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New TidBitts platform gives fans access to exclusive content from their favorites

TidBitts is a new, nationwide platform developed in Denver that connects people with exclusive content from their favorites, whether they are authors, athletes and thought leaders. No matter the content, whether it's video, words or something else, the vignettes are exclusive to the platform and fans can get access to the content for a monthly fee of 99 cents per subscription.

"We were thinking it would be fun to get daily dinner-table conversation topics sent to you," explains Brad Greenwald, TidBitts founder and CEO.

An adjunct professor at DU's Daniels School of Business and a former Time Warner executive, Greenwald says the bite-sized vignettes on the platform are supposed to be short -- like 60-second videos -- that might provide topics of conversation around the dinner table. The content is pushed out through emails and notifications via Android and iOS apps. 

For content creators, the platform makes it easier to connect with readers and viewers and offers a potential new revenue stream. "We know there’s a push for the top-quality content creators to generate revenue from their content," Greenwald says. "The newspaper industry shows that you can’t live on adverting alone." He likens the service to streaming services, noting, "There used to be free radio, but Pandora and similar offerings like that show that people will pay for quality content."

TidBitts is proving popular with content providers already. It launched just a few short weeks ago, but within the second week the number of authors, celebrities and experts registered to publish on the platform surged to 180. Among those already registered on the platform are former Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Jeff Blake. Greenwald says the TidBitts content producers also include college admissions advisors who worked at Princeton and Stanford, and are offering advice through the service that could cost parents thousands of dollars.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Self Lender launches new way to build credit: loan to yourself

Self Lender, a unique platform allowing individuals to build their credit through essentially a loan to themselves, launched in early September. Under the Denver-based company's offerings, people with low or underscored credit can build credit through their payment history with the company.

"Almost 70 million people in the U.S. may have subprime credit because there isn't any payment data on them," contends Self Lender CEO James Garvey. "About 100 million people have subprime credit for other reasons, but really there's a huge opportunity to help people that have low scores or are underscored. The problem with building credit is it requires that you have existing credit. It's a catch-22."

"At Self Lender we allow anybody to start building their credit history with a small loan," Garvey says. "The idea is I'm going to create a $50 per month obligation for six months. After paying for the entire 6 months, we return your money." During that period of time Self Lender reports that payment history to the credit bureaus.

"It comes up as an installment payment that looks like an auto loan or a mortgage," Garvey says. "What we've seen from other nonprofits is that if you are unscored, after six months of using a credit builder loan like this you will have a credit score in the 600s. If you have a credit score already, it's going to vary, but usually you'll see a bump."

Self Lender charges an administrative fee of $3 a month, no matter the size of the individual's commitment. So a 12-month commitment would cost a customer $36 and a three-month commitment would cost them $9. At the end of the repayment period, the funds, which were set aside in a escrow account, are returned to the customer or Garvey says Self Lender is working with some car lenders to allow customers to use the fulfilled agreement to serve as a down payment.

Self Lender is already generating interest. The launched at TechCrunch Disrupt on Sept. 9. "We were one of the 26 companies to present," Garvey says. "We were runner-up for Accenture's Innovation Enterprise Disruptor Award."

At this point, the company is working to finalize an agreement with a bank. Garvey explains that the bank is doing its due diligence for the agreement but thinks it will be finalized soon.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Skookum Digital Works opens Denver office

Skookum Digital Works, a tech consulting firm focused on Fortune 500 companies, recently opened its first satellite office in Denver. The company, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., specializes in making things work -- even if they weren't supposed to.

"We specialize in custom technology, hardware hacking the Internet of things, skunkworks type of stuff and big data integrations," says Chief Strategy Officer Josh Oakhurst. The company brought out seven people from Charlotte, he says,  and will grow to around 25 employees in the LoDo office.

For instance, Skookum hacked hardware on some expensive suspension systems for race cars, according to Oakhurst. Using a low-energy Bluetooth chip, the company created a mobile app that acted as a remote control. "We made an app for the system and now you can control the dampening and rebound with an iPhone."

One of the reasons the company located its second office in Denver was because of the workforce. "We know that Denver has a great talent base of both technology consultants and developers and designers and and project managers. We came here to add to our growing pool of really talented individuals," Oakhurst explains.

The company also sees potential clients in oil and gas as well as the mining industries. "We make sure the money that companies spend on technology actually matches the business plan and, more often than not, it’s not the case," Oakhurst says. Having an office in Colorado, close to potential new clients will also allow the company to have a more personal approach with clients in the region, which is sometimes necessary when bringing two disparate things together.

