7 Traits of the Argentinian Entreprenuerial Community

One of the most exciting opportunities Remote Year offers is direct access to the heart of the entrepreneurial communities in each of the cities we visit. We work out of local incubators and co-working spaces, we mingle with locals and hear from other entrepreneurs, allowing us to really get to know the scene.

For someone whose passion is helping entrepreneurs and building communities, this is an incredibly exciting and unique opportunity. So yes, I’m in heaven.

The first community we’re exploring on this year-long journey is Córdoba, Argentina, a city bursting with entrepreneurial energy and potential. Since arriving here only three short weeks ago, I’ve talked with a number of people actively working to grow and support the community.
BCB0153F-A141-42C5-84E0-B549166E0844Maria Elena Provensal
was one of the first people I met. She manages the programs at Incutex, the company builder and co-working space we’re based out of this month. She’s been actively supporting and growing the local startup scene over the last few years. We had a chance to talk and she shared her thoughts with me about the problems and opportunities Córdoba’s entrepreneurial community faces.

Victor Mochkofsky is another local activist we met early on, and I’m not sure how else to say it, but he’s a doll. He was born in Córdoba, studied here, moved to the States and worked there for a number of years and then realized his passion was community and people, so he moved back to Argentina. He reminds me of an Argentinian Jonathan Cottrell. Someone who loves their community more than words, and will do just about anything to see it flourish.

These are just two of the wonderful people I’ve met during my time so far here in Córdoba. From them, as well as other influencers and local entrepreneurs, I’ve been able to highlight eight interesting factoids about the entrepreneurial ecosystem as a whole.

  1. The entrepreneurial bug has been planted, but only really since 2012. This is crazy to me, to see the growth over only four short years. Incutex just started their fourth program, and they’re one of the largest players in the local scene. Despite or possibly because of the newness of the entrepreneurial community, there’s an energy and excitement that’s palpable. People want to help each other succeed.
  2. The largest first round investment by only Argentinian investors was 1 million dollars in Gi FlyBike, a company that is current in the company builder program at Incutex. This was incredible to me when we frequently hear about large multi-million dollar investments in the U.S., but it’s also a sign of growth and potential for startups coming out of Argentina in the global ecosystem.2016-03-16 13.20.20
  3. There are limited mentors with lean startup knowledge to provide the necessary guidance to up and coming entrepreneurs. The majority of the mentors locally have big business experience, but not the ‘build, measure, learn, pivot’ experience. This was one problem that Maria mentioned, which stuck with me. Without effective mentorship, the learning curve for the current entrepreneurs is steep, and slows the collective growth within the community.
  4. There’s a huge number of small business owners who don’t realize they’re actually entrepreneurs. While this is true around the world, it sticks out especially here. On every corner you’ll see another small café or kiosko. If you were to talk to any of these owners, they would likely not self-identify as entrepreneurs, but they are. They’re the blood, sweat and tears that go into the small business community and make cities into homes and communities.
  5. Startup Weekend has had a huge impact on the growth in Córdoba. For me, this hits close to home due to the impact that Startup Weekend and more recently Startup Week had on my involvement in the entrepreneurial world. The minute I heard from Juan Gabriel Goiriz, another of our local contacts, that he had attended a number of Startup Weekends, I lit up. Maria also attended a Startup Weekend which her team ended up winning. Both Maria and Gabi told me, along with lots of other local networking opportunities, bring people together and support the ecosystem’s growth and awareness.
  6. There’s a government program called Emprenden Industria that allows big businesses to forego taxes and instead invest that money in locally vetted entrepreneurs. This is huge. To have government support behind a community’s desire to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem will definitely help speed up the growth and supplement the limited local funding.
  7. The emphasis on building a team over an idea is just as important here as it is in other places in the world. When I talked with Maria, she told me that the growth in numbers of applicants for the Incutex has grown from 60 the first year, 160 the second year, 250 the third year and 400 this last round. That means that more time and energy has to go into the vetting process of deciding on who will be accepted. At the end of the day, it’s the team above the idea or anything else that they look for. One concept that crosses even language barriers.

