Entrepreneurial Hamburg Has More To Offer Than You’d Expect

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Besides Berlin, Hamburg is another inspiring city in Germany to startup your own business. The city has the potential to provide you with all the support and facilities you need to kick start and expand your business.

Are you interested in exploring a city where people are not afraid to take chances and where not only successful, but also sustainable startups are founded? Then you have arrived at the right place: Hamburg! A city where entrepreneurship is becoming a new lifestyle.

Hamburg is a city full of contrasts, on the one hand it resembles the romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich landscapes, but at the same time home to one of the most diverse and controversial red light districts in Europe: Reeperbahn. Although for a long time Berlin was thought to be the only right and best place to be found in Germany, Hamburg has progressively changed this becoming the second largest city in the country in terms of number of startups in a very short time. Different from what many think, it is not only one of the most modern and largest ports of Europe and the fatherland of some of Germany’s most important publishing and internet-based companies, but also a new hub of creativity, innovation and technology in the country. This exciting city is responsible for bringing life to leading companies like the Otto Group, Beiersdorf and Montblanc. It does not stop evolving. Being home of about 400 startups, with 250-300 of these founded in last 7 years, as well as addressing both, B2B and B2C target markets.

Go To Hamburg!

Advantages Of Starting Up In Hamburg:

  • Since Hamburg’s entrepreneurial mentality is still under construction, there is still a huge room for new ideas. Then, do not hesitate to explore the possibilities and potential of yours in this market, because the best is yet to come!
  • The community is very helpful. If you need help to find, it won’t be difficult to get support. There are many institutions eager to guide you, and there is even a Facebook group for startups in Hamburg where people will be more than happy to answer your questions.
  • Thanks to initiatives like the Startup Dock at the Technical University of Hamburg, university students now have the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship at the same time and get support and encouragement. This is aiding in fostering an entrepreneurial mindset among the future professionals. This might be of a great benefit if looking for candidates willing to work for or with you.
  • There are not many females in the German startup scene due to the still old-fashioned German society. Hamburg is undoubtedly the leader among German cities with roughly 25% of entrepreneur females. There are even projects like the Digital Media Women network, which intends to support and promote women expertise in typical male fields such as web and graphic design, online journalism, social media, and programming. So if you are an enthusiastic woman and want to start your own startup, this city is definitely a very good option for you.

What Startup Founders Have To Consider:

  • Hamburg is a city with high living costs and high business costs. So if you are really considering starting a company in Hamburg you have to be 101% sure because it might be not only expensive, but also very difficult to get investments. However, it isn’t impossible only a little challenging which might result in something positive if you are really persistent with your idea. Besides there are many different ways of raising money nowadays. Don’t underestimate the power of new information and communications technologies and the access to the broad network (e.g., Crowdfunding).
  • Being international in Hamburg might be challenging since many companies are still German as well as most of the events and networking activities are also in German. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go, the city has been progressively turning this by recognizing the value and importance of diversity for firms. If you are an international who wants to startup in the city take into account that it might be a little bit more demanding than for a local. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. On the contrary, Hamburg’s startup scene can lead the way to a more international city, thus opening doors to foreigners coming to Germany and seeking a job.
  • Finally and again, if you aren’t a German native speaker, learning the language might be a decisive factor for success. This doesn’t mean that your startup language has to be German, but in order to integrate yourself with the German startup community, and have access to more opportunities you should be able to communicate your business idea in the local language. Hamburgers will very much appreciate your efforts and your interest in their culture!

If you are convinced that your idea has the potential to become a successful business and you think Hamburg might be the right market to start with, do not hesitate to take the risk. Little obstacles like high costs, being international and being a non-native German speaker shouldn’t represent a threat if you consider the potential benefits of these.

Introduce Yourself To Hamburg’s Startup Scene

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Hamburg’s startup community has grown in a very accelerated way in the last years. New initiatives constantly arise and every day more people feel attracted by the sexy, creative and innovative scene that this city has to offer. As already mentioned, entrepreneurship is becoming a new kind of mindset especially among students and young professionals. Many Hamburgers don’t see steady employment as the only option to achieve their professional goals. But every day more and more are considering entrepreneurship to be the true way to achieve their goals.

