We talk to PROPERCORN Co-founder Ryan Kohn about the business and its search for the perfect workspace

In May 2016 Kontor helped booming healthy snacks vendor PROPERCORN to take its first lease and the space they chose really is amazing. The office stretches along Regent’s Canal near Angel, with huge windows looking over the water. It’s all about light, space and comfort.

We talk to Co-founder Ryan Kohn about the business’s search for a workspace.

Where did PROPERCORN start?

Cassandra and I launched the business five and a half years ago from my living room. Since then we’ve grown to 40 staff and now sell PROPERCORN in 12 countries, selling 3 million bags a month.

It was pretty hectic from the start. Our philosophy was just to sell, sell, sell as we weren’t going to get anywhere otherwise. We won our first order from Waitrose in the first six months and other supermarkets followed soon after. Our first customer was Google’s offices – at one point out of 48 snacks that they stock, PROPERCORN was the fastest moving. We really took that statistic and ran with it and quickly got into lots of major high street chains like Leon and Benugo.

How important was your workspace to the company as you grew?

Culture is extremely important in a company, but it’s all very well trying to build an empowering culture for staff if you’re stuck working in a basement somewhere. It’s just not going to develop. Everyone needs to enjoy the workspace and have a place to relax.

Even our first space in a managed office in Primrose Hill was small but had lots of natural light. Next we went to a space in Kings Cross which was also really light and all on one level like this workspace, which we like – it means there’s no hierarchy, no one has their own office. We’re all together.

Why did you choose this workspace?

We had already seen a few options but as soon as we walked in here we loved it. It’s unique, being able to look over the canal. There were lots of dividers from the previous occupants, but we saw the potential and opened it out. It was quite a complicated deal as Kontor had to find someone to buy the building so we could lease it, but worth it.

Kontor were brilliant; as soon as we were introduced to Luke and James we realised there was a great cultural fit. We wanted to work with other entrepreneurs. They were very attentive and came back to us quickly with options and so on. I used to run a property development firm so had a good idea of the process, but they were really useful to add context to the deal and advise on what was reasonable and what wasn’t.

As well as the right environment, did you have other criteria?

We wanted room to grow into and there’s plenty of space here, space for 90 people. We currently sub-let some space to companies that have taken desks for perhaps a year or longer, which subsidises the rent. It wasn’t easy to find tenants as we didn’t want just anybody; we wanted companies with a culture like ours, that complement what we’re doing.

Did you have a specific location in mind?

It needed to be accessible but we didn’t want to be on top of a tube station. We wanted people to eat all together rather than go out separately, so we have our own chef. We’re still only about ten minutes’ walk from the station and lots of the team live nearby.

What sort of fit out were you aiming for?

We didn’t want it to feel too much like an office, more like a living space. We also didn’t want it to just mimic Google or Twitter with beanbags everywhere. This is the ideal fit-out, comfortable but functional, a space we can live in.

The team love it. I think you’d be hard pushed to find a better location in London, especially in the summer when we can spill out onto the canal side.

What’s the benefit to having your own lease rather than being in a managed space?

For us it’s knowing that we aren’t going to have to move soon, that we’re here and settled. We’ve got space to grow into so we’re happy to be here.

What advice would you give to another growing company looking to sign a lease?

Pick your battles. Think about the key points you want to achieve and what you would concede on. It’s all a negotiation.

What’s next for PROPERCORN?

Our aim is to be Europe’s most loved snack brand, so we’ve got some way to go. We’ve launched in Germany recently and that’s going really well. For us Europe is a huge opportunity, so we’ve got a lot to go for.

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We catch up with Tom Sleigh from Breather to find out how their rapid expansion is going

Meeting space provider Breather arrived in London last summer and has been expanding fast. The company has more than 300 spaces across North America, including more than 120 in New York and more than 65 in San Francisco.

Breather’s USP is to provide beautifully designed, functional spaces that any company can book via its app for as little time as an hour. Kontor has been helping Breather in its London expansion.

We caught up with Tom Sleigh, Breather’s Head of Real Estate – London, at its space in Staple Inn near Chancery Lane.

What is Breather’s growth story so far?

