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GOLD! Ask Me Anything About SaaS ( I'm building my 7th )

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( Jason Brown )
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I've had to pivot away from the original idea I had for my 7th SaaS due to focusing on SERPWoo ( my 6th SaaS ). Putting more time and energy into SERPWoo was deemed a better choice.

But in doing so, I want to show you something else I do. My 7th SaaS is now going to be something different than I thought it was...

Think about this.

In building your SaaS, you will need to build all kinds of systems and potentially combine ideas too. Ideas that if broke apart, could be their own SaaS as well.

For example, in building your SaaS you might need a fraud detection system for your billing and signup process. Sure, you could sign up to a few of the more expensive services available right now and roll the dice they know what they are doing, OR you could build your own with a weekend's worth of research and trust you know how it works. In doing so, you could also build an API to that fraud system you built and offer it as a separate SaaS offering.

Double work? Distracted focus? It doesn't have to be.

You could simply place it on a few directories, hire someone to promote it a bit with articles, and list it on producthunt and reddit and let it slowly build up a small audience until you can get back to it or hire a partner to run it.

When you add a new feature to your existing SaaS, ask yourself if you can make that feature it's own SaaS and simply build it out and let it off into the wild and see how it does on it's own.

That's "kinda" how my prior SaaS's worked out in a roundabout way and one reason I stayed in digital marketing niche.

What are you an authority of and can build to scratch your own itch?

.
 

amp0193

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When you add a new feature to your existing SaaS, ask yourself if you can make that feature it's own SaaS and simply build it out and let it off into the wild and see how it does on it's own.
.
It's not just SaaS. It's anything.

I've got a spin-off business happening because I needed the original product to meet the needs of my customers. It was worthy of it's own separate platform though.

Taking action leads to more and more opportunities. Ones you would never see if you were on the sidelines.
 

Patrick Jones

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In regards to fraud reduction you write:

This is a bit more serious to me, so we keep data on what every user does whenever they are in our SaaS. I mean everything.
Could you elaborate on that one a bit? Do you really log every single http request?

Do you have a comparison to what other SaaS providers log (more/less)?

Do you have a use for the logged data other than fraud reduction? E.g. marketing?
 
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( Jason Brown )
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Could you elaborate on that one a bit? Do you really log every single http request?
Yes. It's not any different than what Google Analytics or Piwik do. If you use Analytics or any "counter" and analytic tools, they are doing the same thing. Lets say you dont use those but use a tool like Intercom, same thing.... That pixel you put on your site, it's prob on every page of your site, logging all the same http responses and traffic.

The problem with those tools is, they don't really give you 100% of all the RAW data.

You might get some graphs and funnels and nice charts, etc. But I want the RAW data. Like a CSV dump of what that user did. You can't get that really.

So I decided to do that. Scratching my own itch that will one day maybe be another SaaS for me ( working on it ).

Do you have a comparison to what other SaaS providers log (more/less)?
I don't think most other SaaS companies do this, the way I am doing it. I feel most use 3rd party tools like Analytics, Heap, MixPanel, etc.. or tools that could pull it, but dont, like Intercom, etc. Most tools don't give transparency and instead try to "sum it up for you" in a graph.

I'm a very different thinker. Most other people prob. see no reason to pull it the way I do. But then again, most SaaS companies have very high churn, fraud, and retention issues compared to my SaaS.

Do you have a use for the logged data other than fraud reduction? E.g. marketing?
Yes, it is used more than just fraud. Marketing is one we also use it for along with several others.

In the end, its just more potential SaaS's that we can make and break out as potential other revenue streams. See a few posts up for why I am always thinking of ways to gain more revenue streams within my current SaaS.

Scratching your own itch and being an authority in something is about the easiest way to build a SaaS and break revenue goals.

.
 

404profound

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When building an app intended for enterprise users, do you know of a way to validate a user is not posing as a company, perhaps with an API? Or do you just handle that with manual approval for each new account?
 
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When building an app intended for enterprise users, do you know of a way to validate a user is not posing as a company, perhaps with an API? Or do you just handle that with manual approval for each new account?
Not sure I understand what you mean.

Are you trying to turn away customers ( that are companies with an API ) from using your enterprise focused SaaS?

If so, why?
 

404profound

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Not sure I understand what you mean.

Are you trying to turn away customers ( that are companies with an API ) from using your enterprise focused SaaS?