Upcoming Events, Meetups And Other Occasions:

  • Startup Digest Hamburg: This calendar is curated by betahaus Hamburg and others. You can also subscribe to Digest for newsletter.
  • The betahaus Hamburg: This calendar will allow you to stay up to date on the events that are taking place in this co-working space located in the Eifflerstraße in Hamburg.
  • Hamburg Startups: Initiative of Sanja Stankovic and Sina Gritzuhn is to centralize information and promote Hamburg’s startup scene worldwide.
  • Digital Media Women: In this calendar you will find all the events created by Digital Media Women as well as many other interesting networking events.
  • Hamburg@work: Calendar of startup events in the city offered by Hamburg@work, the Hamburger platform for content exchange and networking in the digital industry.
  • Startup Guide Hamburg: This information platform for entrepreneurs from Hamburg offers an event calendar interesting to founders, who are also able to add their own events.

Regular Events And Meetups:

  • 12min.me: Once a month, experts and young professionals hold lectures on a particular topic of their choice in the cozy premises of Absolute Software GmbH. (Every 2nd Thursday of the month)
  • 12min.med: Medicine, health & research meet creative new economy & Startups. The new format is supposed to help connect people that would normally not meet (for the first time 3rd of june at UKE and after that every quarter).
  • 12min.me PitchLab: Startup Slam at GRÜNDERWERFT (For the first time 25th of june 2015 at Gründerwerft and after that every two months).
  • betahaus Education: In different sessions on “Lean Startup“ at the betahaus Hamburg founders have the chance to educate themselves. (4 time session per year)
  • Digital Media Women Meet-ups: Intense networking, in order to make women visible in the digital industry: members meet regularly to jointly promote professional projects, to learn new input, to give each other tips and suggestions or just leisurely exchange ideas. For women and men(Every 2 months).
  • Fin-Tech Meetup: Networking events of  Hamburg’s financial technology scene (2-3 times per year).
  • Startup Talk: This event is organized by the NIT Northern Institute of Technology Management. and the Startup Dock of the Technical University of Hamburg and held every semester in order to present successful entrepreneurs, business angels and startup experts. All lessons are conducted in English, and they end up with a networking session for speakers, fellow students and entrepreneurs to connect with each other (3-4 times per semester).
  • FuckUp Nights: This is a global movement born in Mexico in 2012 to share publicly business failure stories. Hundreds of people attend each event to hear three to four entrepreneurs share their failures. After each speaker, there’s a Q&A session, as well as time for networking (every 2nd Thursday of the month in MUT! Theatre).
  • Gamecity Treff: This is the established, regular get-together for games industry in Hamburg. Four times a year industry representatives hold short introductory speeches, report on the latest developments in their companies or lead panel discussions on current topics. In particular it is focused on networking and exchange of game topics (4 times per year).
  • Gründergrillen: The suna precision GmbH und X-Spectrum GmbH invite you to a barbeque and Networking (Once per year in summer).
  • Indie – Games meetup: This event promotes the exchange of experience and the networking of the indie games scene in Hamburg and provides a focal point for new developers. It is organized by Christian Oeing at betahaus Hamburg (Every 2 months).
  • Spätschicht: An exclusive networking event that comes to Hamburg a few times during the year. This event is restricted to people with a personal invitation.
  • Next Media “Startup Roundtable”: Very interesting talks about changing startup-related topics, and followed by a networking session.
  • StartupBolo by 12min.me: 20 brave founders and entrepreneurs meet to eat noodles together at Absolute Software and talk about what’s happening in the startup bizz. Here, you can meet other founders, exchange ideas, and find synergies (Every 2 months).
  • Startup Stammtisch: Event for networking and exchange of experience of founders and those interested in founding in a relaxed atmosphere and at changing locations (Every one to two months).
  • Webmontag: Talks and networking to changing technologies and digital issues and at changing locations. (Every last Monday of the month)
  • WTF/FTW – Hype Reality Check: This event tries to get to the bottom of trends and hypes with sociological, information technology or artistic means (Once per Quarter).

