Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Why every international entrepreneur should work with a business consultant?

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You are an international entrepreneur and want to start a business abroad. You may dread the various legal, commercial and perhaps cultural challenges ahead of you. Obtaining a visa, albeit a significant milestone, is only your first hurdle. I know how this situation feels as I have been in your shoes.  I became an international entrepreneur in the UK following the competition of my master’s degree at Newcastle University. At the time, I identified a gap in the student housing market, which resulted in conceptualising and founding my former venture, StudyFlats.  Within 4 years, I grew StudyFlats to 30+ UK cities, a team of four and we almost closed our first funding round until the lovely events of 2020 squashed the entire company (yes, painful). Nevertheless, I still obtained my Settlement/Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, also known as permanent residency. Throughout this entire time, I was fortunate to have friends and a powerful network to help me overcome some of the challenges facing every international entrepreneur. This was especially the case as I started StudyFlats with less than £500 and proofread students’ assignments in the first year to support myself and my business.  However, not every international entrepreneur may have the network that I had. Moreover, I still had to make a lot of mistakes and go through extreme financial and mental pressure to grow my business. Yet, I could not identify a business consultant who specialised in working with overseas entrepreneurs (and decided to be the first one myself by the end of 2022). Let me tell you a little truth: as an international entrepreneur, you are at a disadvantage. You are taking risks and are also investing your key resources, time and money. If it fails, you are the only one losing.  Risk is a core part of entrepreneurship, regardless of what type of entrepreneur you are. However, the risk is even greater when you are an entrepreneur and also have to comply with immigration rules and milestones.  And this is one of the reasons why every international entrepreneur should work with a business consultant.  Working with a consultant such as myself will help you in the following ways: Minimising risk  My first advice to any entrepreneur is to have a thorough understanding of the market in which they seek to operate.  This requires: Many international entrepreneurs lack one or both of the above, and it often results in disaster.  The right business consultant will help you minimise risk as they possess both of the above factors.  Cultural gap  In life, and especially in business, everything boils down to relationships.  You may neglect this factor. However, if you fail to communicate with your stakeholders the right way, you are destined to fail.  The way business is conducted differs in each country. You may be a skilled entrepreneur, yet lack the cultural grasp of doing business in a country other than yours. Business consultants who work with international entrepreneurs (at least the right ones) will comprehend the importance of this point. Additionally, they will be able to help you successfully navigate the cultural landscape.  Commercial expertise  Entrepreneurship is a game of unlimited challenges. You fix one aspect, and the other crumbles. This is a brutal reality that you must accept.  Additionally, various considerations must be taken into account. Let’s look at a few: By working with a business consultant, you will delegate some of these to them. This is not only sensible from a business perspective, but also essential for you to be able to overcome the personal and professional challenges that you will have to face.  These are some of the reasons why every international entrepreneur should work with a business consultant.  If you are an international entrepreneur and want to work with a consultant, get in touch with me today. I am the UK’s first and #1 independent business consultant who has been through the immigration journey himself.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I did so by obtaining an endorsement from Newcastle University under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme. Subsequently, I obtained a further 3-year Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (replaced by the Innovator Founder Visa). I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four, and also obtained my Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) in the UK. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses.

Start a business, but not for the wrong reasons

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If you are planning to start a business, it is important to understand “why” you are doing so. Each venture has its own “why” and mission. However, some reasons are the wrong ones to begin with, and I will talk about 3 of them in this piece  The motivation to start a business vary for each founder or founding team. You may be seeking to offer an innovation, improve an existing process, or fill an existing market gap.  However, as a consultant, I have noticed a new wave of “aspiring” business owners who are seeking to become entrepreneurs. Yet, their reasons for doing so are shallow and lack a valid commercial basis.  Some of the common themes among these wrong reasons are: 1. Not wanting to have a boss  The mindset of starting a business so you can not have a boss to answer to is a dangerous one.  You are indeed in charge of everything and there is not a superior that you have to be accountable to.  Nevertheless, I learnt that even as a business owner, your customers and other stakeholders are your boss. These are parties that you must keep happy and be accountable to.  Thus, the idea that by being a business owner you will forfeit accountability is incorrect.  2. Getting rich quickly I am not denying that businesses are commercial entities. Hence, making money is the primary motive.  However, entrepreneurship should not be viewed as the gateway to getting rich quickly. This is unlikely to happen rapidly in the case of most businesses and it will take time, risk, resources and patience.  If you are unwilling to invest the abovementioned into starting a business and are looking to make a quick buck, you may be in for disappointment.  3. Ego and vanity Lastly, if starting a business is a tool to stroke your ego and “show off”, you are in for the wrong reason. My philosophy is that the first step towards starting a business is to drop your ego and adopt the mindset that you know nothing.  These are 3 common wrong reasons for starting a business. Before doing so, make sure that you have a clear “why” and emphasise the commercial context of starting a business.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I now help other entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