If so, why?
Let me try to clarify, the app is intended to display data that is company-specific. The userflow is any user with an account can create new entries in the database. Because each user should be a corporate entity, I want to make sure that if someone from Microsoft (or whatever company) makes an account that the user is actually a representative of Microsoft.
 
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Let me try to clarify, the app is intended to display data that is company-specific. The userflow is any user with an account can create new entries in the database. Because each user should be a corporate entity, I want to make sure that if someone from Microsoft (or whatever company) makes an account that the user is actually a representative of Microsoft.
Ok, so a couple of ways to do this.

For one, I would ban usage of any free email account used to sign up. That would restrict a lot of users that say they are with company X, but truely are not potentially. Most, if not all, real corporations will have a domain they use for email. Most real employees won't be using a free email address for their company.

Now that leaves just someone from company Y pretending they are company X.

There are services to help with this too, where you monitor the IP of the user and backtrack who owns that IP. It's not a fool proof way to verify, but it can cut down issues if you used a "layered" approach to drilling down who is who. Clearbit is one such company that can generally tell you, based on IP, what corporation owns/uses the IP the user signed up with. Of note, this would probably work OK with large companies like LinkedIn and Google, but not small companies.

Past that, you could verify the company name on the credit card used to pay and a few other possible small tweaks. Again, all in an effort to keep layering solutions before narrowing down to manually calling and verifying people.

.
 

404profound

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Ok, so a couple of ways to do this.

For one, I would ban usage of any free email account used to sign up. That would restrict a lot of users that say they are with copmany X, but truely are not potentially. Most, if not all, real corporations will have a domain they use for email. Most real employees won't be using a free email address for their company.

Not that leaves just someone from company Y pretending they are company X.

There are services to help with this too, where you monitor the IP of the user and backtrack who owns that IP. It's not a fool proof way to verify, but it can cut down issues if you used a "layered" approach to drilling down who is who. Clearbit is one such company that can generally tell you, based on IP, what corporation owns/uses the IP the user signed up with. Of note, this would probably work OK with large companies like LinkedIn and Google, but not small companies.

Past that, you could verify the company name on the credit card used to pay and a few other possible small tweaks. Again, all in an effort to keep layering solutions before narrowing down to manually calling and verifying people.

.
Awesome, I will definitely integrate this in the authentication plan. Thank you for the detailed insight!
 

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Ok, so a couple of ways to do this.

For one, I would ban usage of any free email account used to sign up. That would restrict a lot of users that say they are with company X, but truely are not potentially. Most, if not all, real corporations will have a domain they use for email. Most real employees won't be using a free email address for their company.

Now that leaves just someone from company Y pretending they are company X.

There are services to help with this too, where you monitor the IP of the user and backtrack who owns that IP. It's not a fool proof way to verify, but it can cut down issues if you used a "layered" approach to drilling down who is who. Clearbit is one such company that can generally tell you, based on IP, what corporation owns/uses the IP the user signed up with. Of note, this would probably work OK with large companies like LinkedIn and Google, but not small companies.

Past that, you could verify the company name on the credit card used to pay and a few other possible small tweaks. Again, all in an effort to keep layering solutions before narrowing down to manually calling and verifying people.

.
You could also integrate LinkedIn.

Services like Intercom will take a users email and pull up their twitter profile, linkedin profile, etc. Im not saying to use Intercom, I am just saying there is tech out there ( like ClearBit ) that can pull this up for you, for use.

Now in your CRM, you could look at signups and check out their social profiles ( Twitter and LinkedIn ) and see if they actually work at that company. It's not 100% foolproof of course, but I highly doubt someone goes through the trouble of making a fake twitter and fake linkedIn just to use your service.

If they did, well they are going to end up figuring out a way to use it anyway in the future ( like paying someone at company X to get access ).

.
 

Gutzofter

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...

The problem with those tools is, they don't really give you 100% of all the RAW data.

You might get some graphs and funnels and nice charts, etc. But I want the RAW data. Like a CSV dump of what that user did. You can't get that really.
...

.
What granularity of raw data do you normally want to log?
 
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What granularity of raw data do you normally want to log?
I typically start with timestamp and page URL ( can be tricky if you use ajax or pages where URLs don't update ). From there is grows depending on certain things.

For example, I might have a couple actions on certain pages that I can't determine unless I record button or click actions that DONT change the URL.

