Jan
15
2019
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Smartsheet acquires Slope to help creatives collaborate

Smartsheet, the project management and collaboration tool that went public last April, announced the acquisition of Seattle-based TernPro, Inc., makers of Slope, a collaboration tool designed for sharing creative assets.

The companies did not share the acquisition price.

Bringing Slope into the fold will enable Smartsheet users to share assets like video and photos natively inside the application, and also brings the ability to annotate, comment or approve these assets. Smartsheet sees this native integration through a broad enterprise lens. It might be HR sharing training videos, marketing sharing product photos or construction company employees inspecting a site and sharing photos of a code violation, complete with annotations to point out the problem.

Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research who specializes in collaboration tools in the enterprise, sees this as a significant enhancement to the product. “Smartsheet’s focus is on being more than just project management, but instead helping coordinate end-to-end business processes. Slope is going to allow content to become more of a native part of those processes, rather than people having to switch context to another tool,” he explained.

That last point is particularly important, as today’s collaboration tools, whether Slack or Microsoft Teams or any other similar tool, have been working hard to provide that kind of integration to keep people focused on the task at hand without having to switch applications.

Mike Gotta, a longtime analyst at Gartner, says collaboration that happens within the flow of work can help make employees more productive, but being able to build specific use cases is even more critical. “The collaboration space remains open for innovation and new ways to addressing old challenges. For organizations though, the trick is how to create a collaboration portfolio that balances broad-based foundational investments with the more domain-specific or situational scenarios they might have where this type of use-case driven collaboration can make more sense,” Gotta told TechCrunch.

That is precisely what Smartsheet is trying to achieve with this purchase, giving them the ability to incorporate workflows involving creative assets, whether that’s including all of the documents required to onboard a new employee or a training workflow that includes learning objectives, lesson plans, photos, videos and so forth.

Smartsheet, which launched in 2005, raised more than $113 million before going public last April. The company’s stock price has held up, gaining ground in a volatile stock market. It sits above its launch price of $19.50, closing at $25.24 yesterday.

Slope was founded in 2014 and has raised $1.4 million, according to Crunchbase data. Customers include Microsoft, CBS Sports and the Oakland Athletics baseball team. The company’s employees, including co-founders Dan Bloom and Brian Boschè, have already joined Smartsheet.

Jan
08
2019
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Amazon reportedly acquired Israeli disaster recovery service CloudEndure for around $200M

Amazon has reportedly acquired Israeli disaster recovery startup CloudEndure. Neither company has responded to our request for confirmation, but we have heard from multiple sources that the deal has happened. While some outlets have been reporting the deal was worth $250 million, we are hearing it’s closer to $200 million.

The company provides disaster recovery for cloud customers. You may be thinking that disaster recovery is precisely why we put our trust in cloud vendors. If something goes wrong, it’s the vendor’s problem — and you would be right to make this assumption, but nothing is simple. If you have a hybrid or multi-cloud scenario, you need to have ways to recover your data in the event of a disaster like weather, a cyberattack or political issue.

That’s where a company like CloudEndure comes into play. It can help you recover and get back and running in another place, no matter where your data lives, by providing a continuous backup and migration between clouds and private data centers. While CloudEndure currently works with AWS, Azure and Google Cloud Platform, it’s not clear if Amazon would continue to support these other vendors.

The company was backed by Dell Technologies Capital, Infosys and Magma Venture Partners, among others. Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says Infosys recently divested its part of the deal and that might have precipitated the sale. “So much information is sitting in the cloud that you need backups and regions to make sure you have seamless recovery in the event of a disaster,” Wang told TechCrunch.

While he isn’t clear what Amazon will do with the company, he says it will test just how open it is. “If you have multi-cloud and want your on-prem data backed up, or if you have backup on one cloud like AWS and want it on Google or Azure, you could do this today with CloudEndure,” he said. “That’s why I’m curious if they’ll keep supporting Azure or GCP,” he added.

CloudEndure was founded in 2012 and has raised just over $18 million. Its most recent investment came in 2016 when it raised $6 million, led by Infosys and Magma.