Startup funding: a simple guide

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Navigating the world of startup funding can be a daunting task for founders. Securing the right type of cash injection at the right time is crucial for your startup. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the various stages of startup funding, the types of funding available, and best practices to attract investors. What is Startup Funding? Startup funding refers to the money that entrepreneurs raise to launch and grow their new business ventures. This funding can come from various sources, each with its own benefits and requirements. The primary goal is to secure enough capital to cover initial costs, sustain operations, and scale the business until it becomes profitable. Stages of Startup Funding 1. Pre-Seed Funding Pre-seed funding is the earliest stage of funding, often coming from the founders themselves, friends, family, or small angel investors. This stage focuses on developing the initial business idea, market research, and creating a minimum viable product (MVP). 2. Seed Funding Seed funding is the first official equity funding stage. It helps startups conduct product development, market research, and business model validation. 3. Series A Funding Series A funding focuses on scaling the product and user base. Startups use this funding to optimize their product offerings, expand the team, and enter new markets. 4. Series B Funding Series B funding is used for scaling operations, including expanding the market reach, hiring additional team members, and improving technology. 5. Series C Funding and Beyond Series C funding and subsequent rounds are aimed at scaling the business rapidly, developing new products, entering international markets, or preparing for an acquisition or IPO. Types of Startup Funding 1. Bootstrapping Bootstrapping involves funding the startup using personal savings or revenue from the business. It allows founders to retain full control and ownership but can limit growth due to limited capital. 2. Angel Investors Angel investors are high-net-worth individuals who invest their personal funds in startups in exchange for equity. They often provide mentorship and valuable industry connections. 3. Venture Capital (VC) Venture capital firms invest in startups with high growth potential in exchange for equity. They typically get involved in later stages (Series A and beyond) and provide significant funding along with strategic guidance. 4. Crowdfunding Crowdfunding involves raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via online platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. It’s an excellent way to validate market interest and gain early customers. 5. Grants and Competitions Grants and competitions offer non-dilutive funding, meaning you don’t have to give up equity. These are often provided by government programs, non-profits, or industry competitions. 6. Bank Loans Bank loans are traditional funding methods where startups borrow money and repay it with interest. This option does not require giving up equity but does require a solid business plan and creditworthiness. Best Practices to Attract Investors 1. Develop a Solid Business Plan Investors need to see a well-thought-out business plan that outlines your vision, market analysis, revenue model, and growth strategy. Ensure your plan highlights the potential return on investment. 2. Build a Strong Team A talented and dedicated team is crucial for success. Investors are more likely to fund a startup with a strong leadership team that has relevant experience and a proven track record. 3. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Developing an MVP demonstrates your ability to execute your idea and provides a tangible product for investors to evaluate. It also helps validate your business concept in the market. 4. Network and Build Relationships Attend industry events, join startup incubators, and use online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with potential investors. Building relationships can lead to valuable introductions and funding opportunities. 5. Show Traction Demonstrate market demand and your startup’s potential by showing early sales, user growth, or partnerships. Traction proves that there is a viable market for your product or service. Conclusion Understanding how startup funding works is essential for any entrepreneur looking to turn their business idea into a successful company. By familiarizing yourself with the various stages and types of funding, and following best practices to attract investors, you can secure the capital needed to launch and grow your startup. About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I now help other entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

