Future of the VC Industry




Imagine gallivanting across Disneyland on a sunny March afternoon as the delightfully consuming scent of a fresh batch of popcorn kernels pop to perfection. The popcorn maker sits adjacent to the churros chariot that you’ve been evading all afternoon. Yet, this isn’t any ordinary trip to The Happiest Place on Earth. You’ve arrived early, the crowds are minimal and all the rides are operational. As you approach the renowned and recently renovated Indiana Jones ride, you are astonished to find a zero-minute wait and no line. Believe it or not, your timing was impeccable – Gather the troops, the 2 ½ minute Harrison Ford-themed adventure awaits.


Venture capital markets survived 2016 slumps, continuing on an onward and upward trajectory through 2017. The disruptors and catalysts with the emerging technologies come out on top. Although some disparity appears among volume and funds, the game play implications are massive. While a crowd-less Disneyland is unlikely, venture capital is thanks in large part to the current landscape.

As evident of Disney purchasing rival studio 20th Century Fox (the most significant cataclysm for the film industry in the 21st Century), VCs too aren’t short on cash. Lines are blurred and technology is changing the game for the industry – GET IT EARLY.


Top 8 hand-picked Predictions for the Venture Capital Industry in the next decade:

  1. Technology/Big data/Automation etc. will continue driving M&A deals
  2. Full-stack professional services a trend evident by investor acclimate
  3. Venture funds will revive their passion for early-stage investments
  4. “Truly Great” companies will sidestep the venture funding circus altogether
  5. Investors receive larger stakes & are integral to the start-up team
  6. Increased liquidity, accountability and transparency is vital
  7. It’s a performance game folks. Personal + Professional Brand Synergy is instrumental
  8. Innovation, experimentation and crowdfunding lead to different types of VCs

For detailed predications and insights click here.


In the midst of the capital market’s landscape, regulatory overhauls, and record-breaking technology M&As with no sign of reprisal, 2020 will look very different than it does today.

Then, too, there is the surging stock market and, by extension, the rebound in technology IPOs. This has been fueled not only by a strengthening economy but by President-elect Donald Trump’s push to bolster the economy further by reducing taxes, streamlining regulations and sparking major infrastructure development.

Furthermore, the implications of evolving social organizations are worth noting. The New York based think-tank, Financial Policy Council (FPC) captures this trend in a June 2017 article titled, “Financial Power of Impact Investing.” It states:

“For many years the divide between instruments of philanthropy and investing has been clear cut. Investing strategies typically did not involve social organizations focused on non-governmental organization (NGO) concerns. However, the advent of millennial investing power, the rise of social enterprises, and the need for further asset diversification have blurred the line between both industries.”

Lastly, venture is still fairly segmented by geography. As localized hubs become more sophisticated and efficient, venture will truly be a global play.

What’s your power play?


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Zana Nesheiwat is Founder of Brand ZA Inc., an integrated business solutions and impact-branding firm specializing in financial services, public policy, and technology. With global operations from Los Angeles to Dubai, the firm equips clients with intelligence and resources to effectively bridge business goals with turnkey brand strategy – driving growth across all touch points.



Bitcoin: Drawing the Line Between Investors and Gamblers


People who bought and held their .01 bitcoins from 2010 could have enjoyed an increase in value of 119,999,900 percent. If you spent $100 on the most popular digital currency then and didn’t sell or lose your fortune to hackers, your electronic coins might be worth about $120 million today. Those are pretty incredible returns, and few people regret buying a few bitcoins back in the day, holding onto them, and reaping the benefits. Of course, none of that offers any guarantees that the value of this or any other digital currency will continue to rise like this or even continue to increase at all.

Is Buying Bitcoin Investing or Gambling?

In fact, it’s possible to argue that the very thing that maintains today’s value is past performance. As you should know from reading any prospectus, past performance doesn’t ever guarantee future returns. If you can afford it and want to spend some money on digital currency, that’s your choice. However, you really should first spend some time considering what it really means to buy bitcoin.

When you buy some bitcoin, are you investing or speculating? In order to figure this out, you first have to decide if bitcoin qualifies as an investment. This question usually sparks a lot of contentious debates among people who are considered financial experts. Aswath Damodaran teaches at NYU’s Stern School of Business. He’s often referred to as the “Dean of Valuation” for his work valuing various assets.

