atom syndication format. Atom’s incompatibility with RSS feeds was a home run for FeedBurner — and the rest is history.

Today, Eric serves as CTO of BrightTag, a cloud-based marketing technology platform that provides management solutions for web and mobile apps. Many of his former colleagues have migrated into larger companies, but Eric considers himself “wired to be more of a startup guy.” He loves the tightly knit community of a startup. At the same time, he has volumes of experience in scalability and growth. He advises new startups to proceed cautiously, and not allow any short-term decisions to disable your long term goal.

Eric Lunt at Chicago Founders' Stories at 1871 with Pat Ryan Jr. of Incisent Labs

With that said, he’s not interested in small potatoes. “Design for the wildest success you can imagine,” he told us. “We’re not in this to make small improvements in the world. We’re here to make a splash.”

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Eric, and look forward to the taping of our next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with SitterCity Founder Genevieve Thiers on June 18!  Click here to sign up for the event.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX Digital as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX Digital was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.comand can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

“Opening Acts” Featuring Zipments Founder Garrick Pohl (VIDEO)

06/05/2014

Zipments CEO Garrick Pohl with Pat Ryan Jr. of Incisent Labs at Chicago Founders' Stories

We had a great time chatting with Garrick Pohl as our “Opening Acts” guest to introduce his new company, Zipments. On select evenings, we interview exciting new startups during Opening Acts while people are grabbing beer and pizza before Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871.

Zipments is a software and service platform that connects businesses and consumers with local couriers to do fast, affordable local deliveries. These couriers are both lifestyle and professional messengers who know their city from the inside out. They can carry up to 500 lbs of inventory on their bicycles at once and tighten up the last phase of the delivery chain, bringing e-commerce inventory right to a customer’s front door. In full disclosure, I’m an investor in Zipments, both personally and through Chicago Ventures.

Zipments CEO Garrick Pohl Chicago Founders' Stories at 1871

Zipments is changing the way we do business in two fundamental ways:

First, they’re focused on the long-term vision of providing fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly delivery options for retailers and consumers alike. The carbon footprint of our current delivery mechanisms only increases as we make more online purchases. Zipments is looking for a way to remove a large portion of this environmental hurdle in what could be considered one of the slowest segments of the shipping process — local delivery.

Secondly, Zipments aims to deliver your purchase not only when you want, but also where you want it. The way Garrick sees it, consumers will one day be able to receive packages in a Starbucks, or while on vacation — in the exact locations that they need them most.

Check out the short video for more about Zipments’ growth in Chicago and what they’re planning to do next:

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Garrick, and look forward to the taping of our next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with SitterCity Founder Genevieve Thiers on June 18! Click here to sign up for the event.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX Digital as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX Digital was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

“Opening Acts” featuring Blitsy Co-Founder Ross Petersen (VIDEO)

05/27/2014

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We had a great time having Ross Peterson join us as the “Opening Act” guest to introduce his new company, Blitsy. On select evenings, we introduce exciting new startups during Opening Acts while people are grabbing beer and pizza before Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871.

Blitsy is an online retail store for arts and crafts supplies that Ross started with two siblings. They provide highly curated craft materials through limited time sales events, targeting people who enjoy shopping online. In full disclosure, I’m an investor in Blitsy, both personally and through Chicago Ventures.

There are two things I really love about Blitsy:

First, they’re representative of an important new wave of curated commerce. No one brings Internet-style commoditization better than Amazon, but the Amazon experience is only optimal when you have a clear understanding of exactly what you want to buy.

In the arts and crafts industry, purchasing can be a much more considered process. Blitsy’s curation mechanism helps crafters choose what activity they should try next. While I’m not a crafter myself, my daughters and wife take on an occasional project and I see how excited they are when they finish each one.

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Secondly, Ross and his siblings have great founder market fit. Their first business was also in the arts and crafts space called ScrapHD and they successfully sold it. It gave them great insight, which has really led to their successful traction to date. And if that’s not enough, Trunk Club founder Brian Spaly, a Chicago Founders’ Stories guest, was so excited about what they’re doing that he decided to join Blitsy’s board.

The company first bootstrapped its way to $1m in revenue in its first year before being funded. This year, it expects to bring in $4-5m total.

Check out the short video for more about how Blitsy is making an impact in the online arts and crafts space:

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Ross, and look forward to the taping of our next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with SitterCity Founder Genevieve Thiers on June 18th.  Click here to sign up for the event.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX Digital as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX Digital was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

 

OkCupid and SparkNotes Co-Founder Sam Yagan at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

05/22/2014

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This month’s taping of Founders’ Stories saw our biggest registration numbers to date. Not only did we run out of tickets, but we had nearly 200 people on our waiting list. It goes to show just how much people are interested in hearing Sam Yagan share his experiences founding SparkNotes, eDonkey, OkCupid, Tech Stars Chicago, and in his current role as CEO of Match. If you weren’t one of the lucky few who were able to witness the taping in person, make sure you check out the full video below.