I’m fully aware that this is only a bird’s eye view of the local scene. I know there are many more niche components to the ecosystem. That being said, I do feel as though we learned a lot from the local entrepreneurs and have a better idea of what the concept of ‘being an entrepreneur’ is like outside of the U.S., and also what people outside of the U.S. think about our concept of entrepreneurship.

Either way, I know I’ll continue to learn and grow from my experiences with other local entrepreneurs around the world. Hopefully, I’ll even be able to swing by a Startup Weekend or Startup Week event to make this year complete, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

With love, Paige

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Oh hey, I thought I was an extrovert.

We’ve officially passed the two week mark of our Remote Year adventure. For me, it feels like we’ve been here a month. There’s this weird time-warp that happens when you’re traveling. Days seem like weeks and weeks seem like months. You experience so many new things so often, it’s hard to really wrap your mind around it all.

IMG_0470Not only are our senses overwhelmed from being in a new country, our unique group dynamics can be somewhat overwhelming, too. One interesting part of this is the difference, or lack there of, between how introverts and extroverts experience and perceive those dynamics.

For those who know me well, there would be no hesitation if asked if I was an extrovert or introvert. A good friend of mine who co-runs the podcast When Meyers Met Briggs is adamant that my Meyers Briggs is ESTJ, pegging me a full-blown extrovert.

Despite that, I’ve found myself at a loss for words or feeling anxious in social settings more often than not.

2016-03-12 20.55.19The last two weeks have proven that despite my extroverted nature, I have a tendency towards introversion when it comes to meeting and getting to know new people. This is proof that there’s definitely a spectrum of extroversion and introversion, especially when you’re thrown into a social gauntlet with 75 other people with varying degrees of introversion and extroversion. But I guess that’s what this is all about then, isn’t it?

For me, a large part of this trip is really figuring out who I am for myself, as opposed to who people have always wanted me to be. Pushing myself out of my normal everyday routine, with the same people as I’ve been around for years, really forces me to do that.

Personal introspection aside, Córdoba, Argentina is amazing.

Don’t be mistaken, my normal extroverted nature has come out more than once, even in my mostly-functional Spanish after a drink or two. We’ve gone to a local gallery opening, an amazing Joris Voorn concert at La Fabrica until 8 am, frolicking through the fields of El Parque Nacional Quebrada del Condorito and the most amazing 7-course meal at El Papagayo.

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Well, those are the thoughts of the week. For daily updates and pictures of my my travels, be sure to follow me on Instagram at @MissSoucie!

With love, Paige

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Córdoba: A Culture of Happiness

To finish off the first week here in Córdoba, our wonderful team leaders, Travis and Samantha (aka Tramantha, the masterminds behind #RY3), planned an Amazing Race-style scavenger hunt through our new city. Armed with pretty aggressive hangovers from the previous night’s festivities, our teams of six set out to explore, find and pose in front of some of Córdoba’s must-see spots.12705506_532541176927460_6600493757155704362_n

We started at La Cañada stream, trekked over to The First Church of Argentina, posed as a rock band in front of The Cathedral of Córdoba, hung with Córdoba’s national hero, passed by The Cablido de Córdoba, then made our way to the park where we nommed some choripán after popping champagne at the local ferris wheel.

As we walked through the city, we kept commenting on how empty the streets were, a highly uncommon occurrence in this bustling university town. The minute we arrived at the park we realized why downtown had been desolate. It seemed like every single person in the city had come out to enjoy the beautiful Sunday with friends and family.

12524329_532541336927444_5076522964145653181_nNow, I feel there’s a need to preface this is no normal park. It’s like, the ultimate park.

Imagine an amusement park, pool, zoo, food trucks, running paths, workout machines and restaurants all in one, sprawled out amongst beautiful trees, lakes and scenery. That’s Sarmiento Park.

Families and friends alike were lounging in the grass or just strolling through the park. There were little groups of easels for kids to paint on, a small group practicing aerial skills and more kicking around soccer balls or playing frisbee.