Yearly Or Major Events, Festivals, Conferences:

  • Gamecity Night: Exclusive night dedicated to the game scene in the city. However, not only local but also international game companies attend this event that usually takes place in November every year.
  • Gründerakademie 2015: Enriching and very participative 2 day workshop that allows people interested in entrepreneurship present their ideas while exchanging with successful entrepreneurs. This event might be very interesting for those who want to connect with others, as well as find synergies.
  • NEUMACHER Konferenz: Event part of the Wirtschaftswoche that takes place every year in November, where young entrepreneurs meet experienced entrepreneurs and investors and experts to inspire and learn from each other.
  • Startups@Reeperbahn Pitch: This event takes place once per year in September as part of the Reeperbahn Festival giving five fantastic startups from Europe the opportunity to present their business idea to over 80 investors and investment managers.
  • Hamburg Startup Mixer: This event takes place at the betahaus Hamburg and is run by Hamburg Startups to inform the community about what’s happening in the hub and of course provides the opportunity for networking.
  • Innovation Summit: Over 400 founders, visionary people and future shapers from business, science and politics in Hamburg meet at the Speicher am Kaufhauskanal to discuss and explore the latest innovations made in Hamburg.
  • Startup Sprint: Once a year and for a week the Startup Dock offers an entrepreneurship summer school for students and scientists, in which interdisciplinary teams through interactive activities come up with a business idea and learn how to develop a business model out of this. On the last day of the summer school, all ideas and business models are presented, finally awarding a winning team.
  • UNIcelerator: Five-week program offered to students and scientist who already have an idea and a team in order to further develop their business ideas. Workshops and personal coaching.are part of the program that takes place once a week.
  • Uni-Pitch: This is a joint founder event of Hamburg universities. Over 400 students, scientists, exhibitors, founders and startups meet for one day to pitch and gain support with their ideas. In the end, prices of about 500 EUR are given to the best pitches.

Book A Place At Co-working Space In Hamburg

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Although you still can’t compare the coworking atmosphere of Berlin with the one of Hamburg, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a great selection to choose from. Hamburg’s open and collaborative mentality is continuously growing, currently being able to offer something for everyone. This city counts with small spaces and also big spaces, short-term options and long-term solutions, this for the “more committed ones”, improvised and well-ordered locations, as well as open and closed offices. You only need to take a couple of minutes to explore the options available, and then decide on which of them better meet your present situation and specific needs.

Co-working Spaces In Hamburg:

  • The betahaus Hamburg: This is one of the most well known coworking spaces in the city, located in the district of Altona, and offering lots of activities, networking opportunities, and very flexible coworking plans. It is considerably smaller than the Berlin version, however this makes sure that everyone knows everyone! As already mentioned, they are also in charge of curating the Startup Digest Hamburg calendar apart from their own, where people can inform themselves about the events that are taking place in their offices. They also offer startup workshops as well as other training opportunities about different entrepreneurship topics. This is definitely a focal meeting point in the city for freelancers and startups, teams and companies to collaborate with each other.
  • Werkheim: This is not only the first and biggest coworking space in Hamburg, but it is also one of the biggest in Germany. With its very versatile and modern offices, Werkheim offers two locations in the Altona borough, thus providing different options for different needs. Their offices are designed in such a flexible way, so they can be turned into an event space for up to 100 people in about 30 minutes. They not only have coworking spaces, but also seminar, conference and event rooms. Here people can rent from all-inclusive offices to open spaces and even better on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
  • The Zeise-halls: This used to be an old screw-propeller factory but is now a coworking space for internet agencies, web designers, developers and social media people who are working together. This concept is a little bit different from the others since the founders are more focused on building a stable community of long-term members. They choose their coworkers themselves in order to complement the existing community. They also organize get together breakfasts once a month, allowing them to learn from each other as well as regular open meet-ups for anyone interested. Finally, the Zeise-halls also offer the possibility for externals to rent meeting rooms on an hourly or daily basis.
  • Hamburg Social Impact Lab: “Different people sit here, with a common goal – to make the world a little better”. Founders, entrepreneurs, experts, consultants and other creative minds work together in this space, in order to overcome social problems. Do you like social startups and are looking for an office workplace directly next to the St. Michael’s Church in the quarter of Neustadt in Hamburg? Then this is the right place for you! Here, you will benefit not only from a coworking space but also from consulting. Furthermore, you will be able to participate in workshops and you will have access to an incredible network of social entrepreneurs.
  • Lilienhof: This is a sophisticated concept located right in the center of Hamburg near the Binalster. The space is a crossover between coworking spaces and a business center, where people wear formal clothings. Here you will find established small companies and self-employed people, as well as all types of coaches, lawyers, consultants and even psychologists amongst the members. Unfortunately, there isn’t much open space coworking happening at Lilienhof yet, as their members want their own private offices and meeting rooms.
  • The Karostar Musikhaus: This has been specifically designed for young companies and entrepreneurs in the music industry, in order to provide optimum working conditions: low rents, a common space, the impact of a collaborative working place, as well as shared infrastructure that including a conference room, kitchen and is the central meeting place.
  • The EU-Förderprogramm EFRE and the Hamburger Behörde für Wirtschaft und Arbeit supported this project with 1 million EUR thus promoting since its creation in 2006 many small companies from the music industry based in the district of St. Pauli.