Example:
If someone is on the USER SETTINGS page ( I know this via the URL ) and then they jump to the SUBSCRIPTIONS page, I know they did this via a link from the USER SETTINGS page. How? Because my USER SETTINGS page has a link to the SUBSCRIPTIONS page. I don't really need to log anything about that. Pretty Simple. Unless you know the URL by heart, you are clicking over so this is pretty easy to know and understand.

However, if someone is on the USER SETTINGS page and then they update their name and credit card, that doesn't generate a new URL, so I need to start tracking button clicks or form updates now. This is when I need to think about whats on that page and what I want to track on that specific page that I can use later. I could log everything on that page, but I sit here and think, "do I really need to track them updating their name or email" - most of the time that answer is going to be no. So I end up not tracking it with the system.

But lets pretend they are on the SUBSCRIPTIONS page instead. They go there and they look at the prices and features of the subscriptions they could enroll in or change over to ( upgrade or downgrade ). This doesn't generate a new URL for me ( if they look them over and click to view more ) so I ask myself if this action ( recording it ) would be valuable and if I really need to track that. The answer is YES, because this could be someone wanting to CHURN possibly, but it could also be someone wanting to upgrade to a higher plan and I need to gently send them an email or in-app message about why they should upgrade ( via automated marketing ).

How granular you get really depends on how your system is setup and what actions happen on those specific pages.

Anything that even remotely touches on revenue ( churn or upgrades, etc ) always gets looked at first and designed out first, then you start working through other things like -
  • Wow, the last time this user logged in was 9 months ago, what's the problem?

  • This user just signed up 3 days ago and spends a ton of time on this one page/URL/feature, are they stuck?

  • This user is hitting a URL they have no permission to be visiting, how did that happen? Where were they before this URL?

You could get really deep in the rabbit hole here if you wanted. But I tend to find each case is different. However, I think things that deal with revenue, support, and onboarding should be the first things tackled and looked over. From there, its going to get really custom.

.
 

404profound

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You could also integrate LinkedIn.

Services like Intercom will take a users email and pull up their twitter profile, linkedin profile, etc. Im not saying to use Intercom, I am just saying there is tech out there ( like ClearBit ) that can pull this up for you, for use.

Now in your CRM, you could look at signups and check out their social profiles ( Twitter and LinkedIn ) and see if they actually work at that company. It's not 100% foolproof of course, but I highly doubt someone goes through the trouble of making a fake twitter and fake linkedIn just to use your service.

If they did, well they are going to end up figuring out a way to use it anyway in the future ( like paying someone at company X to get access ).

.
I thought of another strategy. Can you email the prospective user a link to create a profile, but not expose the link on the public interface? The only risk would be if the user shared the link with someone, but idk why they would do that.
 

KennyAronson

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First, I want to thank you kindly for sharing your experience.

Second, I was wondering if I could ask your advice on a few things.

This past year I have really gotten into entrepreneurship. I have learned a ton about marketing, sales, copywriting, product design, and a little bit of web development.

I have an idea for a SaaS which could solve a huge problem in the higher educational system which I want to sell to instructors, course creators online, and students.

This idea would essentially deliver messages from instructors to students on a periodic basis. I would like it to come in the form of a mobile application users could simply log into.

I have experience in materials engineering and education, analytical skills, and a small amount of python programming, but I haven't yet created a mobile application.

With your expertise I was wondering what advice you would give for the following questions:
  • What platform or framework would you recommend for the creation of this application?
  • What are the first steps I should take?
  • What resources or tools should I use to learn what I need to learn?
  • Anything else you wish to add based on what I have said?

Thanks and I can't wait to read your answer. :smile2:
 
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I thought of another strategy. Can you email the prospective user a link to create a profile, but not expose the link on the public interface? The only risk would be if the user shared the link with someone, but idk why they would do that.
You could
 
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( Jason Brown )
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First, I want to thank you kindly for sharing your experience.

Second, I was wondering if I could ask your advice on a few things.

This past year I have really gotten into entrepreneurship. I have learned a ton about marketing, sales, copywriting, product design, and a little bit of web development.

I have an idea for a SaaS which could solve a huge problem in the higher educational system which I want to sell to instructors, course creators online, and students.

This idea would essentially deliver messages from instructors to students on a periodic basis. I would like it to come in the form of a mobile application users could simply log into.

I have experience in materials engineering and education, analytical skills, and a small amount of python programming, but I haven't yet created a mobile application.

With your expertise I was wondering what advice you would give for the following questions:
  • What platform or framework would you recommend for the creation of this application?
  • What are the first steps I should take?
  • What resources or tools should I use to learn what I need to learn?
  • Anything else you wish to add based on what I have said?