Professor Damodaran divides all investments into four main categories:

  • Assets
  • Commodities
  • Currencies
  • Collectibles

He says it’s easy to dismiss digital currency like bitcoin as an asset, commodity, or collectible. This digital currency doesn’t generate income on its own like a rental property, an asset that you can touch. You can’t consider bitcoin a raw material like a commodity. It certainly isn’t a collectible.

If nothing else, Damodarian is willing to say that bitcoin might be a type of currency, but he also has gone on to comment that bitcoin isn’t a very good currency. These are some reasons that bitcoin hasn’t yet become a good currency even if it might be loosely classified as one:

  • It’s not that easy to trade nor commonly accept by most vendors.
  • If you do find vendors who accept it as payment, they probably won’t give you an actual price until the moment you want to make a trade just because the value is very volatile.

If bitcoin is an investment, it’s hard to classify. You might call it a currency just because it really isn’t anything else.

Professor Damodaran is not at all a fierce critic of electronic currency and doesn’t believe it’s any sort of fraud or Ponzi scheme. He just says it’s impossible to value right now. You can only trade it or price it. You can find many tougher critics than Damodaran, so it’s worthwhile to consider the words of a fairly unbiased scholar and recognized expert in the field.

He does say that if future technology makes it easier to spend bitcoin or other electronic currencies, he might offer a revised opinion. Still, it might be that blockchain technology and not the electronic currency that really has the value. If that’s true, another electronic currency or even a different kind of technology could replace bitcoin.

Should You Regard Bitcoin as an Investment or Speculation?

Just as you know, you should never sell in a panic, it’s also prudent to be wary of buying in a panic. Right now, you might regard bitcoin as something that’s interesting to study or even risk whatever you can afford to lose. If you want to invest in order to secure your retirement, earn profits, or meet other financial goals, you should probably look for something that’s easier to classify as an investment. More important, you will probably be prudent to find an investment that’s easier to value.

If experts are having a hard time telling if or when this will all come crashing down, it can be easy to see this as a gamble. Some people are fine with putting their savings on the line in hopes that things will go the way they guess, but more savvy investors will typically take the “boring” route and put in the hard work required to ensure their financial growth.

Now you know


The Financial Power of Impact Investing


For many years the divide between instruments of philanthropy and investing has been clear cut. Investing strategies typically did not involve social organizations focused on non-governmental organization (NGO) concerns. However, the advent of millennial investing power, the rise of social enterprises, and the need for further asset diversification have blurred the line between both industries. Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) investing, informally known as impact investing, is on the rise with both active and passive investors. For example, ESG assets under supervision at Goldman Sachs have grown from US$3.8bn in 2015 to US$6.5bn end of fiscal 2016. As Goldman Sachs poignantly stated, ESG investing is now mainstream even within the pension fund and insurance sectors.

Even though financing social causes has overlapped between philanthropy and ESG investing, by no means is the latter non-profit seeking. First, while impact investing may dive into sectors once thought as solely philanthropic, let us make it clear that the investing strategies used to generate returns do not veer from tradition asset management practices. Specific return objectives are set, even if the companies that are in the portfolio may comprise all social enterprises. In fact, Goldman Sachs recommends that investors should be even more aggressive with risk/return analyses when it comes to ESG portfolios, to ensure even more accountability. Traditional sectors tend to put the bottom line first by nature, so it is of utmost importance to hold for-profit social enterprises accountable for revenue and profit estimates.

U.S. Trust’s “Impact Investing: A Guide To Doing Good While Also Doing Well” gives an excellent overview of impact investing. According to the U.S. Trust, managed U.S. assets committed to impact investing in total grew from US$640 billion in 1995 to US$6.57 trillion at present. Impact investing can be broken down into further categories of socially responsible investing (SRI), faith based investing, green investing, and values based investing (VBI). For example, an investor who is against tobacco use but is not necessarily pro-environment may seek investment in an SRI portfolio, but not a green portfolio. As with traditional ETFs and mutual funds, diverse social investing asset classes are available via equities, bonds, REITs and even private equity. Investment funds including these ESG options in have indeed increased from 55 to 925 within the last two decades. In particular, U.S. Trust’s ESG investor pool jumped 23% from 2015, with a whopping 93% of millennial investors who have added ESG components to their portfolios!