Jan
03
2019
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Cloudera and Hortonworks finalize their merger

Cloudera and Hortonworks, two of the biggest players in the Hadoop big data space, today announced that they have finalized their all-stock merger. The new company will use the Cloudera brand and will continue to trade under the CLDR symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Today, we start an exciting new chapter for Cloudera as we become the leading enterprise data cloud provider,” said Tom Reilly, chief executive officer of Cloudera, in today’s announcement. “This combined team and technology portfolio establish the new Cloudera as a clear market leader with the scale and resources to drive continued innovation and growth. We will provide customers a comprehensive solution-set to bring the right data analytics to data anywhere the enterprise needs to work, from the Edge to AI, with the industry’s first Enterprise Data Cloud.”

The companies describe the deal as a “merger of equals,” though Cloudera stockholders will own about 60 percent of the equity in the company.

The combined company expects to generate more than $720 million in revenue from its 2,500 customers that rely on it to help them manage the complexities of processing their data. While Hadoop itself is open source and freely available, Cloudera and Hortonworks abstract away most of the infrastructure. Both focused on slightly different markets, though, with Hortonworks going after a more technical user and a pure open-source approach, while Cloudera also offered some proprietary tools.

“Together, we are well-positioned to continue growing and competing in the streaming and IoT, data management, data warehousing, machine learning/AI and hybrid cloud markets,” said Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden back when the deal was first announced. “Importantly, we will be able to offer a broader set of offerings that will enable our customers to capitalize on the value of their data.”

Jan
03
2019
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PR management firm Cision is acquiring Falcon.io to expand into social media marketing

Social media has become a primary conduit for getting the word out, in some cases proving to be an even stronger force for publicity than more traditional media outlets and paid advertising, and so today, a company that has grown its business around public relations services has acquired a social media management company to make sure it has a foothold in the medium. Cision, which provides press release distribution, media monitoring and other PR services to businesses and the media industry, has acquired Falcon.io, a startup founded in Denmark that lets companies post, manage and analyse their presence on social media platforms.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, the companies tell me, but the whole of the Falcon team, including CEO/founder Ulrik Bo Larsen, are joining the company, where they will continue to operate its existing product set as well as integrate it into Cision’s wider business. The last valuation noted in April 2017 at the Danish Companies House was about $52 million (€45 million), but they have been growing very rapidly, and one source tells us that the price paid was around $200-$225 million, while Danish publication Borsen says it’s 800 million Danish kroner, or around $122 million. I’m still trying to get more detail.

Falcon had raised around $25 million according to PitchBook, and it has never disclosed its valuation. Cision — well-known to many journalists — is publicly traded and currently has a market cap of just under $1.6 billion. For some context, two other prominent social media management firms that compete with Falcon, Sprout Social and Hootsuite, are respectively valued at $800 million and anywhere between $750 million and $1 billion (depending on who you ask).

The latter two are bigger firms — Falcon has around 1,500 businesses as customers that use it to manage their social profiles and read social sentiment across platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, while Sprout says it has around 25,000 and Hootsuite counts millions of individual users — and both have raised significantly more capital, but their valuations underscore the demand that we’re seeing for platforms and user-friendly tools to target the world’s social media users — estimated to number at upwards of 2.5 billion people globally.

Kevin Akeroyd, who came on as Cision’s CEO after long stints at both Oracle and Salesforce, among other places, describes Falcon as a “top five” social media marketing and analytics firm, and in an interview he said that the new acquisition will form a key part of the “communications cloud” that Cision has been building.

As with Salesforce, Oracle and Adobe (which also use similar cloud-themed terminology to describe their product suites), Cision’s strategy is to build a one-stop shop for customers to manage all their communications needs from one platform. Falcon itself may be smaller than its competitors, but the idea is that it will be cross-sold to Cision’s customers, which currently number 75,000 businesses.

