In Episode 87 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on December 15, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Carla Din, director of East Bay Green Corridor, a nine-city partnership devoted to assisting green businesses, and Dr. Monika Weiss and Wolfgang Weiss,  CSO and CEO/CTO, respectively, of ergSol, an Oakland solar thermal company.

Photo of Carla Din, director of East Bay Green Corridor

Carla Din, director of East Bay Green Corridor, in studio

East Bay Green Corridor was founded in 2007 to advance a green energy economy in nine East Bay Area cities, including Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.  The organization develops policy and also markets and promotes clean energy start-ups with the goal of keeping those businesses in the East Bay. Unlike traditional accelerators, which focus on start-ups’ business plans and capital, East Bay Green Corridor introduces companies to its vast network of local supply chains, customers and resources, including several academic institutions and programs (such as the Cleantech to Market program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business).  Already, it has worked with Alphabet Energy, which captures waste heat, Imprint Energy, which pioneers zinc-based rechargeable batteries, and Lucid Design Group, a cleantech software company.

photo of Dr. Monika Weiss and Wolfgang Weiss of ergSol

Dr. Monika Weiss and Wolfgang Weiss of ergSol

Din met Monika Weiss at a conference and since then East Bay Green Corridor has been facilitating relationships for ergSol, a developer and manufacturer of high temperature solar thermal systems based in Oakland.  Since the Weisses moved to the US 12 years ago, they’ve seen an increase in activity and interest in renewable energy.  With ergSol, a solar thermal system that can also be used for cooling as well as heating, they hope to bring US solar use up to the level of Europe.

How has relationship-building assisted your business?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Din and the ergSol executives: Episode 87 of The Wendel Forum (27:44 mins; mp3)

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

East Bay Green Corridor Website: http://www.ebgreencorridor.org

ergSol Website: http://ergsol.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 85 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on November 17, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Kelly Boyd, founder of My True Nature, a line of natural body care products for children.

Kelly Boyd, founder of My True Nature

After Boyd’s first child was born, a baby nurse introduced her to natural products for kids.  Always interested in cooking and in organic foods, Boyd, a corporate securities lawyer and tech company executive, began developing her own formulations for personal care products, including bubble bath, shampoo, lotion and body wash.  She gave the products to friends, who tested them for her.  One of the things she learned in the process was how sensitive people are to scents.  In the process of finding the right formulation with the right scent, Boyd made more than 300 batches of her products.

After her second child was born, Boyd quit her job, and she and her husband financed and launched My True Nature.  Using all natural, largely organic ingredients, My True Nature products are manufactured locally in the Bay Area.  She describes them as “mainstream green,” meaning they look and feel like comparable mainstream products.  For example, the shampoo and body wash suds up and the bubble bath does, in fact, bubble.

Initially, Boyd sold the products to friends, who helped spread the word by putting the products in gift bags at birthday parties.  Later, she began selling online, including offering group deals through sites like Groupon.  Some of her products are now in “brick & mortar” stores, but the majority of her sales come from the big internet retailers, such as Amazon.com.

Boyd says that it was important that she not have investors in her company.  With her experience in the legal and tech company worlds, she knew investors would demand, and rightfully so, that she spend her entire time and energy on building the company.  And she knew that she would feel responsible to do so.  Instead, without having investors to answer to, she can devote the time and energy she wants to her children.  She recognizes that her company will grow more slowly, but the real payoff is that she can be the kind of mom she wants to be.

Boyd believes the rigidity of corporate jobs is contributing to the emergence of a generation of mothers who are starting companies.  In fact, Boyd believes there’s no better time than now for a woman to start a business.  There are funding sources particularly looking for women entrepreneurs, especially women launching green businesses.

Do you know green mompreneurs like Boyd?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Boyd: Episode 85 of The Wendel Forum (27:46 mins; mp3)

My True Nature Website: http://www.mytruenature.net

960 KNEW AM Radio Website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 82 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on October 27, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Caroline Duell, the founder of Elemental Herbs, an organic body care company based on the central coast of California.

With a background in herbal medicine, Duell is a massage therapist and outdoor enthusiast who began making skin care products for her friends and family.  Later, after success selling the products at farmers markets, she launched Elemental Herbs, a California certified B Corporation.  That certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee – it measures a company’s commitment to operating a business responsibly and sustainably.