Despite the park’s level of awesomeness, to me this highlighted one of the most amazing qualities of more specifically Latin cultures. There’s an emphasis on being present and embracing the simple things in life. It’s about enjoying, appreciating and loving those around you.

It’s about the culture of happiness. 

I know I’m guilty of not being entirely present or appreciating the small things in life. As we were sitting in the park at the end of our Amazing Race, I already felt antsy, like I needed to go, move, do. One of my big goals for this year is to really learn how to be present and appreciate life for what it is at any given moment. Because honestly, that’s all we’ve got.

So, here’s to ditching the hustle and bustle and enjoying some choripán, friends and a Sunday in the park.

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With love, Paige

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My 1 Word for #RY3? Adventure.

Only a short 12 hours after finishing up one of the biggest passion projects I’ve ever worked on, PHX Startup Week, I boarded a plane for Córdoba, Argentina to join the third cohort of Remote Year.

The timing of everything couldn’t have worked out better, a tell-tale sign this was what I was meant to do. 48 hours after boarding my first of four flights, I’m settled (mostly) into my new home, working out of the Incutex co-working space and letting the wonder and magic of being in another country while doing what I love set in.

To introduce us to our new home, the Remote Year team welcomed us with some general information about our city, served us some less-than-tasty fernando, a local drink and had us each share our a word to represent this experience.

There were a number of words you’d expect like grateful, excited, happy and thankful. While all of those also apply for me, one in particular came to mind. What was my word?

Adventure.

For me this year represents the opportunity to explore, experience and get out of my comfort zone, while helping and learning about entrepreneurs around the world.

Some of the characteristics of Córdoba that pop out at me so far include; clothing is definitely a form of expression, you’ll see a wide variety throughout the generations; the ‘defensive’ driving technique is widely accepted as the norm and stoplights are mere suggestions for drivers and pedestrians alike; while most people speak Spanish, locals are friendly to those who mumble through the American version of spanglish; there are lots of stray (and adorable) dogs; you can find cafe con leche and croissants on every corner; when it rains, it comes down in buckets adding to the slightly brutal 100% level of humidity; you’ll see a wide variety of architecture on every street; oh, and there’s sushi, a definite victory for this girl.

So, as a quick introduction to my world in Argentina, here are a few pictures…

From my apartment.

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Inside the co-working space.

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Along my running path.

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So, that’s the quick update. Stay tuned for more updates on our Argentinian adventures!

With love, Paige

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Navigating the World of Volunteer Event Management

Event planning is a 5 billion dollar industry. It’s a beast, with lots of specialties and niches. One that I’ve become intimately familiar with over the last few years is the volunteer event planning niche. This experience came in the form of House of Genius, Startup Weekend and on a larger scale, PHX Startup Week. All of these events are entirely fueled by local volunteers.

When money and financial incentives are taken off the table, expectations and standards shift – everything is easier once you admit to that. However, getting the right people onboard can still the event the quality and volunteer dedication it deserves. As with anything, there are pros and cons.

Here are nine steps to successfully navigating the volunteer event management space:

  1. Define your event purpose. By clarifying the ‘why’ behind your event, you’ll be able to attract like-minded people to support you on your journey. When people aren’t being paid for work, especially over an extended period of time, they’ll need a sense of fulfillment to keep them committed and prevent burnout.
  2. Manage your event like a business. This means moving conversations and to-do’s from your inbox to project and event management tools. For example, use Basecamp or Asana for task management, Sched for schedule management and SignUpGenius or Slotted for volunteer or session registration.
  3. Outline clear role responsibilities. This is crucial. Don’t just say, “We need help. Join us!” This is setting yourself up for failure. With larger-scale or ongoing volunteer support, it’s important to be honest about the time commitment and pros and cons of taking on a specific role or task. That way, your team members can’t say, “Well I didn’t realize…”, because you clearly defined it at the on-set.people-party-dancing-music
  4. Perfect your pitch. Normally with volunteer events, unless you’re incredibly lucky or have a corporate sugar daddy, you’ll need to raise money. You’ll likely always be on the hunt for additional funding, so make sure you understand your external value proposition. While the fluffy feel-good stuff is great, most sponsors need to understand the real ROI from events to rationalize contributions.
  5. Set realistic expectations for yourself. At the end of the day, none of your volunteers really owe you anything. I’ve had a number of volunteers disappear off the face of the planet, only to resurface months later with exciting news about a new (paid) venture or opportunity. While frustrating, I get it. Usually, volunteer work helps open up future job opportunities. However exciting, you’ll likely be down a volunteer and scrambling to try to find a replacement. Mentally prepare for the worst case scenario and have a backup plan to support it.
  6. Show appreciation. For those who do stick around and put in the blood, sweat and tears, show your appreciation. Again, they owe you and your event nothing. It’s important to recognize those who do go above and beyond and help bring together a masterpiece, just out of the goodness of their heart.
  7. Accept your MVP. Even when building a paid product, it’s important to understand your limitations as opposed to pushing for those few small tweaks. When you’re working with a group of volunteers, this reality becomes even more important. Not only that, but is striving for perfection really the best use of their volunteered time?
  8. Be cautious when engaging your network. While you might feel passionately about your volunteer efforts, it’s important not to push it on your network and exhaust your resources. When you do reach out for support, be specific with your ask and generous with your thanks.
  9. Treat volunteer recruiting like hiring. Look at experience, check references and vet (formally or informally) before adding new team members to your team. One weak link when there’s so much responsibility can really impact the overall experience for the organizing team as well as the end result.

While volunteer events lack a more formalized sense of commitment, in my experience, the passion and sense of internal dedication is so much higher. In my experience, the community development and relationships created outweigh the lack of financial compensation.

At the end of the inaugural PHX Startup Week, an organizing member asked me how I thought something so large could be sustained in years to come. At the time, I didn’t know if it could. Now, almost a year later, I know that it can be sustained, so long as there are people in the community who continue to believe in our mission to connect, cultivate and celebrate the Arizona entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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12 Months, 11 Countries & 1 Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain

static1.squarespaceEver since I ran off to Girl Scout camp for two weeks when I was eight years old, I’ve loved traveling. I continued to travel throughout the years and I even had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain for a year in college.

My love of travel can only be rivaled by my love of working remotely and the flexible lifestyle it provides. It was this passion that led me to start planning a solo 3-month trip around Southeast Asia. During my research, I stumbled across the program
Remote Year, which immediately piqued my interest.

Remote Year is a new program that takes a group of people who can work remotely to travel the world for a year. The first program, which started June 1, 2015, had an average traveler age of 30 with people from 15 different countries. Each month, the group lives in a new country with single-occupancy rooms and a shared working space. As a plus, I’ve heard there’s also stellar internet access.Cordoba

After doing some research into Remote Year and this seemingly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I knew I had to apply. Fast-forward a couple months, and I’m excited to say that come February 27, 2016, I’ll be joining the third cohort of Remote Year participants! It will no doubt be an amazing year of travel, exploration and personal growth. Our first stop is Córdoba, Argentina.

So what does that mean for my life here and what will I be doing for my remote work? I feel fortunate to work with an amazing company, Hopscratch, which I will continue to work with while I’m traveling. Sadly, I’ll be leaving some of my local Phoenix responsibilities, but I’ll be helping share the #yesphx word around the world during my travels.

So, let the countdown begin and stay tuned for more updates! To take a look at the itinerary for the 2016 cohort, appropriately named Cousteau after the explorer Jacques Cousteau, visit the Remote Year website.

For a quick look at some of stops, you can also take a look at the map below!

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The Startup Week Story in 9 Steps

To many people, Phoenix Startup Week 2015 appeared out of thin air. There are similar perceptions of many successful startups in the business world. In reality, there are hardworking, dedicated teams hustling behind the scenes from conception to launch and then: poof, the magic happens.