Sam’s stories echoed a consistent theme: “luck and failure. Positioning yourself for luck, executing on it, and recovering from failure.” His stories shared elements of both: the childhood teacher who never pegged him as a “dating expert”, the culminating SparkNotes buyout that he recalled as the biggest mistake of his career, and the moment he decided he wanted to help fuel Chicago’s startup ecosystem.

Two topics that seemed to permeate our discussion were risk, even the naive pursuit of it, and volume. The companies he founded all required elements of both in order to thrive, and in creating Tech Stars Chicago, then known as Excelerate Labs, Sam recognized their utility.

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“I think you need two things for a [startup] ecosystem to take hold,” he said to us. “You need a handful of crazy outlier successes, and you need a mass of quantity…volume for the mill, and outliers to find the successful entrepreneurs.”

Check out Sam sharing his many great stories including the highs and lows of a great entrepreneurial career in the video below:

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Sam, and look forward to the taping of our next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with SitterCity Founder Genevieve Theirs on June 18th. Click here to sign up for the event now. We’re expecting another great crowd.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX Digital as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX Digital was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.comand can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

Video Of The Week: Simon Singh on Confirmation Bias

05/02/2014

This week I’d like to share a video that I came across through Fred Wilson on his blog, AVC. Simon Singh shares some powerful thoughts on confirmation bias in six minutes.

“If you give your brain bad data, but you give it a big enough bias and a big enough expectation, your brain fills in the gaps and you end up hearing something that really isn’t there.”

Did you hear it?

Have a look below or read AVC’s full article here.

Cleversafe Founder Chris Gladwin at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

04/18/2014

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Cleversafe founder Chris Gladwin summed up why he started the company with this profound vision: “to store the world’s data”. And he’s not afraid of the size of its proposition.

As the world’s data use has grown, so has Chris’ proposition. Check out some of the highlights Chris shared during our February Chicago Founders’ Stories event, or view the full video interview below.

“[MIT] Changed Me”

Have you ever met a twelve-year-old who optimized their paper route based on density? You have now. Even at a young age, Chris’ mind focused on big things (check out the discussion at 08:30). He’ll tell you himself that when he attended MIT as an undergrad, he wasn’t aware of the value that his schooling would bring him. “I really didn’t realize until after I’d left, in some ways, how transformational that was for me. It changed me into a person that really had perspective, and marketable skills, and could do these kinds of things like build a system to store all the data in the world.”

“You don’t just wake up one day and know how to do that. A lot of people had to teach you a lot of things to get to that point.”

An Industry in Transformation

In the beginning years of Cleversafe, the team knew that wireless network computers were the way of the future. The company was selling more wireless network computers than its contemporaries were selling wired. “The fundamental proposition was the industry was going through a change,” Chris said (see the segment at 18:50).

But one thing that’s true is that you can never push your market. “Do not be too far ahead of the product. You can have a product and a technology that’s just light years ahead of everyone and just better, but if the market is not ready to take it and adopt it, it doesn’t matter. And you can’t really push the market that much.”

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There’s Always Another 90%

Cleversafe’s early days were filled with two things: focus groups, and Chris’ own coding to show that the concept could actually work. But even after passing those points, there were miles of ups and downs on the road to Cleversafe’s success. “You can get a bunch of really smart people, and they’ll scope out the problem and make a project plan…and what happens is, you get 90% of the way done, according to your plan, and at that point of the time, you see the second 90%…and that’s a challenge.” It’s being able to push through this “second 90%”, and even the “third 90%” that arises after that, that makes the difference for a young company.

This year, Cleversafe celebrates its first decade of operation. And if you didn’t guess it already, Chris’ vision for Cleversafe 10 years from now is extensive. “What’s going to happen in the next ten years is the amount of data that the world’s going to create and store is 100 times what it is today,” he says. “The systems and the methods that that industry has used up until now are really going to fall apart, and so Cleversafe and potentially companies who do what we’ve done are going to become leaders (43:30).”

Check out these highlights and other words from Chris in the full video below:

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Chris, and look forward to the next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with OkCupid founder Sam Yagan onApril 28th! Click here to sign up for the event now. We’re expecting a sold-out crowd so reserve your ticket early.