Thanks and I can't wait to read your answer. :smile2:

I havent done a ton in mobile, so I am at a disadvantage to give you a lot of info on it.

However, if you know python already.. I would stick with that for now to build it out as a MVP and then figure out how to turn that python into a mobile app. PHP has Zend studio for that, and lots of 3rd party software can turn Json and HTML into a mobile app for you.

But the important thing is to start with what you know to get it to MVP ASAP.

As far as first steps, is this something you have good authority and knowledge in? How are you going to sell this? It's not the instructors or students ( who you mentioned ) who will buy this, but mostly likely the schools themselves. Have you talked to and identified the the right key decision makers at the universities and colleges to get their feedback and interest level in something like this? If not, why not?

You are going to have to sell the key people at the Uni's on using this, which will trickle down to the professors and students as a benefit.

Get an MVP going, line up key people at the colleges and universities, pitch them, and then listen to what they say afterward before you go any further to make sure you should spend time on this.

.
 

LeoistheSun

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First, I want to thank you kindly for sharing your experience.

Second, I was wondering if I could ask your advice on a few things.

This past year I have really gotten into entrepreneurship. I have learned a ton about marketing, sales, copywriting, product design, and a little bit of web development.

I have an idea for a SaaS which could solve a huge problem in the higher educational system which I want to sell to instructors, course creators online, and students.

This idea would essentially deliver messages from instructors to students on a periodic basis. I would like it to come in the form of a mobile application users could simply log into.

I have experience in materials engineering and education, analytical skills, and a small amount of python programming, but I haven't yet created a mobile application.

With your expertise I was wondering what advice you would give for the following questions:
  • What platform or framework would you recommend for the creation of this application?
  • What are the first steps I should take?
  • What resources or tools should I use to learn what I need to learn?
  • Anything else you wish to add based on what I have said?

Thanks and I can't wait to read your answer. :smile2:
I would actually walk in-person to local schools. Probably after school is out (3p) or before (8a). All the emails also should be public, so that makes your life 100% easier.
 

Solid Snake

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Hi @eliquid, great read ITT.

The product I am looking at making has decent competition so far, but the subsector itself will grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 38%+ from 2019-2025. So I conclude that there is still room for more players, and a lot of changes in dynamics still to capitalize on.

I do not have domain experience in the field I am interested in, but my father works in one of the niches in the submarket I would be selling to. The question is, how can I identify unique "gaps" or inefficiencies that other companies have not placed their focus on? Or is this just a matter of choosing an "angle", as you stated earlier?

So in that case, I would need to do competitive analysis, and then find which angle the competitors haven't chosen, correct?

I am planning to do a thorough discovery session phase with my father and will use the following as a template to follow: https://clearbridgemobile.com/the-step-by-step-guide-to-product-discovery/

Any tips in differentiating myself and finding unique angles? Best regards.
 
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Hi @eliquid, great read ITT.

The product I am looking at making has decent competition so far, but the subsector itself will grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 38%+ from 2019-2025. So I conclude that there is still room for more players, and a lot of changes in dynamics still to capitalize on.

I do not have domain experience in the field I am interested in, but my father works in one of the niches in the submarket I would be selling to. The question is, how can I identify unique "gaps" or inefficiencies that other companies have not placed their focus on? Or is this just a matter of choosing an "angle", as you stated earlier?

So in that case, I would need to do competitive analysis, and then find which angle the competitors haven't chosen, correct?

I am planning to do a thorough discovery session phase with my father and will use the following as a template to follow: https://clearbridgemobile.com/the-step-by-step-guide-to-product-discovery/

Any tips in differentiating myself and finding unique angles? Best regards.
Sorry I missed this. It's been a combination of me being on vacation and not checking in on the forum much the last month or 2.

By far the best way to find the gaps and the unique angles and USP is to have domain authority.

I am not saying you have to have it to sell and make money, but having it makes a ton of difference in helping you.

Without knowing the market really well on your own, I feel there is no real way to discover this unless you have a lot of people around you, that do have domain authority that you can lean in on.

Thanks
Jason
 

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adiakritos

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I'm doing your process. I bought the other tests you suggested and I took the enneagram and 16 personalities tests. I also took the Tony Robbins DISC profile test. I'm going to track my results over the next month and take the tests three times a week so I should have 12 sets of 3 tests to go off of.

I'll add in the other test that should be coming in the mail soon as soon as I get it.