How I started a tech startup with £500 & scaled it to 30+ UK cities

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Following the completion of my master’s degree, I founded a tech startup called StudyFlats. Within 3 years, I scaled this PropTech company to over 30 UK cities, with a client base in over 50 countries.  As a solo non-technical founder, the idea for StudyFlats seemed far-fetched at first. My business idea was first put to the test when I spoke to Newcastle University. I was an international student in the UK on a visa and therefore had to obtain the correct visa.  I pitched the idea to Newcastle University and managed to receive an endorsement for the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa scheme. This was the former equivalent of the former Startup Visa in the UK.  The first year  The first year was one of the most difficult years of my life. I was a 22-year-old graduate, with a laptop and £500 in my bank account. Not to mention that I had no coding knowledge/background and thus could not create the website myself.  I was getting quotes upwards of £10,000 from agencies to create StudyFlats’ website. Needless to say, these were not an option and I was stuck.  At the same time, a very dear friend of mine from University, introduced me to a developer who agreed to complete the backend functionalities, whilst I learnt the other parts, especially SEO as I knew I’d heavily rely on it.  In the meantime, I was proofreading students’s assignments and dissertations to fund the business and my daily expenses (living in a single room with shared toilets that year was no fun at all).  The lesson that I learnt was: where there’s a will there’s a way. I had no option but to grow this company despite all the hurdles.  The second & third years year  In the second and third years, things began to improve.  By the second year, StudyFlats operated in 10 cities. However, this is also when a major competitor began scaling with £70m of funding! It is also worth noting that StudyFlats worked with contractors/freelancers during the second year. Hence, there was no “team” at this point and I essentially did everything that was needed.  However, I adopted 2 strategies that gained a unique competitive advantage for StudyFlats, which was integral to its growth. These were: By the end of 2019, we were a team of five, operated across 30+ UK cities, consulted 1000+ students from 50+ countries, and had investors approaching us themselves.  March 2020: goodbye And this is where the brutal reality hits: you can do everything right and things can still go south.  With the events of 2020, I was reluctant to maintain the company’s operations for that period as it seemed extremely unpredictable and possibly a recipe for liability.  Additionally, we needed cash to maintain the company’s operations, yet this was simply not possible as we paused our operations. By 2021, I considered relaunching the company’s operations. However, after considering several factors including the desire to do what I do now as a consultant, I made the very difficult decision that every founder resents. However, I see StudyFlats as a learning experience, the driver of my settlement in the UK and an opportunity that was missed due to factors outside my control. We live and learn, it is what it is.  Starting and scaling a (tech) startup is not for the faint-hearted. It involves pain, uncertainty, disappointment, rejection and loneliness. But in the end, it can all be worth it, as it was in my case.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

Why immigrant entrepreneurs are important to the UK

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As a former international founder in the UK, I have written several articles about immigrant entrepreneurs. In this one, I will look at their importance from a UK perspective. The UK’s political and economic landscape has rapidly shifted in the last decade. Moreover, preserving its benefits for international entrepreneurs is vital to the UK’s future success.  Immigrants are much more likely to become entrepreneurs. This is a hypothesis that I examined in several other articles on my blog, most notably: In the context of the UK, the key points covered in my previous research may be applicable. However, identifying the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs to the UK benefits from highlighting the key factors signifying this importance.  These are namely: Global challenges We live through a historical period in which the problems facing humanity are, by their nature, global.  Examples include international terrorism, climate change and so on.  As we are on the topic of climate change, allow me to introduce you to the concept of “climate refugees”  For many, the issue of migration and displacement is automatically contextualised as a political one. However, this is an incomplete perspective and ignores the increasing roles of other issues such as climate change.  According to a report published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there will be an estimated 25 million to 1 billion displaced people, solely due to climate change, by 2050.  Additionally, UNESCO has predicted that displacement will be a primary cause of displacement within the following decades.  << Read full report>>  By 2050, there will be between 25 million to 1 billion displaced people due to climate conditions. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Innovations & new solutions   Global challenges require global solutions. Restrictive measures, enacted through policy and other means, pose the risk of harming global innovation.  Immigrants, nomads and displaced people are problem-solvers by nature. Their realities are formed by unique events and challenges. The latter are beyond what is interpreted as “ordinary” for most people in the “developed” world. For instance, let us look at an article by Stanford Graduate School of Business.  The article examines 880,000 patent registrations between 1990 & 2016. The research found that patents by immigrants outmeasured the native groups both statistically and in terms of quality. Despite comprising only 16% of inventors, immigrants were responsible for 23% of patents issued. This study may be contextually and geographically limited to a specific area/nation.  However, it supports the broader argument that innovation and creativity are skills that are highly evident among migrants and displaced people.  The succeeding point about immigrant entrepreneurs in the UK will support this hypothesis.  Immigrant entrepreneurs behind the UK’s top companies  Similar to the US, immigrant entrepreneurs in the UK proportionally outsize the local population.  In a research/study conducted by The Entrepreneurs Network (TEN), it was observed that foreign-born founders or co-founders accounted for 39% of the top 100 fastest-growing enterprises in the UK. The UK’s global position  The UK’s global standing as an entrepreneurial ecosystem and a business-friendly nation is closely tied to immigrant entrepreneurs. This connection remains significant in the long term. Therefore, the formation and structure of the UK’s visa policy hold critical importance. Immigrants, nomads and displaced people show high tendencies towards entrepreneurship. This is inherently valuable and must be utilised for the betterment of the world. However, the current global visa regime has a long road to adapt to the premise of immigrant entrepreneurship. About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I did so by obtaining an endorsement from Newcastle University under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme. Subsequently, I obtained a further 3-year Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (replaced by the Innovator Founder Visa). I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four, and also obtained my Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) in the UK. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies. References