“We’re seeing too many of our customers using one application for content, another for something else, and so on. There are too many apps,” Akeroyd said. “We have always believed in earned media” — that is, media mentions that are not in the form of paid advertising — “and the role of influencers alongside paid and owned marketing. We believe we could provide the first solution for businesses across earned, communications services and public relations, helping to build a better data stack to measure and attribute what you are doing in comms.”

As social networking companies like Facebook and Twitter build more of their own tools in-house to serve the social media needs of organizations that want to better manage their profiles and interactions on these platforms, this has led to some consolidation and shifts among social media management companies. Some are merging or getting acquired, and some are shopping themselves around.

And in that wider trend, it’s not too surprising to see public relations firms get in on the action. Social media has completely changed the landscape for how information is disseminated today, sometimes complementing what traditional media organizations do — there are many examples of how newspapers and other news outlets leverage, for example, Facebook to grow and communicate with their audiences — and often replacing traditional media altogether. (Pew last month said that social media outpaced newspapers for the first time as a news source in the U.S., although TV and radio are still bigger than social… for now.)

Given that public relations management has long been the connecting link between organisations and media outlets, they have had to take a bigger step into social media in order to provide to their clients a more complete picture of the media landscape. Cision is not the first to have done this: Last year, Meltwater, another media monitoring firm, acquired DataSift to add social signals and traffic to its platform mix.

“This consolidation has to come because there is just too much value for the user,” Akeroyd said. “CMOs and CCOs do not want their own islands, they want something bigger.”

Dec
19
2018
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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $87 billion this year

M&A activity was brisk in the enterprise market this year with 10 high-profile deals totaling almost $88 billion. Companies were opening up their wallets and pouring money into mega acquisitions. It’s worth noting that the $88 billion figure doesn’t include Dell paying investors over $23 billion for VMware tracking stock to take the company public again or several other deals of over a billion dollars that didn’t make our list.

Last year’s big deals included Intel buying MobileEye for $15 billion and Cisco getting AppDynamics for $3.7 billion, but there were not as many big ones. Adobe, which made two large acquisitions this year was mostly quiet last year only make a minor purchase. Salesforce too was mostly quiet in 2017, only buying a digital creative agency, after an active 2016. SAP also made only one purchase in 2017, paying $350 million for Gigya. Microsoft was active buying 9 companies, but these were primarily minor. Perhaps everyone was saving their pennies for 2018.

This year by contrast was go big or go home, and we saw action across the board from the usual suspects. Large companies looking to change their fortunes or grow their markets went shopping and came home with some expensive trinkets for their collections. Some of the deals are still waiting to pass regulatory hurdles and won’t be closing until 2019. Regardless, it’s too soon to judge whether these big-bucks ventures will pay the dividends that the their buyers hope, or if they end up being M&A dust in the wind.

IBM acquires Red Hat for $34 billion

By far the biggest and splashiest deal of the year goes to IBM, which bet the farm to acquire Red Hat for a staggering $34 billion. IBM sees this acquisition as a way to build out its hybrid cloud business. It’s a huge bet and one that could determine the success of Big Blue as an organization in the coming years.

Broadcom nets CA Technologies for $18.5 billion

This deal was unexpected as Broadcom, a chip maker, spent the second largest amount of money in a year of big spending. What Broadcom got for its many billions was an old school IT management and software solutions provider. Perhaps Broadcom felt it needed it to branch out beyond pure chip making and CA offered a way to do it, albeit a rather expensive one.

SAP buys Qualtrics for $8 billion

While not anywhere close to the money IBM or Broadcom spent, SAP went out and nabbed Qualtrics last month just before the company was about to IPO, still paying a healthy $8 billion. The company believes that the new company could help build a bridge between SAP operational data inside its back-end ERP systems and Qualtrics customer data on the front end. Time will tell if they are right.

Microsoft gets Github for $7.5 billion

In June, Microsoft swooped in and bought Github, giving it a key developer code repository. It was a lot of money to pay, and Diane Greene expressed regret that Google hadn’t been able to get it. That’s because cloud companies are working hard to win developer hearts and minds. Microsoft has a chance to push Github users toward its products, but it has to tread carefully because they will balk if Microsoft goes too far.