The story behind Phoenix Startup Week doesn’t have a multi-year long backstory. It’s more like a three-to-four month story—we had little idea of what we were doing (or what would eventually develop). To say we dove in uncertain into isn’t to discredit the amount of work that was put into the event; we just had no idea it would turn into one of the biggest entrepreneurial events the Valley had ever seen.

Arizona ValleyI personally was roped into the initial planning by my then-CEO, Zach Ferres, with the promise of, well, not much. “There’s this event happening that I think you could help out with,” was the pitch, if I’m not mistaken. This seems eerily familiar to the beginning phases of any startup, if you were to talk to any founder or co-founder. It’s one of those, “it just sort of happened,” stories.

So here’s how Phoenix Startup Week’s story is really just a startup’s story in disguise, and will continue to be as it grows, evolves, iterates and thrives.

Step 1: Find your team. It’s been proven time and time again that the team is the foundation for success of any startup. After Evo Terra took on the challenge of Startup Week from UP Global, he knew he needed to put together a team of rockstars to make it happen. Terra, who is now traveling the world, brought together key individuals last fall to create something awesome. What that awesome would turn into? At the time, no one knew.

Step 2: Figure out your ‘why’. Who is Phoenix? What do we want to see come out of Startup Week? Why do we want to work with this UP Global organization? For a community that had traditionally been incredibly segmented, which in reality was only a short year and a half ago, these were hard questions to address on behalf of an entire metropolitan area.

Step 3: Identify how you want to be represented. I remember one of the first meetings I attended for Startup Week we discussed how exactly it would look for Phoenix compared to the flagship event in Denver. Would we have one central location? How would we categorize content? What would our brand look like? We needed to figure out how we would take the framework of a previous event and make it ours—something we could be proud of.

Step 4: Organize the details. Once we understood what we wanted to achieve, we set out to plan the many, many fine details. Jonathan Cottrell, now known as the leader of all things #yesphx, took charge of this incredibly complex and widespread effort. After a number of 20+ receipt emails and team meetings, we mostly knew what we were getting into. As we got closer and closer to the week of the event, a number of hurdles popped up, but we figured it out, in true MVP fashion.

Step 5: Time to launch. The morning of February 23rd could only be compared to the first day of school; excitement, anticipation and a little bit of anxiety. This was an entirely new event being introduced to the Phoenix community, and hey, it could have totally flopped. After months of energy and planning, the team that had come together to bring this event across the finish line has given it their all, and had fingers crossed that would do the trick. I’m proud to say the week exceeded expectations, too. We had 2,500 attendees and a level of energy and collaboration never before seen in the Phoenix startup community.

Step 6: Evaluate how it went. No matter how awesome any product launch or event is, there are always opportunities for growth and improvement. Given that we went into the first-ever Phoenix Startup Week essentially with a blindfold, we immediately identified pain points where we could improve the experience for volunteers, planners, speakers and attendees.

Step 7: Time to iterate. Yes, there was a team crazy enough to immediately jump onboard to help plan round two of Phoenix Startup Week. I feel honored to share the task of planning the largest recurring entrepreneurial event in the Phoenix Area with such a stellar team. This includes Jonathan Cottrell, the Community Lead, Andrew Knochel, the Venue Lead, Beth Cochran, the Marketing Lead, Kunal Laroia, the Sponsorship and Volunteer Lead, Matt Simpson, the Jack of all Trades, and lastly myself, the Programming Lead.

Step 8: Yeah, this is awesome. One of the important milestones we encourage at Hopscratch is celebrating success when celebration is due. Given the year-long volunteer commitment that comes along with planning Startup Week, I like to think that each of our planning meetings (frequently found at Lux around happy hour) is an opportunity to celebrate our hard work. Because honestly, what better time to celebrate than the present?

Step 9: Handoff the reigns, repeat for years to come. We understand that to continue to develop and grow Phoenix Startup Week, we need to have new, fresh perspectives and people leading the charge.

Moral of the story, Phoenix Startup Week 2016 is going to be epic, and luckily, you don’t have to just take my word for it. Take a look at the community supporting the movement and you’ll know this week-long event is bound for greatness.