As for hiring, the company is looking for software and hardware engineers, full-stack developers and technology leads, or as Oakhurst puts it: "People who can lead consulting on different projects, people who can marry different systems together and business consultants who can help people decide when to make good investments."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Tech job fair comes to Denver from Boulder

Cardinal Peak and Daniels College of Business at University of Denver are hosting their third Tech Job Fair on Sept. 25. Companies at the fair will be looking to fill everything from entry-level to senior positions. The fair is being held at the Marcus Commons in the Daniels College of Business at 2101 S. University Blvd. from 4 to 7 p.m.

The 14 tech companies at the event have more than 200 positions to fill, says Bri Rios, spokesperson for Cardinal Peak. "Cardinal Peak sponsors the events. It used to sponsor it with the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, but we wanted to move it to Denver."

The events have been popular, particularly given the demand for tech jobs in the region. Entrepreneur, has listed five Colorado cities -- Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and Grand Junction -- in its top tech startup cities.

Cardinal Peak says that the unemployment rate for software engineers in Colorado is only 0.20 percent, and the number of jobs is growing at a 10 percent annual rate. As such, it's even more important to connect employers and potential employees.

Previous events were highly attended, according to Rios. "It's been really successful. The last job fair we had over 300 job applicants come through the doors and the majority of companies were able to fill positions with with some of those applicants," she says.

By moving the event to Denver, it could potentially reach an audience across the Denver metro area and more of the Front Range. For more information, visit www.BoulderDenverTechJobs.biz.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Placeable among Denver startups moving forward

Denver's startups are quickly moving from infancy to later stages of business.

For instance, Placeable was named a "Denver Gazelle" by the city's Office of Economic Development in 2013 for its success and growth potential.

At that point, the location-based advertising company had about 40 employees, and it's since continued to grow, attracting clients like Bank of America, Western Union and American Express, among others.

During Denver Startup Week, it's important to remember that the startup phase is just a stage of many. For companies to continue and thrive, they must grow beyond the startup stage.

Second-stage companies are those that have survived the startup trenches and have reached $1 million in revenues. Some of the initial pressures are gone, but new ones take their place.

"Whenever you're going through this type of change it is difficult because you're looking around and saying, 'What do we need to do differently?'" says Placeable VP of Marketing Melissa Risteff.

Risteff joined the company in January after stints at Sun Microsystems and GE. "I joined the organization when they were looking for a leadership team and trying to make sure they were staffed to grow and take the company to the next level," she says.

To keep the company on a positive growth path, management has enacted policies to help keep its 50-plus employees happy. All of the employees have an ownership stake in the company.

Risteff says making sure leadership cohesion is important, as is a high degree of accountability. That includes "making sure individuals are treated as mature adults, and can make decisions and take pride in their work," she contends. "We're very committed to the people in the company." That includes a personal development "bullet" programs, which allows employees to explore things of interest to them even if it's not related to the company.

Placeable also benefits from its location in Denver, and its market sector is attracting both customers and capital. Says Risteff: "The Denver tech scene is exploding, and I think there are a lot of companies and a lot strategic investment partners interested in our space."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

If at first you don't succeed, learn from it!

Nobody likes to fail and most people don't like to discuss their failures. But in entrepreneurialism, failure can be an important step in moving forward.

"The reality of it is the likelihood of failure is really high for startups," says Brian Parks, General Manager for Galvanize in Colorado and Co-Founder and former CEO of Brandfolder.

Parks moderated the Founders Talking Failure panel of Denver Startup Week on Tues. Sept. 16 at Galvanize. Parks was joined by Mike Biselli, Co-Founder of MedPassage; Tom Higley, Founder of FortNET, NETdelivery, Service Metrics and Latis Networks/StillSecure; and Jess Lybeck, who co-founded Dabble.

"We're talking about failure and how to handle that and if you do experience failure personally and professional and how to view that as a catalyst for growth," Parks explains. "Failing for failure's sake is not that awesome, but you can learn from it and grow, and that is awesome."

Parks served as Brandfolder's CEO for about 18 months, from the "back of the napkin stage to generating revenue," he says. While the company still exists, he's no longer with it. He says he considered launching a new startup right away, but instead started reflecting on it, which has allowed him to better understand the value in the experience.

"I think investors view failure in a certain way as well," Parks says. They want to know how the person who was in charge of a company can relate that experience, what they've learned about it and what they will do differently in future situations."

He says it's important that fresh entrepreneurs "don't act like there's not a potential for failure. I don't know how you grow or take a big swing without risking that you'll fail."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver Startup Week, an aspen grove of entrepreneurialism

Like an aspen grove, Denver Startup Week (Sept. 15-20) is the largest event of its kind, and like an aspen grove in fall, it's pure gold for entrepreneurs in the region. Also like an aspen grove, it's taken root and growing quickly.