Caroline Duell, Founder of Elemental Herbs

Duell also runs a farm, from which she harvests some ingredients for her natural healing products such as All Good Goop, a moisturizer and salve.  While Duell also gets ingredients from outside suppliers, she only partners with similar-minded businesses.  In particular, she examines other companies’ employee benefits, utilities use, social benefits and transparency.  Though not certified organic, all Elemental Herbs holistic products and remedies contain organic ingredients and are free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

The Elemental Herbs farm also offers a CSA (community supported agriculture) and serves as an education center, including offering courses about sustainable living.  As a member of 1% for the Planet, one percent of all Elemental Herbs revenues is dedicated to fighting for social and environmental justice around the world.  Organizations it supports include a local marine mammal protection organization, a local trail organization, Save Our Snow, which provides information about how global warming affects the planet’s snowfall, and cityWILD, which brings inner city kids into the mountains.

Do you care about the company policies, as well as the ingredients, of your skin care products?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Duell: Episode 82 of The Wendel Forum (26:47 mins; mp3)

Elemental Herbs website: http://elementalherbs.com

B Corporation website: http://www.bcorporation.net/

1% for the Planet website: http://onepercentfortheplanet.org/en/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 79 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on October 6, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Peggy Cross, founder of Bay Area-based EcoTensil, which produces eating utensils made from sustainable materials.

Peggy Cross of EcoTensil

With a background in packaging and marketing, Cross developed a whole line of certified compostable eating utensils made from “silky smooth” paperboard, similar in mouth feel to a soda cup.  The taster spoons are a particularly better alternative to plastic tasters, which are made from petroleum in China and are used for two seconds at ice cream shops, grocery stores or at trade shows, yet will exist on the planet for thousands of years.  In contrast, EcoTensil’s taster spoon offers efficiencies in storage, shipping and waste management, and companies using it can offer customers something obviously greener.  Interestingly, EcoTensil’s first clients, which still represent 25 percent of her business, were prisons because users can’t hurt themselves or others with a paper spoon.

In launching EcoTensil, Cross learned that everything in the start-up world takes longer than you think and costs twice as much money.  As a result, she recommends not launching a start-up without an abundance of tenacity and perseverance.  She also says that entrepreneurs should not just want to make money, but they must also have a passion for what they do.

Wouldn’t you like to ditch the splintery wooden taster spoon?
Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Peggy Cross: Episode 79 of The Wendel Forum (27:49 mins; mp3)

EcoTensil Website: http://ecotensil.com/about.html

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rylons

In Episode 73 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on August 18, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Lindsay Riddell who covers Cleantech, Sustainability, Startups and Venture Capital for the San Francisco Business Times.  They discuss a number of trends in the cleantech environment.
 
Lindsay Riddell photo

Lindsay Riddell covers Cleantech, Sustainability, Startups and Venture Capital for the San Francisco Business Times

Biofules and Biochemicals

Bill and Riddell start of the conversation with a discussion of what’s happening in the Bay Area biofuel and biochemical industries.  Companies in this space are looking for a variety of approaches to break down or convert renewable materials into fuels, soaps, chemicals, oils, food products, fragrances and others that typically rely on petroleum-based production.
 
With the economic downturn, capital became increasingly scarce and companies had to scale back or retool their plans for expansion.  Now, as these companies mature, they are undertaking new approaches for attracting venture investment.  The more established companies have created a roadmap for some of the emerging companies. 
 
Organizations such as the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), which is a joint venture between the University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz, are helping to accelerate innovation and bring discoveries to market more quickly.  Riddell discusses some of the strategies these companies are taking to survive the short term and thrive in the long term.
 

Investment trends

 
Not surprising, with the economic downfall of the past few years, Riddell acknowledges that investor enthusiasm has waned.  She observes that there is still money available for good ideas, but the investment community has been behaving more conservatively. Meanwhile, there are still resources in places like Greenstart, a startup accelerator that works with companies focused on solutions that combine cleantech and IT.  Software applications that address issues such as energy efficiency are still finding some success in the marketplace.

Carbon Data

Riddell recently wrote an article on Facebook’s voluntary reporting on their carbon footprint.  She and Bill discuss the pros and cons of releasing this data and the market pressures at play for companies to become more transparent in their operations.  This move is likened to Wal-Mart coming out several years ago with a commitment to dedicate shelf space to products that have higher levels of sustainability.  It’s clear that these big companies can have incredible influence in the marketplace and change expectations for both consumers and investors.