Search For Financing Opportunities In Hamburg

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In Germany about half of a typical startup’s early-stage funding is covered by the State, says Florian Nöll, head of the German Startups Association. However, as already mentioned that at the beginning of this guide, it’s still challenging for startup companies to find the big money for the post-startup phase, that will finally allow them to stay afloat and succeed. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to raise this money, in fact there are many. You just have to carry on and be persistent and probably you will find the means to continue developing your startup. Below you will find all the different funding and support opportunities that Hamburg offers, starting with what you will need in the early stages and followed by those options you will have once you need the “big bucks” in later stages in order to continue expanding.

Incubators:

  • Digital Pioneers: They are with their own words “startup backers” who invest our money in innovative products and excellent teams. Their motto is: Your Ideas + Our Know-How & Capital = Success. They look for innovative, creative entrepreneurs who have a clear vision and are willing and able to work hard to build a successful company. A clear example of successful startups supported by them is Kreditech, Hamburger startup with the highest sum of funding in the last three years of 82,5 million EUR in 2015.
  • Dynport GmbH: They develop scalable web applications and native mobile apps for entrepreneurs, start-up founders, investors and corporations in general since 2009, while offering external product development, consulting on scaling software and building automated cloud hosting solutions.
  • HackFwd: This company shut down in December 2013 due to its limited economic success, however it is worth learning from their experience, which you can find on its website.
  • Hanse Ventures: This is the company builder in Hamburg. They develop their own internet and mobile business concepts, and implement these together with suitable founder teams. They support their startup teams in all areas with their expertise, financing assistance, powerful network and/or office space.

Accelerators:

  • Next Media Accelerator: This is a new accelerator based in Hamburg, funding and supporting teams seeking to create new business models in the media industry. On top of an initial funding of up to 50,000 Euros, teams will get access to the European publishing scene and will be connected to distinguished mentors and partners that can help them build scalable technologies and businesses. next media accelerator is an initiative of the German Press Agency dpa with the support of the mayor’s office of the city of Hamburg.
  • German Accelerator: It fosters the international growth of German tech startups by supporting them with an effective and efficient entry into the U.S. market with their dedicated mentors.

Grants And Subventions:

  • The EXIST Business Start-up Grant: This grant supports students, graduates and scientists from universities and research institutes, who want to turn their business idea into a business plan. The start-up projects should be innovative technology or knowledge based projects with significant unique features and good commercial prospects of success. The program’s value ranges from 3000 EUR for entrepreneurs with a doctorate to 1000 EUR for students and also offers from 15,000 to 35,000 EUR for materials, equipment and coaching; the amount varies depending on whether you participate as a solo startup or as a team.
  • Social Impact Start: This scholarship supports social startups in the launch phase of their socially innovative business ideas. Enabled by SAP and further partners, they offer individual coaching, professional consulting for specific business creation topics in the field of social entrepreneurship, mentoring by SAP employees, co-working space, addressing and matching to potential financing partners as well as professional assistance in writing applications for financial support e.g. foundation and government aid. The program has an equivalent value of 12.500 EUR and runs for up to eight months. The allocation of the scholarship is attached to the use of the coworking space offered at the relevant location.
  • ANKOMMER Perspektive Deutschland: This program addresses socially entrepreneurial and community-minded individuals, who are trying to improve the social and economic participation of refugees by way of innovative models and concepts, including access to education, vocational training and jobs. The stipends run for up to eight months and cover benefits of the equivalent value of 12,500 EUR. This includes coaching, specialist consulting and coworking spaces. During the stipend period, participants have the possibility to receive financial support in the form of an allowance of up to 4,000 EUR to cover expenses. At the end of the stipend period, the best three projects will be awarded with startup funds of 20,000 EUR each. After the stipend, there is an additional possibility of taking part in a tandem program, in which partners from business and the third sector will continue developing the projects so that they can get off the ground.
  • Gründerpreis Nachhaltigkeit: This is a sustainability award for universities and scientific institutions of northern Germany. It is awarded for exemplary performance in the development of innovative and knowledge-based business ideas that implement a more efficient use of resources and/or contribute to the reduction of air pollution emissions. The 15,000 EUR award is provided by the Foundation for Nature-oriented Economies (Stiftung für naturnahes Wirtschaften), from which 10,000 EUR should be used for setting up the business. On request, the winning team is actively supported by Hans Hermann Münchmeyer who is a merchant, banker and investment adviser of Hamburg. The award ceremony takes place within the framework of the Hamburg Innovation Summit.

Crowd Investing Platforms:

  • Seedmatch: This is the largest crowdinvesting platform for startups in Germany and has a market share of almost 50 percent of capital collected as part of successfully financed projects. Seedmatch was launched in 2011, and by the end of 2012 was able to collect over 100,000 EUR in successful financing. The startup Protonet from Hamburg collected 1 million EUR in four hours via crowdinvesting on Seedmatch and finally gets 3 million EUR of the crowdinvesting community. This is a world record in crowdfunding.
  • Der Hamburger Weg: Crowdfunding platform from Hamburgers to Hamburgers focused on the areas of education, social affairs and sports. If you are interested in exploring the present projects, just click on the following link.

Angel Investors:

  • Business Angels Netzwerk Deutschland: Association of business angels and their networks that promotes the German business angels culture, while acting as a central point of contact for innovative seeking capital start-ups. It counts with experts and training network for early-stage financing.
  • Business Angels Netzwerk Elbe-Weser: It is an intermediary between selected innovative business projects and private investors that through its experienced business angels support promising startups with capital in the early stages of development. They offer their know-how and network of contacts in order to contribute to the success of the company.
  • Ilmenau Business Angels: It is a private investment and consulting company focusing on startups in the initial seed phases. They offer their own entrepreneurial experience – like from setting up SunTechnics, in order to ensure the success of the startups they commit to.

Apart from these, there also independent business angels interested in collaborate with startups not only of Hamburg, but also of Germany and Europe in general. Below you will find a list with some of the most well-known angels in the Hamburger startup scene:

Venture Capital Investors:

  • Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg: As the daughter of the Hamburgischen Investitions- und Förderbank, they promote innovative start-ups and young innovative companies in Hamburg, in order to strengthen their research and development activities. For this purpose Innovationsstarter Fonds Hamburg operates together with its InnoRampUp funding program.
  • BTG Beteiligungsgesellschaft Hamburg: It is a medium-sized subsidiary in Hamburg that supports with venture capital Hamburg-based companies as well as start-ups and entrepreneurs with equity capital products. They work in cooperation with Innovationsstarter GmbH.
  • e.ventures : It is a venture capital firm backing internet and software founders. They stick to their “no asshole policy” since 1998. They partner with entrepreneurs building across all stages. They have built a global platform for the company, with offices in six countries around the world.
  • CatCap: They connect successful businesses with investors and investment opportunities around the world. With a team of more than 500 professionals based in 39 different countries, they advise businesses and shareholders on M&A deals, and raising growth capital.
  • Shortcut Ventures : It helps young companies not only by providing capital but also to share their experience and help them to set up a powerful distribution, to establish efficient operations, and to create a strong and distinct corporate culture. A well-known example of former investments is Mediakraft Networks, the largest online TV channel in Germany.
  • iVentureCapital: They are specialists for the digital production of online portals, mobile apps, online games and their marketing, continuously looking for young, up-and-coming e-commerce companies that have been active for at least one year and can already prove initial success.
  • Neuhaus Partners: It invests venture capital in companies from the information technology sector, thus supporting companies with outstanding managerial and technological advantages – in particular in growth markets. Examples of former successful investments include ricardo.de, Nikoma, NxN, handy.de, DocMorris and blau Mobilfunk.
  • TheMediaLab: This is the discoverer of trends, producer and promoter of ideas and concepts in the media outside the traditional structures. Participation in new business models are primarily made through investments in promising companies with growth potential.