The free event to help spur innovation and growth in startups launched in 2012. In 2013, it launched Basecamp, the metaphorical root cluster of the event, and the event grew to a total of 125 events across Denver. In 2014, Basecamp is back (it's at Ashford University's Denver Online Center at 1515 Arapahoe St.) and the conference includes more than 175 separate events at venues across Denver from the Seawall Ballroom to Gensler's offices to Breckenridge Brewing Company.

Denver Startup Week is a massive event and, unlike a traditional conference, it's not hosted at any one particular place. It's all over the place, in fact more than 60 locations across Denver are hosting events ranging from law offices to taco shops, reflecting the nature of Denver's entrepreneurial spirit. Expect a full day of events, too. During the week events start as early as 7:30 a.m. and some go on until 2 am (like the karaoke event at Beauty Bar). Once you register for the event, you can start choosing your schedule so you can keep track of when and where you need to be.

Currently the schedule lists at least one event each of the following places (not including the spaces mentioned above): Modworks, Infinite Monthly Theorem, Sendgrid, Mapquest, ReadyTalk, PaySimple, CU Denver's Jake Jabs Center, Galvanize, Industry, BPR Denver, Forest Room 5, Crooked Stave at The Source, Denver Union Station, MCA Denver, Connect People + Space, CSU - Denver, Epic Brewing Co., Novo Coffee, TAXI - Drive 2, Black Shirt Brewing Co., Code, Grace Skis, Talklaunch, Sendgrid, SpireMedia, Vonmod + Von Design & The Maker Lab, Luca, Code, Elevated Third, Converge, The Alliance Center, Beauty Bar, Signpost, Officescapes, iTriage, Ping Identity, Wahoo's Fish Taco, Faegre Baker Daniels, Cirro, Rally Software - LoDo, DADA Art Bar, Knotty Tie Co., Ellie Caukins Loft, McNichols Building, EffectiveUI, Elements, DU Margery Reed Hall, David Graham & Stubbs LLP, Rocky Mountain Patent, StackExchange, Wynkoop Brewing, Photobucket, Convercent, Turing School, Geotech Environmental Equipment, Inc., HOSTING, Denver Community CU, City Hall Amphitheater, Fairfield & Woods, PC, Cowboy Lounge and locations to be announced.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Roximity launches Model X Beacon

Denver startup Roximity recently introduced its Model X Beacon to help drive location-based interactive experiences through smart devices.

The beacons work with iPhones and Android devices using Apple's iBeacon technology and can be placed throughout stores, malls and other locations. Using Bluetooth Low Energy technology they communicate with devices alerting users to things nearby, like sales items in stores, interesting items in museums and more.

Roximity is a leader in developing and deploying iBeacon devices and already has deployed thousands of the Model X -- and selling out of its first batch of beacons, according to Co-Founder Danny Newman. “We are in some sort of either pilot or production stage with every big brand or retailer that you can imagine," he says. “It's a very cool space to be in and everyone realizes what the possibilities and different use cases are."

The company, which launched in 2012, previously made Wi-Fi and NFC-type devices. "Initially we were doing very low volume, very specific things for specific customers at the end of 2012 and early 2013," Newman says. "This time last year is when the iBeacon aspect of what we're doing really started to take off. We started doing thousands of beacons a week."

"Model X is the next generation," he adds. "Everything we learned over the last year has gone into the new hardware." The new devices have a battery that could last five years and security features to protect users and deployers.

Roximity currently manufactures its devices in Colorado. "We've been able to keep it cost competitive," Newman says. "We want to make sure we're nimble enough and quick enough to make any kind of changes or advances and keep iterating much faster. We feel that offsets any kind of savings from overseas."

As the company grows, it's also hiring. "We're currently hiring engineers on the server side and platform component side," Newman says. "We'll need enclosure engineers as well as iOS and Android engineers."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Bold Betties Outfitters starts up to rent outdoor gear to women

More and more women are taking to the outdoors, but outdoor activities can require a lot more stuff than other hobbies or sports. That's where Bold Betties Outfitters comes in, by offering women a chance to rent gear they'd otherwise have to purchase.

Nikki Kourbourlis recently launched the service after creating Bold Betties, a Denver-based Meetup group for women interested in the outdoors, earlier this year. "We stared the Meetup group about four months ago, doing fun Colorado trips." The trips include white-water rafting, mountain biking and camping.

"Once you realize that you want to participate in a variety of outdoor activities you quickly see how much it costs to gear up for all that stuff," Kourbourlis explains. She says that the traditional outdoor enthusiast might have gear for a couple of winter sports and summer sports but not all sports.