ESG investing is an excellent mechanism to be considered by shareholders through engagement and by Board of Directors through guidance and governance. Rick Scott, Vice President of Finance and Compliance at the McKnight Foundation, gave great insight as to the need for adding and monitoring ESG components to investment strategic directions at the Board level. The McKnight Foundation has allocated 10% of its US$2bn portfolio strictly to impact investing with a focus on US clean water and carbon footprint. Scott enlightens that the Board must call for a “triple bottom-line for financial, programmatic, and learning return.” Boards must have an investment or risk committee assigned to give oversight on risk/return objectives specific to the triple bottom line, and with C-Suite determine the healthy mix of ESG and traditional components for portfolio investments. We have said time and time again that clear internal corporate governance goals and procedures, in this case adopting a “triple bottom line” approach, is the most pertinent form of corporate social responsibility an organization can practice.

While global institutional investors have now become ESG investing stalwarts, retail investors, individual private investors, and minor shareholders may still need direction in how to effectively embark on the ESG investing journey. In addition, the ESG investing sphere has been known to be have quite a few ‘greenwashers’ with more public relations talk than actual profit generating. As with any investment vehicle, extensive research is recommended. Global investment firm Cambridge Associates has developed the Impact Investing Benchmark which comprises 51 private investment closed-ended funds dealing strictly with the intent to generate social impact. From this data, Cambridge Associates created and MRI Database, and uses ImpactBase extensively as well. U.S. Trust as well has developed benchmarks via an IMPACTonomics™ program, which has specific in-house and third party impact investing platforms such as the Breckinridge Sustainable Bond Strategies and IMPAX Global Environmental Markets Fund.

Many have the misconception that impact investing precludes investing in traditional industries, such as the fossil fuel and mining industries. Absolutely not! The smart and savvy investor must see diversification opportunity in line with tailored return objectives. There is financial power in such comprehensive asset management. The end point is return on investment, whether from most profitable traditional, social, and technologically advanced companies in the market. A gold mining company with a strong, proven corporate responsibility background can share the same portfolio as a profitable microfinance company that lends globally to small entrepreneurs. Again, the crux of investing in any asset class lies with return objectives. ESG investing, like smart technology, is no longer the niche market. As Rick Scott and Goldman Sachs put it, the point is to find the “right tools for the right time.” The time is right to consider impact investment vehicles in tandem with traditional market portfolios.



Financial Policy Best Practice Framework


On March 18th 2014 the US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen stated the need for “reasonable confidence” in order to effectuate a more conservative monetary policy focusing on interest rate raise. Chair Yellen has indicated four macroeconomic factors that need to be further monitored.

  • The labor market with further unemployment rate decline;
  • A continued rise in currently slumped wages;
  • Core inflation stabilization (independent of energy ‘push’);
  • A higher “market-based” expected inflation rate.

The Fed’s decision to hold off on short term rate hikes comes one week after its macroprudential bank stress tests. Notable amongst the results was the “conditional approval” of Bank of America’s capital plan, with complete rejection of Deutsche Bank and Santander’s capital plans. It is clear that under Yellen the Federal Reserve is attempting to uphold the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. From a general standpoint, it is also quite glaring that the Federal Reserve as a central bank is fast adopting more of an eco-political role as a quasi-indirect financial system regulator through financial system monitoring. As has been mentioned before, monetary policy is the fastest mechanism to quell financial system defects, as fiscal policy results tend to lag.

Since the 2008 financial crisis, many economists have called for a more active regulatory role from central banks other than pure monetary rate fixes and being a lender of last resort. In January 2013 Fed Governor Powell met with members of the Financial Services Forum Policy Roundtable to the need for further engagement with appropriate bank regulators with regards to Dodd-Frank and specific cooperation among federal banking agencies. Here we see the Federal Reserve’s role expand into embracing full regulatory responsibilities and acknowledging the need to be more cognizant of fiscal agency activities. Since it is fast becoming the trend of the US Federal Reserve and of central banks in general to take up more than pecuniary monetary policy functions, it is the responsibility of the Financial Policy Council to suggest optimal regulatory best practices.