Electric Vehicles

The Bay Area is home to a thriving network related to the electric vehicle industry – car manufacturers, battery manufacturers, chargers and application developers for locating electric car chargers, crowd-sourcing for charging – the list goes on.  Some of the more interesting new developments include apps for available parking spaces with charging stations, car sharing apps, and there’s even an app that essentially takes the act of hitchhiking to the internet. Most of these are mobile technologies that employ various aspects of GPS tracking.
 
What do you consider to be the most important clean tech trends in the Bay Area?  What’s just over the horizon?
 
Post Links:
 
Listen to the interview with Lindsay Riddell: Episode 73 of The Wendel Forum (27:47 mins; mp3)
 
San Francisco Business Times website: www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco
 
Follow Lindsay Riddell on Twitter: @LRiddellSF
 
California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences:  http://qb3.org/
 
 
960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com
 
Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 61 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May 5, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Rachel Barge, a partner at Greenstart, which is a San Francisco start-up accelerator.  Greenstart helps new companies that use software to solve clean tech problems. 

Rachel Barge of Greenstart

Rachel Barge of Greenstart

Twice a year, Greenstart, which launched last year, sifts through hundreds of applications and offers a handful of clean-tech start ups seed-stage venture capital as well as training in the company’s 12-week boot camp. Specifically, Greenstart invests $15,000 in exchange for a 15% equity stake, it makes a $100,000 convertible loan and it provides concentrated training.  The three-month academy “crams two years of development into three months,” according to Barge. Entrepreneurs learn to validate their technology (proving customers exist for the product), develop a 12-month execution plan (including building the team and honing the financial model), and communicate (to investors, team members, channel partners and customers).  Entrepreneurs are paired with mentors, including executives from cutting-edge companies like Tesla and Pandora. The program’s culmination is “Demo Day,” during which the start ups pitch hundreds of potential investors.

Software, Barge explains, is key to what she calls “clean tech 2.0.” For example, the collaborative consumption trend, which replaces ownership with use and access, requires new software platforms.  That’s why Greenstart selected for its program Scoot Networks, which provides shared electric scooters that customers can unlock with an iPhone. 

Barge explains Greenstart’s unique application for companies that want to apply to the Greenstart program.  The entrepreneurs must state the dirty energy problem they’re solving and explain their technology in just 250 written characters and a two-minute video.  The accelerator is particularly interested in working with fast-to-market products.  The company’s first class included SmarterShade, a self-tinting windows company; Sylvatex, which cheaply mixes biofuels with diesel; Wa.tt, a consumer web app company that “gamifies” energy use on Facebook; and Tenrehte, a wireless system for managing energy flowing through electrical plugs.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Rachel Barge:  Episode 61 of The Wendel Forum (27:36 mins; mp3)

Greenstart website: http://www.greenstart.com

SmarterShade website: http://smartershade.com/

Tenrehte website: http://tenrehte.com/

Sylvatex website: http://sylvatex.com/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 59 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on April 14, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Morris Shriftman, a brand strategist for natural foods and green products, and CEO of Mozart, Inc. (A classical music fan, Morris’ company name carries the name of the great composer and is a double entendre on his name: “Mo’s Art.”)  He also serves on the board of the American Botanical Council, which provides consumers with credible information about plants and herbs used in natural medicine.

Morris Shriftman of Mozart Inc. visits The Wendel Forum studio

Morris Shriftman of Mozart Inc. visits The Wendel Forum studio

A marketing expert, Morris has been focused on the natural food and alternative medicine industry since 1970.  He began as brand consultant in New York.  In the 70’s, he met the founders of Tree of Life and was hired as vice president of marketing, where, he says, he gained a “360 degree perspective” on the wellness industry, handling product creation, development, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, marketing and retail partnerships.

Tree of Life became both a major national distributor of natural products and had its own line of branded natural products.  Among other things, Morris designed the well-known “Tree of Life” logo.  In 1985, when Tree of Life was sold, he founded Mozart, Inc., which “creates products and builds brands for companies doing the right thing, including using healthy ingredients, removing objectionable ingredients and having the courage to be transparent.”

Dick and Morris discuss how natural products companies can communicate their message to retailers and consumers, a particular challenge for smaller, undercapitalized companies that can’t afford the marketing practices of larger companies, such as product placements, public relations, trade advertising, events marketing or consumer advertising.  Those companies have to be inventive, Morris says.