Other Investment Opportunities:

  • The Funders Club: They bring together outstanding startups with clearly a recognizable growth potential with successful entrepreneurs and investors. We provide the know-how that benefits both sides.

Where To Get Advice In Hamburg

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Besides all the options just mentioned, there are further ones you should take into account from the beginning.

  • Hamburg Chamber of Commerce: As the umbrella organization for Hamburg entrepreneurs, this is the focal point for the local business community. They can help you to launch your new business or to consolidate and expand your existing business. What does the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce offer? Main services:
    • Pre-launch phases
    • Prospecting Phase
    • Research Phase
    • Concept Phase
    • Feedback Phase
    • Implementation Phase

General Support On:

  • General legal information: Which legal form should be chosen? Where and how to register a business? Do I need specific a licence? These and other typical questions about legal issues are tackled here.
  • Information for international customers: Find out more about issues such as provisions on rights of residence, expansion opportunities for foreign businesses or the basic freedoms for EU-citizens EU under this header.
  • Business funding: Are you looking for a quick summary of the major sources of financial assistance? It’s here – the TOP funding programme.

Useful Links And Sources:

  • The Hamburg Welcome Centre is an official service facility of the District Office, District Mitte [Central] of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.
  • Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI) is a limited fully owned by the Federal Government of Germany. Its investment guide tackles all kind of issues related to setting up a business, such as the German Tax system, social system, employees, as well as basic data on the German economy. A highly recommendable source.
  • In their Online-shop you can find a range of publications on various topics. For example, the English brochure “Setting up your own business” (2010, 32 pages) can be purchased here for 8,50 EUR. If you are interested in this or other publications, you can contact their shop at shop@hk24.de.
  • Startup Dock:The aforementioned Startup Dock was established in 2013 with the objective to support students and scientists who want to start their own business. They believe that the scientific potential of these individuals can positively result in successful technology-based innovations and startup projects, thus creating a vibrant entrepreneurial culture on campus. The Startup Dock works closely with the TuTech Innovation GmbH and the NIT Northern Institute of Technology Management.Do you want to learn more about entrepreneurship? Do you have a concrete idea for establishing a startup, but still need support on how to implement it? Would you like to work together with experienced consultants or like-minded founders? Their offer includes:

In addition, the Startup Dock also offers students, scientists and employees of Hamburg`s universities diverse Innovation and Entrepreneurship workshops free of charge.

As you have seen Hamburg has a lot to offer to you as an entrepreneur. If the giants of technology industry such as Google and Facebook chose Hamburg for their German bases, there should be a good reason behind it!

There are many institutions and individuals who are willing to support you during the process. Although getting financial aid might be sometimes a demanding task, it isn’t impossible at all. Yes, it’s true that might be easier in the first stages than in later ones, however there are plenty of options. Besides, not all startups need venture capital in order to succeed! There are some Hamburger startup examples such as Jimdo, which received 500,000 EUR investment when starting out and has grown ever since to help build more than 12 million websites without receiving any additional venture capital funding. This is amazing, isn’t it?

So don’t think too much, and just do it! Take a chance and start your own company in one of the most multifaceted cities of Europe, home of some of the most successful startups of the country.

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Last updated: August 1st, 2016

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