She's also seeing a new class of adventurer. "The new outdoor consumer is a little more casual. Variety is what they're looking for as opposed to wanting to invest in a couple activities," Kourbourlis says. One of the most important focuses for her is on apparel. Whereas men might be able to borrow gear from another guy at this point women aren't as likely to have as much gear at their disposal for as many sports.

Kourbourlis is trying to get more women involved in the outdoors and thinks Bold Betties Outfitters will help. "I think there will be a lot of conversion of a lot of people who aren't very involved in the outdoors getting more involved," she says. She anticipates that some of the people who rent gear from the site may choose to buy it or something like it once they get more involved in the outdoors.

Though the site is still in beta, Kourbourlis plans to continue to add more gear and content to it in the coming weeks and months. The content will include trip tips and packing lists for lifetrip adventures, among other tools and information.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Got an idea for a business? Register for Denver Startup Week

Denver Startup Week, which begins Sept. 15 and runs through Sept. 20, celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of Denver and Colorado by bringing together the public, private and nonprofits in the region to cross-pollinate ideas and teach people about starting a business. In its third year, the event is the largest free entrepreneurial event in the country, jam-packed with sessions, presentations by successful entrepreneurs, workshops, happy hours and more.

"We believe there should be no barrier to entry if you want to learn about starting a company," says Tami Door, President and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership and an organizing chair of the event. "That is why that core of no admission charges is at the core of this week -- everyone's invited."

Denver Startup Week launched in 2012. In 2013, it attracted more than 5,500 attendees, and 650 companies, showing the desire for such an event to connect the startup community and making it the largest such event in the nation. "Many of the segments of our community were operating in individual silos in more micro-communities. Our goal was to unite those communities and bring them all together," Door explains. To this end, the event has four tracks: business, design, tech and manufacturing.

"In Denver we have an amazing reputation for working extremely well across communities and across a wide array of stakeholders," Door adds. "We believe in the value of public-private partnerships and Denver startup week was founded on the premise that the public sector, the private sector and the nonprofit sector -- when they come together -- they're an extremely powerful platform."

There are over 125 events planned across downtown for the 2014 Denver Startup week. That's in addition to Basecamp at 1515 Arapahoe St., featuring keynote speakers and panelists. It will also include one-on-one mentoring sessions with local and national CEOs, founders, entrepreneurs and developers.

Entrepreneurs can register for the free event by clicking here.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

MSU Denver, partners offer aviation students easier path to first officer certification

Recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changes make it more difficult to attain certification to serve as a first officer in a commercial airplane. But Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver) and Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) are making it a little easier for people to get their first officer certification -- an important step toward getting full certification to fly commercially.

The schools are allowing students pursuing an associate's or bachelor's of science degree in aviation to gain flight training at a reduced cost. Under the new FAA requirements first officers on U.S. passenger and cargo airlines must now have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which means they must have 1,500 hours of flight experience.

Still, "Most airlines wouldn't hire at that low of an experience level," says Kevin R. Kuhlmann, who teaches Aerospace Science at MSU Denver. He explains that most pilots gain flying hours by teaching flight school and then at between 500 to 1,000 hours of experience they could get hired on as a first officer. "It was almost like an apprenticeship."

Pilots previously only needed a commercial certificate, which only requires 250 hours of flight experience. "Under the old system you were really only talking about 12 months on average until obtaining an ATP," Kuhlmann explains. The new system will add roughly a year or two to the training process.

The arrangement at the two schools will also allow students to obtain a restricted ATP with only 1,250 hours of flight under which they can fly as a co-pilot until they obtain the ATP certification. The restricted ATP could reduce the time to getting an ATP by about 6 months, according to Kuhlmann.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Medical Price Compare offers clearer view of medical costs

Will you pay $25,000 or $58,000 for a total knee joint replacement? Thi is just the type of question the recently launched Colorado Medical Price Compare website was designed to answer.

Developed by Denver-based Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC), the site allows users to compare and estimate costs for certain medical procedures at hospitals across the state, what insurers and consumers paid for those services, as well as the quality of service patients received. 

Such pricing information allows the insured and uninsured to understand how much the services will cost for the patients. It also allows hospitals a chance to look at what their peers are charging and could help them find ways to reduce costs on certain procedures to keep competitive with other hospitals. 

"This is the first time price information based on actual payments made by health insurance plans and patients has been made available to Coloradans," explains acting CIVCH CEO Edie Sonn. "It is significant because it marks the first time Coloradans can see real pricing information along with quality data across all commercial payers and Medicaid." The site does not yet have information on self-insured plans.