3 tools to help you make more sales

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If you’re on the lookout for digital tools to make more sales, this short list is for you. As an entrepreneur for over 8 years, I learnt an important lesson: if you can’t sell, you won’t succeed regardless of what you aim to do.  Now, I am not going to go through the soft and personal skills that you need to make more sales (perhaps for another article). However, I want to point out 3 tools that can considerably help you in getting exposure, prospecting and converting your sales leads.  Tidio Tidio has got to be one of my favourite tools of all time. Its primary product is AI-assisted chatbots.  These chatbots and lead converters are highly customizable, allowing you to tailor your communications with prospective leads.  Moreover, the Tidio platform in itself is quite user-friendly, and easy to use whilst also offering more service extensions such as email marketing. Hunter.io Do you know what’s the worst approach to sales? The cold approach. Generic emails with the opening of “Hello there” or “Greetings” will never work.  Instead, it’s important to target and create a profile of your ideal customer accurately. But, how do you get to contact them?  This is where Hunter.io comes in.  Quora Did I just refer to a community platform as a sales tool? Yes  Was it by mistake? No. I love Quora. I have used it for over a decade and it has never disappointed me (apart from the tabs opening in new windows all the time!). However, you may be asking why Quora can be used as a sales tool. Here’s the answer: psychology.  Quora, along with Reddit, is one of the best platforms for understanding people’s problems, needs and desires, the key ingredients of a successful sales strategy. Use Quora to understand: Your target market, Their pain  What bothers them  What motivates them  Subsequently, centre your sales pitch around the above.  These 3 tools will help you boost your sales through better planning and engagement with your leads.  About My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four prior to 2020. Currently, I help other entrepreneurs start their businesses.

Are online courses useful for people starting their own business?

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If you are thinking of starting your own business, then you may have considered completing online courses. In recent years, there has been an unprecedented surge in the provision of online courses, especially around starting your own business. However, are they useful? Or simply useless? The answer to the above is: it depends. Online courses can be useful for people who want to start their own business. However, you must use them in the right way and with the right intention.  Let me answer this question differently. Generally, with business, you are preoccupied with three key questions: The question is whether an online course would be appropriate for and beneficial in answering those three questions.  Online courses are useless for the “Why”  There are a myriad of courses on “business mindset”, “growth hacks”, “growth mindset”, “billionaire mindset” and so on.  These promise to give you the right mindset to make your billions (and yes, it is most definitely utter BS).  I believe that any entrepreneur should start a business out of their instinct. They should not need any person or entity telling them why they should start a business or get into the right mindset of setting one.  Entrepreneurship is a journey of evolution  Understanding the context of this article demands an understanding of the philosophy of entrepreneurship.  Entrepreneurship is inherently defined by risk and uncertainty. It is unconventional. There is a reason why the majority do not pursue this path, despite not necessarily loving their daily jobs. It is about understanding and accepting that you are taking a massive risk. You can do everything right, and it can still fail.  Therefore, beginning this journey under a guided course is the wrong way to approach this path.  Online courses are good for the “What” and the “How” Now that we have clarified where online courses for starting a business are not helpful, let’s consider the other side.  I elaborated on a few points concerning entrepreneurship. Here are an additional 2 that are relevant: skills and knowledge.  Implementing, managing and executing a business venture demands certain skills, and it may be specific to each founder and business.  This is where online courses “may” be helpful for people starting their businesses. So long as you identify the following: Let’s look at an example below (me): Sohrab wants to start an online consultancy business. His main way of getting clients is online through his website and Google search. Therefore, Sohrab needs to understand Google Analytics to analyse his website’s performance. In this case, an online course on Google Analytics could be helpful for Sohrab.  Starting your own business can be daunting. Need help? About My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four prior to 2020. Currently, I help other entrepreneurs start their businesses.