Originally published on www.phxstartupweek.com.

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Learning to Relinquish Expectations

Expectations; or what I like to call seeds of unhappiness, I believe are the root cause of an overwhelming amount of dissatisfaction within our society. These seeds can be found in friendships, relationships, work or even just small day-to-day experiences. By surrounding ourselves with expectations, we remove the opportunity to be completely and totally happy with the present moment and what we’ve been given.

A fact that I find incredibly interesting is the pure frequency of how often the word ‘expectation’ can be found in English writing over the last 200 years. Since 1920, the appearance of the word ‘expectation’ has increased by more than 6 times and is trending upwards. What does that say about our development as a society?girl

With each expectation, we create a measuring stick for our potential for happiness. Instead of embracing an experience for exactly what it is, our capacity for happiness is based on how the results measure up against our preset expectations. It becomes a linear scale for each and every experience we have. By opening up our minds to accepting whatever may come, we allow ourselves to accept new things into our lives that we may otherwise not have even dreamed of.

So how do we learn to remove expectations and embrace the present moment and be grateful for things as they are? I believe a large part of it begins with self awareness regarding how we react to situations. From there, it’s a matter of making a conscience decision on a daily basis to keep an open mind with every encounter we have.

Here are a few ways that I’ve discovered to help rein in expectations:

  1. Self-awareness. We can’t create positive change in our lives without being aware of why we feel the way we do. Personally, I’ve discovered that I have a very physical reaction when my mind becomes resistant to an experience. I’ve become aware of the signs of this resistance, so now when I feel it, I take a step back and analyze the situation. In many cases, it stems back to a seed of internally set expectations.
  2. Presence. The ability to just exist, as opposed to thinking about the future or dwelling on the past, gives you the power to appreciate each detail for exactly how it is. The ‘now’ is such a powerful moment that many people are quick to speed through so they can move onto the next big thing. Our assumption that we will have more time than this exact moment is an expectation entirely unto itself, because we never really know.
  3. Detachment. While this might have a negative connotation to it, the idea of having a relative amount of detachment allows you to look at a situation objectively. It allows you to be open minded to new or different options that may deviate from what otherwise would have been a set ‘expectation’ regarding a certain experience or desired end result.
  4. Communication. Sometimes, especially in relationships, it’s takes discussing an expectation in order to realize the harm that it’s doing. The ability to talk openly, and honestly, about any preconceived expectations will allow you and your friend, partner or colleague to better understand where it stems from and find a way to resolve it.
  5. Patience. Through practicing patience, we allow ourselves to be more open to things as they happen. Instead of living through preconceived expectations and quickly drawing conclusions, we’re able to be objective and open minded. I recently read in the book, Patience, by Allan Lokos, that most problems or moments of unhappiness people experience would otherwise not have happened if they would have just practiced more patience.
  6. Gratitude. Practicing conscience gratitude removes expectations and replaces them with a positive outlook on any given experience. By embracing each moment as it happens, a conflict turns into a learning lesson, a break up into a new beginning and many other similar transitions, all through a change in mindset.
  7. Breathe. When you feel an encroaching expectation rearing it’s ugly head, I find it most beneficial to quite literally remove myself from any given situation and just breathe. Through my yoga practice, one technique I find especially helpful is focusing on my breath and counting the seconds breathing in and breathing out, removing the focus from a given stressor and allowing yourself to recenter and reevaluate a situation.
  8. Self-reflection. While this includes the self-awareness component, I believe that intentional and thorough self-reflection is an important part of personal growth. For me, writing is my outlet of self-reflection. I’ve had a journal for as long as I can remember, and many times just jotting down a few ideas or emotions allows me to realize where there are stressors or areas I need to address.

Unfortunately, the practice of letting go of expectations is not something that comes naturally for most people. Even with continued practice, I don’t know if it ever really becomes first-nature, but it can become easier. While practice may not make perfect in this case, it is an important part of the journey towards increased overall happiness.

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” – Michael J. Fox

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