At this time, the site has information only on four procedures: total knee joint replacement, total hip joint replacement, uncomplicated vaginal birth and cesarean birth. By the end of 2014 CIVHC anticipates adding information about nine more services and ambulatory surgery center prices. In 2015, it plans to more than 25 additional services at a variety of facility types.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Experience People, a tour against tech addiction, comes to Denver

You probably spend a little too much time on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Buzzfeed, or you check your iPhone every few minutes. You might call even it an addiction.

This is the focus of Brian Hiss' Experience People. The 20-city tour comes Denver Aug. 17-19 in a very un-techy 1970s Volkswagen van.

"Every American spends 40 minutes on Facebook a day," Hiss claims. "The closest thing I can relate it to is working from home and someone's ringing your doorbell all day. Would you be able to get anything done and be productive?"

Hiss is a co-founder of Dooble, a social media site, which doesn't yet have information on Denver. But this tour is about disengaging from devices and experiencing people and places. "Every experience we're having now is through a device and not out there in the world where it used to be," Hiss contends. "We're not anti-technology -- it's just that technology is there to engage the experience, not be the experience."

The Denver schedule isn't finalized. Hiss says he's barely checking his phone while on the road -- but the tour, which is bing coordinated by Dooble Co-Founder Ryan Bearbower and includes Rob Loud, who's filming the tour for a documentary --already has a number of engagements. They include a live interview on KDVR's Good Day Colorado on Mon. Aug 18, a presentation and discussion at Denver Open Coffee Club and other events.

"What we really hope to get out of this is to really change the course of the entrepreneurial world, the business world and helping them to foster new best processes where we're not creating the habit-forming experiences and manipulating people," Hiss says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Dinner Lab brings its dining experiment to Denver

Don't expect to see Bunsen burners and test tubes when Dinner Lab hosts its first event in Denver on Sept. 26 -- although it's hard to know exactly what to expect. Part of the idea is allowing up-and-coming chefs to experiment with ideas and present them to members and guests.

Dinner Lab held its first events in New Orleans about two and a half years ago, according to Market Development Manager Ken Macias. Since then, it has held its events in 10 locations from New York City to San Francisco. Now it's bringing its pop-up dinner club to Denver and eight other locations. 

The concept gives new and little-known chefs a chance to stand out. "We don't usually use the head chef, but a sous chef or a line cook," Macias says. "We're really trying to give the chefs an opportunity to develop their own menus."

The company recently had its first tour of chefs. Based on member response, the company chose the best chefs to cook for more markets throughout the country. In fact, the chef who will kick off Denver's event is Danny Espinoza of Chicago's Mexique.

The other chefs that will serve dishes at the Denver have yet to be named, but they will be about 50 percent local chefs and 50 percent from Dinner Lab's other markets, Macias says.

If you're interested in joining the soiree, you'll have to sign up ahead of time. "We don't disclose our locations until the day before the event," Macias says. "We'll email them the day before. As far as our chefs and menus go, we release them three weeks out."

Membership is $125 and events will typically run $60 to $80 per person, and dinners will be staged in wineries, galleries and even empty warehouses.

The company has partnered with investors to help the best chefs in the program open their own restaurants, says Macias.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Find local breweries and more with CraftedHere

Want to find the nearest or newest brewery or marijuana dispensary in Colorado? Check out Denver-based Craft Boom's recently launched app, CraftedHere.

The app is available on Apple and Android devices and the information also is available via craftedhere.us.

Craft Boom CEO Chase Doelling explains that the company launched the app about a month ago and are now starting to bring attention to it after a softer launch.

"What we're hoping to capitalize on now is cannabis tourism," Doelling says. "As people come in they're mainly focussed on trying cannabis because its legal. But there are all these breweries here and all this here and you can capture all the side markets. People might not know what's around the corner from them outside of just landing in downtown and wandering close to the center of the city."

Currently the app and site cover five categories of Colorado-friendly crafts: breweries, cannabis shops, coffee shops, distilleries and wineries. Doelling says the information is populated from state records and actual experiences. Information for each brewery includes information about their awards at the Great American Beer Festival. However, instead of customer reviews, the app uses badges to rate the sites.

Also, the map-based app can show users what's nearby. "So if you're in a brewery it will tell you what's the nearest coffee shop, the closest park and going down the list," Doelling says. In the future, the Craft Boom team could cover restaurants and other points of crafty interest, he adds.

At this point, the information is only available for Colorado and users can manually submit information about new breweries through email, but can't add them to the app or site. As the user base grows, Doelling hopes to expand it to more markets to the western U.S.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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