Also definitely want to get a very clear, objective awareness of what my REAL values are so I'm not just a reed in the wind.

So far, my life has revolved around studying, working a programming job, and then again working at home on my business doing more programming and talking to people through the internet. I got a coach with the Tony Robbins company for a year, and my coach uses my DISC profile to coach me. She seems to know me quite well by using the profile. She knows how to speak to the things I care about. (This confirms your theory on how you can use these assessments to create ads Eliquid).
 

Adrien Msx

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Hi @eliquid !

I'm an owner of a SaaS which works pretty good. I developed it on my own (code and marketing) and now I kind of have "rich" problems...

I'm not good on the server part. So, my question is where did you host your software to be able to scale infinitely (1000 users to 100 000 users without having troubles)? AWS? Dedicated server?

Or maybe you only made desktop software?
 
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Hi @eliquid !

I'm an owner of a SaaS which works pretty good. I developed it on my own (code and marketing) and now I kind of have "rich" problems...

I'm not good on the server part. So, my question is where did you host your software to be able to scale infinitely (1000 users to 100 000 users without having troubles)? AWS? Dedicated server?

Or maybe you only made desktop software?
Congrats on the success.

To answer your question:
  • Multiple VPS's at Linode.
  • A couple at Digital Ocean

.
 

Owner2Millions

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Thank you everyone who is participating in this via answers and questions. Both are helpful. My questions are:

  • How do you offer upsells with a SAAS company?
  • When is a good time to sell for a nice valuation? What processes are needed to be put in place to reduce fees during the M&A?
  • SAAS multiplier is about 3-5x?
  • When building your website how did you/would you incorporate a iOS and android version while still remaining on a subscription service or would that be another pricing model?
 

brief

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What's your approach on building a SaaS product? How do you balance your own (creative) feature ideas and the needs of customers? What's the ratio here?

Thanks!
 
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What's your approach on building a SaaS product? How do you balance your own (creative) feature ideas and the needs of customers? What's the ratio here?

Thanks!
So throughout this thread in multiple places I talk about domain authority. That's the whole basis to the answer I would give you here for approach on building and also the features ( mine vs customers ).

I build a lot of my own features first for 2 reasons:
1. One, I have domain authority and use my own product. Thus I am one of my own target customers.
2. I think Henry Ford said 2 things.. "If I would have gave customers what they wanted, it would have been faster horses", and "You can have any color as long as it's black". Even if he didn't say it, someone did and I live by that because of #1 above.

I do listen to the market though. If I see people churning or not using specific features in the SaaS ( or asking about features ), I will build it in when I can obtain that info.

However, first building it out.. it's largely everything I want and plan. Once built and people are in though, it becomes what they want based off that. Kinda like tweaking to their needs. But the core functions were something I needed/wanted first.

.
 
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eliquid

eliquid

( Jason Brown )
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Read Millionaire Fastlane
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May 29, 2013
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Louisville - Kentucky
Thank you everyone who is participating in this via answers and questions. Both are helpful. My questions are:

  • How do you offer upsells with a SAAS company?
  • When is a good time to sell for a nice valuation? What processes are needed to be put in place to reduce fees during the M&A?
  • SAAS multiplier is about 3-5x?
  • When building your website how did you/would you incorporate a iOS and android version while still remaining on a subscription service or would that be another pricing model?
1. Upsells could be many things. One could be different plans. Base plans don't contain XYZ, but higher plan do. Upsell that in your customer journey. You can also offer services like data retention, white labeling, concierge service, api, etc as an upsell if you want. However I tend to offer "everything" for a price ( all options ) and then move people up in plans based on "usage" limits.

2. I don't know about this. I don't build to sell out. I build for cash flow and the option to be later handed off to others full-time while I build another cash flowing SaaS and rinse and repeat mainly. So I am not the best to ask this. My goal would be to be an absentee owner in each SaaS and taking the cash flow from each. Not to sell any of them. At least not unless it was a substantial amount done in cash and I would then be 100% removed from it.

3. See above, but I typically think it is higher based on SaaS listings I have seen sell before at broker sites. I could be wrong since I don't plan to sell and thus can not really speak about this. I am just going off what I have seen on broker sites.

4. If your service and audience can use an app, by all means include it in WITH your price. If you don't, a competitor will. My SaaS didn't really lend itself to an app because of how our data is and graphs are made, but if your's lends itself to that then by all means include it with the pricing, not with new pricing. Give your users the option to use the app and web-based for the same pricing.

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