Breather was founded in June 2013 with a $1.5m seed round. We first opened in Montreal, quickly followed by New York, San Francisco and Boston. We raised $20m in series B funding in September 2015 and opened in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Toronto, and London in 2016. In December 2016, we raised a $40m in Series C funding. This most recent round was led by Menlo Ventures, the venture capital firm behind Uber, Tumblr, and Siri.

Why is there a market for Breather’s spaces?

Space for meetings is always difficult to find. Whether you’re a big or a small company there will always be a requirement for overflow space, or the desire for a change of scene or geography. There are arguments emerging that suggest working in private spaces is more effective than working in an open plan space, where you will be constantly interrupted. With no distractions, either as a team or as an individual, you can be more productive.

What were you looking for when you took this space?

Something light, an interesting space with character, ideally with a wooden floor, central, well-connected. At the time we were looking for single big spaces rather than the multi-unit spaces that we have elsewhere. Our meeting spaces range in size – the smallest has space for four people, this is the biggest with space for 25 seated.

Why did you like this space so much?

More than anything, the size of the space caught my eye. I love the windows, the high ceiling. People use our spaces for away days, to get out of the office, so they want something a bit different. Our team works very closely with many of our clients, so we learn all the time about how and why people use our spaces. You can book them for an hour, a few hours, and this one is frequently booked for the whole day by companies such as Marks & Spencer, PwC and Spotify.

I also loved the character of the whole building. It’s unusual, it makes a welcome change to your typical corporate office. Normally we don’t take spaces above the second floor if there’s no lift, but we made an exception for this space because we loved it so much.

Where in London are you looking for more spaces?

We’re looking for more spaces in London, period. We want 100 spaces in London this year and we’re doing very well so far – we’ve got 21 open and 36 in legals at the moment. Our target is every corner of London.

This is why I enjoy working with Kontor ; they understand what Breather is looking for and they’re willing to spend time looking through many options for us. Any agency could show me what’s on the market but Kontor finds clever angles on buildings. They take a longer-term view of the relationship and they are committed to growing with their clients. Because a lot of our early adopters are in the sectors that Kontor is strong in, there’s a natural synergy between what we like and what their other clients are looking for, which helps.

You’re expanding fast; how many properties have you looked at?

We’ve looked at a huge number of properties – across the ten cities we operate in, we’ve looked at more than 1,500 buildings in the past year. In London I must have viewed at least 250. Our parameters for what we’re looking for are changing all the time based on the demand of our users. Now we’re looking for bigger spaces than when we started and are excited to continue growing throughout the city.

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We speak to Jaguar Land Rover’s James Nettleton to find out how they’ve settled in

InMotion, a subsidiary of Jaguar Land Rover, has made its home in a fully managed office in Shoreditch, with the help of Kontor. The team’s workspace requirements were specific: a trendy space that could be personalised to attract startups, alongside the flexibility of no long-term commitment. We speak to InMotion’s head of accelerator programme James Nettleton to find out how they’ve settled in.

(To see a 360° walkthrough of InMotion’s space click on the top right pic!)

What exactly is InMotion?
InMotion invests in technology for sectors such as transport and smart cities. Here in London we run an innovation lab, and combine the insight that it produces with entrepreneurial and technical talent to build new startup businesses. The large part of the Jaguar Land Rover business is based in the Midlands, but we wanted to be in the hub of Tech City.

Is that why you chose Shoreditch?
Ideally we would have been closer to Kings Cross or Euston as some staff commute in from the Midlands, but the office stock just isn’t there yet. This is a great location for the businesses we’re building here and space is a core part of our proposition to them – we house them for a certain period of time.

What were your criteria when searching for space?
Space that would give us flexibility but also be personal, so the team feels that they are somewhere with an identity. Location, capacity and the overall atmosphere were also very important.

Kontor really understand the market, and really understood our requirements. This office was half built, but Luke and Sam knew it was coming online so suggested we take a look. When we took the space the downstairs was still a building site so we had to trust they would finish the space in a good way, which they did. We wanted an office with space for events, and the downstairs here is ideal.

How much flexibility were you looking for? 
We were in a tricky position in some respects, as we didn’t want to make a long-term commitment, but most co-working spaces don’t offer enough personalisation for us. It was obvious from the beginning that we would go for a managed space, as we didn’t have the time to fit the space out, but we also wanted our own space – we needed to be self-contained. We also have a finite number of startups we can take on for a period, so we don’t need ongoing flexibility in that respect.