Salesforce snares Mulesoft for $6.5 billion

Salesforce wasn’t about to be left out of the party in 2018 and in March, the CRM giant announced it was buying API integration vendor, Mulesoft for a cool $6.5 billion. It was a big deal for Salesforce, which tends to be acquisitive, but typically on smaller deals. This one was a key purchase though because it gives the company the ability to access data wherever it lives, on premises or in the cloud, and that could be key for them moving forward.

Adobe snags Marketo for $4.75 billion

Adobe has built a strong company primarily on the strength of its Creative Cloud, but it has been trying to generate more revenue on the marketing side of the business. To that end, it acquired Marketo for $4.75 billion and immediately boosted its marketing business, especial when combined with the $1.68 billion Magento purchase earlier in the year.

SAP acquires CallidusCloud for $2.4 billion

SAP doesn’t do as many acquisitions as some of its fellow large tech companies mentioned here, but this year it did two. Not only did it buy Qualtrics for $8 billion, it also grabbed CallidusCloud for $2.4 billion. SAP is best known for managing back office components with its ERP software, but this adds a cloud-based, front-office sales process piece to the mix.

Cisco grabs Duo Security for $2.35 billion

Cisco has been hard at work buying up a variety of software services over the years, and this year it added to its security portfolio when it acquired Duo Security for $2.35 billion. The Michigan-based company helps companies secure applications using their own mobile devices and could be a key part of the Cisco security strategy moving forward.

Twilio buys SendGrid for $2 billion

Twilio got into the act this year too. While not in the same league as the other large tech companies on this list, it saw a piece it felt would enhance its product set and it was willing to spend big to get it. Twilio, which made its name as a communications API company, saw a kindred spirit in SendGrid, spending $2 billion to get the API-based email service.

Vista snares Apttio for $1.94 billion

Vista Equity Partners is the only private equity firm on the list, but it’s one with an appetite for enterprise technology. With Apttio, it gets a company that can help companies understand their cloud assets alongside their on-prem ones. The company had been public before Vista bought it for $1.94 billion last month.

Dec
18
2018
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Cisco to acquire silicon photonics chip maker Luxtera for $660 million

As networks get put under increasing pressure from ever-growing amounts of data, network equipment manufacturers are facing huge challenges to increase data transmission speeds over farther distances. As a premier networking equipment company, Cisco wants to be prepared to meet that demand. Today, it opened up its checkbook and announced its intent to acquire Luxtera for $660 million.

Luxtera, which was founded in 2001 and raised more than $130 million, will give Cisco a photonic solution for that data networking problem. Rob Salvagno, head of Cisco’s M&A and venture investment team, sees a company that can help modernize Cisco’s networking equipment.

“That’s why today we announced our intent to acquire Luxtera, Inc., a privately-held semiconductor company that uses silicon photonics technology to build integrated optics capabilities for webscale and enterprise data centers, service provider market segments, and other customers. Luxtera’s technology, design and manufacturing innovation significantly improves performance and scale while lowering costs,” he wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Photonics uses light to move large amounts of data at higher speeds over increased distances via fiber optic cable. Cisco sees this as a way to future-proof customer networking requirements, while keeping them on Cisco equipment. “The combination of Cisco’s and Luxtera’s capabilities in 100GbE/400GbE optics, silicon and process technology will enable customers to build future-proof networks optimized for performance, reliability and cost,” Salvagno wrote.

While Cisco has been acquiring its share of high-profile software properties in recent years, including AppDyanmics for $3.7 billion in 2017 and Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion in 2016, it also acquired Israeli chip designer Leaba Semiconductor for $320 million in 2016 for its advanced chip making capability.

Today’s announcement would seem to build on that earlier purchase as Cisco tries to modernize its hardware offerings to meet increasingly stringent demands inside large-scale data centers.

The acquisition is subject to the typical regulatory scrutiny, but Cisco expects it to close in its fiscal year 2019 Q3. It reported its Q1 2019 earnings in November.