After careful examination, we found great quantitative insight in regards to the prevention, control and monitoring of financial crises by central banks through the International Monetary Fund’s Policies for Macrofinancial Stability: How to Deal with Credit Booms. (Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, Deniz Igan, et al. 2012). As the title suggests, credit booms are cited as the main, very complex cause of large scale financial crises which mere shifts in short term interest rates cannot fully solve. It is important to note that credit booms are intrinsically not detrimental to the financial system and to the macro economy at large, once properly and timely monitored. The tail risk associated with credit booms can bring strong growth or absolute demise to the financial sector depending on how it is mitigated during the boom, and controlled for the expected credit trough cycle. While there is increased regulation of the overall banking sector within the US, there is a renewed tendency towards credit increase within the non-banking business sectors, which in turn spur the banking sector to increase product (mortgage) marketing to remain competitive. This is a structural aspect of the financial system which encourages credit booms, and credit crises within the US.

Credit Boom Identification

  • The IMF defines credit boom as any period during which the annual growth rate of the credit-to-GDP ratio exceeds 10 percent. A boom ends as soon as the growth of the credit-to-GDP ratio turns negative; thus, the credit-to-GDP measure for any sovereign is crucial to monitor by the Federal Reserve, even in the resetting of an indirectly related short term market shocks.
  • Dell’Ariccia and his IMF colleagues applied the definition of a credit boom and ensuing variance stress tests to a sample of 170 countries with data starting as far back as the 1960s and extending to 2010, with the identification of 175 credit booms therein.
  • One of the most telling results of sample testing showed that no matter the country classification or geographical sphere, one in three booms was followed by a banking crisis within three years of the boom. As well, the IMF results showed that the geographical regions that experienced credit booms had even greater credit delinquency during and well after the crises.
  • Three out of five booms were followed by subpar growth in spite of further macro economic stimulus packages for at least six years following the credit contractions, or outright credit busts. The referenced term for this phenomenon is a “creditless recovery.” One very strong contributing factor to this type of recovery is a failure of both monetary and fiscal policy to focus on credit aggregates, and instead silo industries and sectors according to individual need (e.g. Real Estate).
  • An even more concerning find by the IMF study showed that credit booms generally start at the tail end or after buoyant economic growth. Many decision makers in the lower federal or parliament house tend to believe a credit boom is an absolute sign of economic growth. This is not necessarily so. In many cases, a credit boom occurs to make up for declining economic growth, depending on the sovereign’s liquidity position.

Monetary Policy Control

In particular, credit booms seem to occur more often in countries with expansionary macroeconomic policies, and low quality of banking supervision. This model usually fits a developing country or emerging market paradigm. Thus, it is noteworthy that the major financial crises of 2008 stemmed from the US banking and financial systems, and even more so from a primarily credit risk perspective. It is as if the central banking system completely dismissed signs of macroeconomic overheating. Should monetary policy then remain conservative with high cost of borrowing, low asset price valuations to stifle credit growth? The answer goes both ways. Most times central banks focus on short term rate adjustments to adjust money supply, all the while paying attention to market risk. This was the case of the US Federal Reserve prior to the financial crisis of 2008. We have already pled the case for allowing a credit boom to occur, with control. A credit boom naturally has credit risk to adjust for; therefore it is necessary for central banks to change monetary policy in response to aggregate asset price. We note here that aggregate asset price valuation control is necessary over a focus on individual bank institutions to effectively mitigate credit risk factors.

A serious problem faced by central banking decision makers is tightening monetary control during the first sighting of a credit boom, as purely political decision makers may confuse a credit boom with absolute economic growth. Monetary policy measures to control a credit boom can spur a higher short term unemployment rate, which leads to fiscal issues. Well meaning monetary policy control can also exacerbate macroeconomic pressures: increases in rate borrowing costs can lead to an outflow of funds to foreign lenders, even more creative variable interest only lending options, and a further increase in the banking sector’s debt service.

Almost all sovereigns immediately turn to monetary policy unsupported by immediate regulatory policy to ‘fix’ the repercussions of a credit decline, credit bust, and ensuing financial crisis, since monetary policy does have the ability to create corrective action without an extensive time lag. The IMF study states that stand-alone monetary policy can help slow down a credit boom during economic overheating, or simply put, when the economic crisis hits. However stand-alone monetary policy is still reactive without the support of immediate macro prudential regulatory policy, with a policy framework considering aggregate changes.