Fortunately, social network marketing is an inexpensive way to reach a narrow audience of people who share similar values, what Morris calls “narrowcasting” (as opposed to broadcasting). Better than a new logo or slogan, narrowcasting permits a small company to convey its mission directly to communities that will be drawn to the mission.  That happened for Avalon Natural Products where Morris was brought in as senior vice president of marketing. 

He led the company to eliminate allergens and artificial and petroleum-based ingredients, including parabens, a preservative implicated in breast cancer.  Avalon’s “consciousness in cosmetics” mission resonated with The Breast Cancer Fund, an organization that informs women about the environmental causes of breast cancer. Collaborating with The Breast Cancer Fund and networking with other women’s health organizations and green scientists became a major driver in Avalon’s marketing.  That kind of work, Morris explains, can distinguish a company and create empathy with consumers.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Morris Shriftman: Episode 59 of The Wendel Forum (27:31 mins; mp3)

Mozart, Inc. website: http://www.mozartinc.com/

American Botanical Council website: http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/PageServer

Tree of Life website: http://www.kehe.com/treeoflife/Home.aspx

Avalon Natural Products website: http://www.avalonorganics.com/

The Breast Cancer Fund website: http://www.breastcancerfund.org/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (organic, fair trade, unique, delicious) ice cream!

In Episode 58 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on April 14, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo welcomes Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream.

Neal discusses the life path that led him from corporate finance to ice cream, with a stint in the Peace Corps along the way.  When he founded Three Twins, he was determined to build a company that honored his values, as well as offering him a reasonable living.

Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream visits The Wendel Forum

Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream visits The Wendel Forum

According to Neal, organic ice cream has been done before, but not well.  The early attempts from some of the bigger names on the ice cream scene typically made organic varieties in boring flavors (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) and saw it as an opportunity to sell smaller containers while charging more money than for their conventional flavors.   

By contrast, the Three Twins model puts organic at the core of the product, rather than as an afterthought.  In addition to using basic organic ingredients, Three Twins concentrates on building up multiple flavor layers in its ice creams for surprising twists on classics.  An increasing number of Three Twins’ flavors are using certified Fair Trade products as well.

Bill and Neal discuss what it means for a business like Three Twins to obtain USDA Certified Organic and Fair Trade certified designations. They also discuss the company’s corporate giving initiatives, which include membership in 1% for the Planet and their new giving initiative “Ice Cream for Acres.” Through the Ice Cream for Acres program, Three Twins makes a donation to Global Wildlife Conservation, an environmental nonprofit that buys large tracks of land to protect habitat for endangered species.  For each one pint purchase, Three Twins donates enough money to buy at least six square feet of land.  To date, the company has underwritten the purchase of 100 square acres and they expect they’ll be able to facilitate the purchase of thousands of acres in the next few years with their anticipated growth.

Where can you find these delicious sweet treats?  On the East Coast you can find them in Whole Foods (except in New York and New Jersey) and Fresh markets. On the West Coast, they currently have a larger footprint in Whole Foods, neighborhood corner bodegas, and some conventional grocery stores.  But perhaps the most fun you’ll have is if you’re lucky enough to encounter the “pimped out” ice cream truck (which is really a refurbished school bus) known affectionately as “Carl.”

Carl the Three Twins Ice Cream Bus

Carl the Three Twins Ice Cream Bus

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Neal Gottlieb: Episode 58 of The Wendel Forum (27:20 mins; mp3)

Three Twins Ice Cream website : www.threetwinsiceream.com

Global Wildlife Conservation website: http://globalwildlife.org/

1% for the Planet website: http://onepercentfortheplanet.org/en/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Photo of Danae Ringelmann

Danae Ringelmann of Indiegogo visits The Wendel Forum to discuss crowdfunding.

JOBS Act Passes Senate Vote

On March 22, 2012, the United States Senate passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”) by a 73-26 vote. (The House of Representatives passed a separate version of the bill on March 8, 2012.) The JOBS Act includes a number of items intended to make it easier for small businesses to gain access to capital. In passing its version of the legislation, the Senate made some amendments to the JOBS Act that the House had previously passed, so it will be going back to the House for a vote on the amended bill shortly.