Dec
10
2018
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Trello acquires Butler to add power of automation

Trello, the organizational tool owned by Atlassian, announced an acquisition of its very own this morning when it bought Butler for an undisclosed amount.

What Butler brings to Trello is the power of automation, stringing together a bunch of commands to make something complex happen automatically. As Trello’s Michael Pryor pointed out in a blog post announcing the acquisition, we are used to tools like IFTTT, Zapier and Apple Shortcuts, and this will bring a similar type of functionality directly into Trello.

Screenshot: Trello

“Over the years, teams have discovered that by automating processes on Trello boards with the Butler Power-Up, they could spend more time on important tasks and be more productive. Butler helps teams codify business rules and processes, taking something that might take ten steps to accomplish and automating it into one click,” Pryor wrote.

This means that Trello can be more than a static organizational tool. Instead, it can move into the realm of light-weight business process automation. For example, this could allow you to move an item from your To Do board to your Doing board automatically based on dates, or to share tasks with appropriate teams as a project moves through its life cycle, saving a bunch of manual steps that tend to add up.

The company indicated that it will be incorporating the Alfred’s capabilities directly into Trello in the coming months. It will make it available to all levels of users, including the free tier, but they promise more advanced functionality for Business and Enterprise customers when the integration is complete. Pryor also suggested that more automation could be coming to Trello. “Butler is Trello’s first step down this road, enabling every user to automate pieces of their Trello workflow to save time, stay organized and get more done.”

Atlassian bought Trello in 2017 for $425 million, but this acquisition indicates it is functioning quasi-independently as part of the Atlassian family.

Dec
07
2018
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IBM selling Lotus Notes/Domino business to HCL for $1.8B

IBM announced last night that it is selling the final components from its 1995 acquisition of Lotus to Indian firm HCL for $1.8 billion.

IBM paid $3.5 billion for Lotus back in the day. The big pieces here are Lotus Notes, Domino and Portal. These were a big part of IBM’s enterprise business for a long time, but last year Big Blue began to pull away, selling the development part to HCL, while maintaining control of sales and marketing.

This announcement marks the end of the line for IBM involvement. With the development of the platform out of its control, and in need of cash after spending $34 billion for Red Hat, perhaps IBM simply decided it no longer made sense to keep any part of this in-house.

As for HCL, it sees an opportunity to continue to build the Notes/Domino business, and it’s seizing it with this purchase. “The large-scale deployments of these products provide us with a great opportunity to reach and serve thousands of global enterprises across a wide range of industries and markets,” C Vijayakumar, president and CEO at HCL Technologies, said in a statement announcing the deal.

Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research who keeps close watch on the enterprise collaboration space, says the sale could represent a fresh start for software that IBM hasn’t really been paying close attention to for some time. “HCL is far more interested in Notes/Domino than IBM has been for a decade. They are investing heavily, trying to rejuvenate the brand,” Lepofsky told TechCrunch.

While this software may feel long in the tooth, Notes and Domino are still in use in many corners of the enterprise, and this is especially true in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and AP (Asia Pacific), Lepofsky said.

He added that IBM appears to be completely exiting the collaboration space with this sale. “It appears that IBM is done with collaboration, out of the game,” he said.

This move makes sense for IBM, which is moving in a different direction as it develops its cloud business. The Red Hat acquisition in October, in particular, shows that the company wants to embrace private and hybrid cloud deployments, and older software like Lotus Notes and Domino don’t really play a role in that world.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval processes, is expected to close in the middle of next year.

Nov
20
2018
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Autodesk agrees to buy PlanGrid for $875 million

Autodesk announced plans to acquire PlanGrid for $875 million today. The San Francisco startup helped move blueprints from paper to the iPad when it launched in 2011.

This digitization of construction fits with Autodesk’s vision of digitizing design in general, and CEO Andrew Anagnost certainly recognized the transformational potential of the company he was buying. “There is a huge opportunity to streamline all aspects of construction through digitization and automation. The acquisition of PlanGrid will accelerate our efforts to improve construction workflows for every stakeholder in the construction process,” he said in a statement.