Fiscal Policy

Fiscal policy has the least immediate positive effect on immediately controlling credit booms. Fiscal policy counts in the long term outcome of controlling the likelihood of credit booms through resetting tax provisions that affect borrowing. The IMF study cites that fiscal consolidation independent of a credit boom can bolster the financial sector in case of a credit crisis. However, the time lag and political implications associated with fiscal policy are inhibiting factors to a proactive control at the early stages of a credit boom. This brings to question the overall effectiveness of governmental fiscal policy in an ever changing and increasingly sophisticated global financial arena. Empirical support from the IMF study suggests that fiscal tightening is not associated with a reduced incidence of credit booms that lead to financial crises in the short to medium term. If so, it may be quite precarious to place increased financial system decision making in governmental folds.

Dell’Ariccia and his IMF colleagues propose countercyclical taxes on debt to offset the credit cycles, and so add tightening balance during a credit boom. In this regard, there will be further fiscal consolidation, or “buffers” that may act in the same manner as a regulatory capital requirement. A salient point made in favor of this measure is that the taxation would apply to the very active nonbank financial institutions as well. The issues cited with such fiscal policy modifications have to do with an easy circumvention of tax policy through various “tax planning” mechanisms especially employed by the nonbank sectors. Indeed, the IMF regression results actually depict that during a period of high economic growth, increasing tax revenues are simultaneously correlated with an increase in credit lending by both bank and nonbank entities. Further taxation may then truly be counterproductive to financial system tightening.

Regulatory Policy

Macro prudential policy consists of capital and liquidity requirements, and regulatory stress testing of the banking sector throughout the economic cycle. Capital and liquidity requirements act as countercyclical buffers to control the cost of bank capital; loan-loss provisions especially demand capital increases to account for an economic trough. When put into practice in a consistent manner, regulatory policies provide adequate information to decision makers on the credit health of the banking sector. To date, most of these policies have been fully monitored and implemented in hindsight as it pertains to curtailing and preventing a credit boom. Regulatory policy as a stand-alone has not been fully effective with curtailing the start and duration of an overheating credit boom.

Aggregate measures of macro prudential policy include the following:

  • Differential treatment of deposit accounts;
  • Reserve requirements;
  • Liquidity requirements;
  • Interest rate controls;
  • Credit controls;
  • Open foreign exchange.

The IMF team found through empirical analysis that these measures are truly helpful in predicting a negative outcome of a current credit boom, rather than being able to actually prevent credit overheating in the financial system. The IMF also found that the global banking sector has been able to circumvent credit controls such as asset concentration by utilizing foreign partner or parent banks, and/or by creating foreign banking and nonbanking spinoffs. Empirical analysis also suggests that the Loan to Value (LTV) ratio monitoring is particularly prudent in restricting negative credit overheating, especially when faced with real estate credit crises.


The IMF study suggests and we agree that financial policy is justifiable in preventing, curbing and monitoring credit overheating in the global economy. We also see that stand-alone policies are not fully effective in mitigating negative credit and tail risks with the boom. Overall, a credit boom occurring during an economic boom can have positive returns once aggregate risk is effectively managed. Since the 2008 financial crisis we see the US Federal Reserve take a more active role in setting financial system policy monitoring, which in effect may be necessary given the highest stand-alone weakness of fiscal policy. Suggestions are as follows:

  • When credit booms coincide with a general economic boom, monetary policy can be the initial (not sole) tool to manage and slow down economic overheating.
  • During the early stages of a credit boom, macro prudential and other regulatory policies should be effectuated in line with monetary policy to ensure capital buffers to mitigate a credit crisis.
  • The IMF has stressed that the governing body to enforce macro prudential polices must have a thoroughly structured task force to supervise and detect when capital requirement thresholds are triggered on a case basis and in the aggregate.
  • More than half of credit booms examined that started at an initial credit-to GDP ratio higher than 60 percent ended up in crises. This ratio needs to serve as a primary quantitative credit risk trigger for central banks and federal agencies.
  • Fiscal policy falls short in curbing credit overheating in the short term, even when coupled with monetary or macro prudential policies. Fiscal policy providing tax code provisions to limit borrowing can bolster the overall health of an economic boom, but possibly may not aid in curbing a specific credit overheating.