37 Signals/Basecamp Founder Jason Fried at Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 (VIDEO)

04/08/2014

jason fried

Chicago Founders’ Stories with Jason Fried was one of the most riveting sessions yet.  Here are a few highlights (full video below):

How He Got Started

Jason first become interested in design at a young age after looking at the glossy annual reports shipped to his father, a stock trader. Interestingly the first payment he ever received for software he created came by surprise in an envelope from Germany and kicked off a career of building great businesses his own way.

“You don’t have to give stuff away for free all the time”

Jason’s first epiphany came at a young age when he created a version of FileMaker Pro called AudioFile that he offered up for optional payment — and shortly afterward received a $20 bill sent to him from a customer in Germany.

“That was the first time I realized I could make something — and I could charge for it,” he said. “It taught me a very valuable lesson. You don’t have to give stuff away for free all the time, people are happy to pay for things they enjoy and they like.”

Working and creating for yourself

After taking on a graphic design job after college, Jason “realized pretty quickly I wasn’t built to…work for somebody else.” Thus began his dive into the world of entrepreneurship.

As any founder knows, your final product won’t survive if it doesn’t satisfy your market. But creating for yourself and creating for your market are not mutually exclusive. “If you’re building something for somebody else, you’re always guessing — you’re trying to read their mind, things get lost in translation, you have to feel through someone else and that’s very hard to do.”

But Basecamp was different. “Basecamp was for me,” he said. That way, “you just know when it’s good enough.”

What your parents told you about sharing

If two things really inspire Jason, they’re visual and operational simplicity, and open and honest sharing.

“I’ve always been inspired by chefs. Great chefs have cookbooks. And in the cookbooks are their recipes. They’re not afraid of someone taking their cookbook and opening a restaurant next to them and putting them out of business. What they’re afraid of is not being known, and not being recognized, and not being appreciated. So by writing cookbooks they can get their food out there, and, in fact, more people pay attention to their restaurant. Chefs share their recipes. Not all of them, but many of them. And I always think about how we can write our own cookbook.”

Check out the full video below for these conversations, plus Jason’s thoughts on finding a great partner, where the name “37Signals” came from, and two things he learned from Jeff Bezos:


We hope you enjoyed this interview with Jason, and look forward to the next Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871 with OkCupid founder Sam Yagan on April 28th! Click here to sign up for the event now. We’re expecting a sold out crowd so reserve your ticket early.

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

“Opening Acts” featuring Rocketmiles Founder Jay Hoffman (VIDEO)

03/31/2014

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Travelers, listen up: Jay Hoffman has a way to get you on vacation faster. We had a great time chatting with Jay as our “Opening Acts” guest to introduce his new company, Rocketmiles. On select evenings, we interview exciting new startups during Opening Acts while people are grabbing beer and pizza before Chicago Founders’ Stories @1871.

Rocketmiles is an online platform that helps people earn more miles when they stay in select hotels. In a sort of “MileagePlus meets Groupon” combination, business travelers can leverage their hours on the road and stock up on miles with their hotel choice.

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According to Jay, the typical Rocketmiles user is a business traveler who logs between 6 and 12 trips per year. Those customers can earn an additional 60,000-70,000 miles if they’re staying at a hotel once a month. “That’s enough for two people to make it down to Florida,” Jay says.

On the corporate side, Rocketmiles purchases hotel rooms at a discounted rate and returns a portion of that incentive to the consumer. “The hotels are able to generate demand without publicly discounting their price.”

Check out the short video below to learn a little more about Rocketmiles’s quick growth since its launch in April 2013:

Pat Ryan is a business and social entrepreneur who has created several high growth software companies as well as several innovative urban education initiatives as a social entrepreneur. Pat’s first company, FirstLook, was recognized by Inc Magazine in 2008 as the #4 fastest growing software company in the U.S. in its Inc 500 rankings – the highest ranking ever for a Chicago based software company. Pat is also the Founder of MAX as well as the Founder and CEO of INCISENT Labs, a platform and incubator for innovative, industry-changing technologies that spin out into high growth companies. MAX was created in INCISENT Labs where Pat and a team are currently incubating their latest start-up. Pat blogs at Coolerbythelake.com and can be reached on Twitter @PatRyanChicago.

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Chicago Founders' Stories

Pat hosts Chicago Founders' Stories, a monthly live discussion with successful founders on their journey and lessons learned.


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Braintree Founder Bryan Johnson
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Belly Founder Logan LaHive
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Context Media Founders Rishi and Shadhra
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Siri Founder Dag Kittlaus
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Starter League Founders Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee
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Centro Founder Shawn Riegsecker
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SAVO Founder John Aiello
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Trunk Club Founder Brian Spaly
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