Senate changes to the crowdfunding legislation include:

  • Companies that use crowdfunding must provide financial statements to investors 
  • Companies seeing between $100,000 and $500,000 need to get independent accountants to review statements 
  • Companies seeking more than $500,000 in capital must have audited financial statements
  • Crowdfunding campaigns will be limited to $1 million for a single company

This should be welcome news to entrepreneurs, start ups, and small businesses. The JOBS Act, while a positive step forward to create opportunities for access to capital, is not the only avenue that entrepreneurs and fledgling companies can pursue, though.

Danae Ringelmann of Crowdfunding Website Indiegogo Visits The Wendel Forum:

In Episode 52 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 3, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo chats with Danae Ringelmann, co-founder and chief operating officer of Indiegogo.

According to the company’s website:

Indiegogo is a crowdfunding platform where people who want to raise money can create fundraising campaigns to tell their story and get the word out. Indiegogo is also a place to discover what people all over the world are passionate about and how to get involved.

This fundraising platform is used by small start up businesses, artists and performers, and nonprofit causes from more than 200 countries.

With a noble goal of democratizing capital and leveling the funding playing field, the company has launched more than 70,000 campaigns since getting going in 2008. Danae explains the process of crowdfunding and some of the unique feature that Indiegogo brings to the table.

She also shares some stories around successful campaigns and several lessons the company has learned along the way, including the fact that “people fund people,” not just ideas. Since it’s so important to provide a face for your cause, they have built a number of tools to guide you into a successful campaign. Their easy online wizards help you set up your account, and they provide ideas and tools to help you promote your cause.

What would motivate people to donate to a campaign on a site like Indiegogo? Danae says there are four primary reasons – to support a specific cause, to take advantage of the perks offered related to a campaign, to participate in something larger than oneself or to gain a cash return on investment (profit participation). NOTE: Until the JOBS Act legislation is sorted out, that last one is currently illegal for these models, so Indiegogo currently does not support that motivation. They do, however, support the first three.

The appeal of Indiegogo is quite easy to understand: the beauty of the platform is that people can actively engage in something they care about without quitting their day job. Listen in – we think you’ll agree!

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Danae Ringelmann: Episode 52 of The Wendel Forum (27:36 mins; mp3)

Indiegogo website: www.indiegogo.com

Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) Legislative Text: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c112:4:./temp/~c112vr3i3D::

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on February 2, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors, LLC, a San Francisco Bay Area-based private equity fund focused on investments in natural food and product companies and technology that supports healthy lifestyles.

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart has been committed to investing in these types of companies for more than 30 years. His interest in companies with a focus on sustainability and healthy lifestyles emerged from his personal development as a yoga practitioner and vegetarian.  As healthy living became more important to him, he also moved toward investing in sustainably-minded companies.

In the early days, he found himself involved in companies in areas ranging from wind power to rice growers who had developed a closed-loop system that used the stalks for rice paper, rather than burning them.

Dick and Stuart discuss the investing trends they have observed during the past couple of decades and the rise of the natural food and organic products marketplace.  Stuart had a front row seat to the evolution of some of today’s well-known companies, such as Whole Foods Market, Seventh Generation and Odwalla.

Mindful Investors’ current interests focus on consumer facing companies in areas such as food and beverage, healthcare and technology platforms that support healthy lifestyles. Not surprising, there is a lot of activity in web and mobile development that supports functionality for applications such as bar codes to track the carbon footprint of a product, rich media like video to promote products, and platforms for distributing coupons and discounts.

Stuart shares the Mindful Investors approach to investing, including insights into time horizons and exit expectations related to investments in their portfolio.  He also acknowledges some of the challenges and strategies related to ensuring that when a company is sold, the parent company keeps the integrity of the product post-sale. 

As one of the early B Corps, he’s also a fan of the recently enacted legislation in California for Benefit Corporations (AB 361 – Huffman), which Wendel Rosen attorney Donald Simon had a hand in drafting.

So what is Stuart’s advice for young businesses? 

  • Realize from the start that you will need to raise capital, and a lot more than you think you’ll need. 
  • Bring in like-minded investors who are connected to your values in order to build trust. 
  • Bring in experienced senior level people to advise and guide you through your growth to better avoid errors and accelerate the growth of your company.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Stuart Rudick:  Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(27:37 mins; mp3)

Mindful Investors website:  www.mindfulinvestors.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

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