As global markets become more sophisticated and fast paced, we see the need for central bank decision making for the financial system, which entails a marked focus on credit risk and macroeconomic indicators. We expect to see the US Federal Reserve and central banks in general employ a well structured mix of financial policies to manage credit booms, mitigate associated risks, and turn around “creditless recoveries” into long term economic stability.


Giovanni Dell’Ariccia, Giovanni, Igan, Deniz et al. “Policies for Macrofinancial Stability: How to Deal with Credit Booms.” The International Monetary Fund Staff Discussion Note. June 2012.

Matthews, Steve. “Yellen Is Watching These Four Indicators for Signals on When to Raise Rates.” Bloomberg Business Online. March 2015.

The US Federal Reserve Regulatory Reform. “Resolution Framework.” The US Federal Reserve Online. March 2015.

Van den end, Jan Willem et al. “The Interaction between Central Banks and Government in Tail Risk Scenarios.” De Nederlandsche Bank Working Paper. March 2013.


Why Financial Education?


It is a sad fact today that most people starting with students are financially illiterate.

Here are some sobering facts:

  • The average score on a freshman “financial literacy exam” was 59%, according to the JumpStart Coalition.
  • The average student has roughly $23,000 in student loans, $4,000 in credit card debt and four credit cards.
  • An average of 7% percent of graduates default on their student loans within the first few years.

Here’s what students are begging to understand:

  • 84% say they need more education on financial management, according to Sallie Mae.
  • 62% say their knowledge of credit reports is either fair or poor, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
  • 60% have only a vague understanding of their debt, according to TheFreeLibrary.com.

So what can we – as parents, activists and educators do?

Start talking

Dedicate a portion of your time with your children and financially illiterate friends to money. Encourage them to share their struggles and successes. They like hearing from one another. They trust each other. Because people generally aren’t as comfortable talking about money as we are other topics, it’s important to foster these important discussions. Pushing people to get outside of their comfort zone will make the experience more memorable and more effective in their drive toward financial independence.

Bring problem-solving to the discussion

Feeding young and even older minds financial facts does little to increase financial intelligence. The trick is engagement. Researchers from the JumpStart Coalition found that financial literacy is really a measure of problem-solving ability rather than a mere awareness of financial facts.

Establish and nurture identity

It is a fact that when you lose your identity, you stall growth. You face closing doors. You lose freedom. The same is true for financial identity. Most people don’t know how to effectively budget, manage their debt loads, or save. If they’re lucky enough to find jobs, they face starting salaries that have remained stagnant for more than a decade. Yet, if they can learn the basics of money management and problem-solve their way out of sticky financial situations, to be their own financial advocates, and learn where to get help they’ll be more likely to find success.

Bottom Line:

Most of us are not doctors but know what to do to take care of our health. We get this knowledge from our parents, peers, our regular reading, TV etc…. We try as far as possible to follow the advice on balanced diet, Exercise, rest, and minimize/ eliminate bad habits like smoking and drinking. I would like to think of “financial education” in the same way. We all need money to ensure a good life and we need to take care of it. You don’t have to be a mathematics or financial genius to understand this. Here are my basics:

  1. Live within your means. Ensure you can pay for what you buy.
  2. If you borrow money ensure you can pay the EMI. Check to see if you can still pay for it if interest rates were to rise/ you were to lose your job.
  3. Protect what you have. Insure your life, Health and assets. You wouldn’t leave your house unprotected, don’t do it with your life or health.
  4. Plan your future expenses like child education, buying a home, Retirement etc….. See how much you need and save accordingly. There are plenty to tools that will give a good estimate of what you need.
  5. Inflation would eat into your savings, so invest in something that will give a long term return higher than inflation.
  6. Last but most important. Stay away from get rich quick schemes. Getting a good physique is a long term & constant effort, so is accumulating wealth. Get rich quick schemes are like steroids they will do more harm than good.

Most people can understand and follow these rules. Of course you may need advice from professionals from time to time, but subject the professional advice to test of reason ability. If the advice is too good to be true, it probably is.

Share your thoughts…

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