Don’t make this mistake with Business and Startup Visas

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Business and startup visas and international entrepreneurs are what and who I deal with on a daily basis. As someone who has embarked on the path of business visas as a foreign entrepreneur, I have learned a few lessons. Disclaimer: none of the content in this article, or website, constitute immigration advice in any shape or form. For professional immigration advice, please refer to a regulated immigration advisor or solicitor. If you are an international entrepreneur considering applying for a business or startup visa, there are quite a few things to consider. This may be one of the biggest challenges with foreign entrepreneurs. Starting a business is always hard work; add it to navigating immigration rules and you are bound to get things wrong.  As such, in this article, I seek to prevent foreign entrepreneurs from making ONE fatal mistake, and that is underestimating the requirements of business and startup visas.  Business & Startup visas may come with ongoing requirements Remember that under many visa paths such as the UK’s Innovator Founder Visa, there are ongoing milestones that founders must meet.  In other words, getting a business or startup visa is just the beginning.  Where do founders get it wrong? With the above in mind, founders usually underestimate startup and business visa requirements by either: These two mistakes can end up costing you money, time, energy and your health. It is vital that founders who consider startup and business visas are aware of this reality.  Startup and business visas are not the means to obtain long-term residency/citizenship.  It may be in certain countries, but it certainly is not the case with the UK’s Innovator Founder Visa.  Remember to assess everything from a “business” perspective, rather than a “residency/immigration” one.  What if residency is your goal? Entrepreneurship is not everyone’s forté, and I am not judging you for that.  Perhaps you do wish to invest in commercial projects whilst obtaining an additional residency or citizenship. In these cases, it is better to consider residency or citizenship by investment programs offered by several countries across the world.  Do not pursue a business or startup visa if your main priority is residency. Running a business has many uncertainties, and it should always be done for the purpose of generating profit unless we are speaking of non-profits.  Any other goal is foundationally wrong for doing so.  About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I did so by obtaining an endorsement from Newcastle University under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme. Subsequently, I obtained a further 3-year Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (replaced by the Innovator Founder Visa). I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four, and also obtained my Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) in the UK. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.

The general costs of running a limited company in the UK

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If you want to start a business in the UK, one of the most common ways is through incorporating a limited company.  There are various business structures in the UK that one may start a business through. The most common ways are: It is ultimately up to you to decide which structure fits you best. Each has its own tax implications and regulatory requirements.  However, assuming that you wish to start a limited company in the UK, below are some of the costs that you will incur. Accounting  Limited companies require the director(s) to submit annual accounts. Preparing and filing a limited company’s accounts, in most cases, will require an accountant’s assistance.  The costs of an accountant can vary based on:  Generally, you can expect to pay your accountant anywhere between £500-£2000 per year.  These are broad estimates, and you may even have to pay more in certain circumstances.  Registered address UK limited companies require a registered address. If you have an office, then that address will suffice.  However, if you do not have an office, there are two options: Confirmation statement Limited companies are required to file a Confirmation Statement every year, which costs £13.  On many occasions, this fee will be covered by your accountant as part of their services. Company incorporation Depending on how you incorporate your company, there is an incorporation fee.  The cost can range from £10 to £40. Corporation tax This will depend on whether your UK limited company makes a profit.  Currently, the UK’s corporation tax rate is per below: 19% : for limited companies with profits between 0-£50,000  25%: for limited companies with profits above £250,000  For full information, please refer to the UK Government’s website. These are some of the general costs of running a UK limited company.  If you are planning to start a business in the UK and need help, get in touch with me to start your journey today. About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats which I scaled to over 30 UK cities. I currently help other entrepreneurs and businesses of all size across several domains. For my credentials, please see here.

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