The company, which is a 2012 graduate of Y Combinator, raised just $69 million, so this appears to be a healthy exit for the them. PlanGrid took what was a paper-intensive task and shifted it to digital, taking a world of hand-written mark-ups and sticky notes onto the fledgling iPad.

In an interview with CEO and co-founder Tracy Young in 2015 at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, she said the industry was ripe for change. “The heart of construction is just a lot of construction blueprints information. It’s all tracked on paper right now and they’re constantly, constantly changing,” Young said at the time.

Those manual changes often resulted in errors she said, and that was costly for the contractors. As an engineer working for a construction company, who was at one time responsible for making the paper copies, she recognized that the process could be improved by moving it into the digital realm.

PlanGrid CEO Tracy Young onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco in 2015

Her idea, which was kind of radical in 2011 when she started the company, was to move all that paper to the cloud and display it on an iPad. It’s important to remember that the enterprise was not rushing to the cloud in 2011, and most people considered the iPad at the time to be a consumer device, so what she and her co-founders were attempting was a true kind of industry transformation.

Young sees joining Autodesk as a way to continue building on that early vision. “PlanGrid has excelled at building beautiful, simple field collaboration software, while Autodesk has focused on connecting design to construction. Together, we can drive greater productivity and predictability on the jobsite,” she said in a statement.

PlanGrid currently has 400 employees, 12,000 customers and 120,000 paid users, and has been used on over a million construction projects worldwide, according to data provided by the companies. They believe that under Autodesk’s umbrella and combined with their existing product set, they can provide a complete construction solution and grow the business faster than PlanGrid could have on its own — pretty much the standard argument in an acquisition like this.

PlanGrid was efficient with the money it took. In fact the last raise was $50 million almost exactly three years ago. The deal is expected to close at the end of January pending the normal regulatory approval process.

 

Nov
19
2018
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Microsoft acquires FSLogix to enhance Office 365 virtual desktop experience

Back in September, Microsoft announced a virtual desktop solution that lets customers run Office 365 and Windows 10 in the cloud. They mentioned several partners in the announcement that were working on solutions with them. One of those was FSLogix, a Georgia virtual desktop startup. Today, Microsoft announced it has acquired FSLogix. It did not share the purchase price.

“FSLogix is a next-generation app-provisioning platform that reduces the resources, time and labor required to support virtualization,” Brad Anderson, corporate VP for Microsoft Office 365 and Julia White, corporate VP for Microsoft Azure,  href=”https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2018/11/19/microsoft-acquires-fslogix-to-enhance-the-office-365-virtualization-experience/”>wrote in a joint blog post today.

When Microsoft made the virtual desktop announcement in September they named Citrix, CloudJumper, Lakeside Software, Liquidware, People Tech Group, ThinPrint and FSLogix as partners working on solutions. Apparently, the company decided it wanted to own one of those experiences and acquired FSLogix.

Microsoft believes by incorporating the FSLogix solution, it will provide a better virtual desktop experience for its customers by enabling better performance and faster load times, especially for Office 365 ProPlus customers.

Randy Cook, founder and CTO at FSLogix, said the acquisition made sense given how well the two companies have worked together over the years. “From the beginning, in working closely with several teams at Microsoft, we recognized that our missions were completely aligned. Both FSLogix and Microsoft are dedicated to providing the absolute best experience for companies choosing to deploy virtual desktops,” Cook wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

Lots of companies have what are essentially dumb terminals running just the tools each employee needs, rather than a fully functioning standalone PC. Citrix has made a living offering these services. When employees come in to start the day, they sign in with their credentials and they get a virtual desktop with the tools they need to do their jobs. Microsoft’s version of this involves Office 365 and Windows 10 running on Azure.

FSLogix was founded in 2013 and has raised more than $10 million, according to data on Crunchbase. Today’s acquisition, which has already closed according to Microsoft, comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the company was buying Xoxco, an Austin-based developer shop with experience building conversational bots.

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