How important was it that the space reflects your brand?
That was a challenge for us, because we needed a certain appearance for our brand but we wanted to be in managed space. When you don’t have your own building, you have to take what you’re given up to a point in terms of furniture and so on as you don’t want to spend a fortune.

We were looking for a very specific image. There’s a spectrum in managed spaces ranging from the very corporate to the scrappier startup world. We needed the best of both worlds: somewhere entrepreneurs would feel at home, but where we could also host investors. This space feels like a good balance between the two.

Has the team settled into the space?
They really like it, it’s a great location and the space feels like our own. For the first home of InMotion, it’s ideal.

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We catch up with Linden Staub to find out how they’ve settled in

Tara Davies and Esther Kinnear Derungs set up their modelling agency Linden Staub in December 2015. They needed a specific workspace, with areas for computers as well as photoshoots and conversations. Eight months after Kontor helped them find their ideal space, we discover how they’ve settled in.

(To see a 360° walkthrough of Linden Staub’s space click on the top right pic!)

How are you finding your new workspace?
Tara: We love it! We use the space for everything. We even have family dinners in the evenings here. It’s just a great space for hanging out.

What were your priorities when searching for an office?
Esther: Natural light and space, lots of space as our photographers do shoots here. We wanted an office that could be compartmentalised because we need it to feel communal, but with defined areas. We didn’t want girls to walk in and have to sit with us at our computers while they wait. Our area is now split into a work area, a lounge area, a food/dining area and the studio that has a glass partition wall.

Tara: The models hang out here all the time, they keep food in the fridge or lounge on the sofa. If you have one model in it feels like 10, they have so much stuff, so it was important we had a comfortable area. Then we have studio area and can always shut the door if we need a private room.

Why did you decide to set up in Shoreditch?
Tara: We didn’t mind where we were in central London, but we’ve got girls coming in all the time, on their own or with families, so it had to be accessible. We looked at a workspace we really liked along the waterfront between Old Street and Angel, but we couldn’t imagine girls leaving the office at 5pm in the winter and walking in the dark.

This is our dream location; so convenient and such incredible buildings. Plus, the majority of our clients are based in east London nowadays, so this location makes the most sense.

How important was finding the right workspace to suit your brand?
Esther: Very important, its advertising for our brand. If a girl visits a shoddy office with her family, they’re not going to think we’re a very good agency.

The whole message of our brand focuses on empowerment of women, so we needed to reflect that. For example, we’ve never worked anywhere with a dining area before, but we’re firm believers that it’s not healthy to eat at your desk. Now at least once a week we all sit together, chatting, flicking through magazines. We meet girls at such a young age that we had to have a space to bring them to that is homely, that has a family atmosphere while remaining professional.

Have you had good feedback from employees?
Tara: They love the space. If you work somewhere and you’re proud of your workspace, that’s going to be uplifting and you’ll be more productive.

Were you looking for flexible space?
Esther: We didn’t realise when we starting looking that we’d need to sign a lease for several years, so we had to find a space that was a bit flexible. We did look at some co-working spaces such as WeWork, which didn’t suit us but made us realise we needed to be able to use space in different ways, have places to interact with each other.

Did you have any knowledge of the property market before looking?
Tara: Not a clue! We told Kontor that from that beginning and the team were brilliant. They showed us exactly the spaces we were after – before, other agents had shown us a load of basements, even though we said we needed natural light. They didn’t seem to take us seriously as a new, young modelling agency. Kontor were able to show us this place before it even came to market and the costs came in below budget.

Do you think you’ll stay here a while?
Esther: When our lease is due to finish here will probably be the perfect time to reconsider what we need. If we do need more space it will be an upgrade, the same vibe but larger. We love the aesthetic here – we’re supposed to return it to its original condition at the end of the lease, but the landlord loves what we’ve done so much he’s said we’ve added value!

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Kontor x Jump Studios

We caught up with Simon Jordan from Jump Studios to find out more about this exciting architecture and design firm and the future trends within workspace design.

What does the brand stand for?
A point of excellence in the work, rather than a point of difference.

What are you trying to achieve?
Through good design, improve how we experience the built environment.

How is the studio evolving?
As architects, we think technology and how it will increasingly mediate the world around us, how the digital world is permeating the physical world, is interesting. We are already developing skill sets around designing digital interfaces to complement our architectural skills.

What exciting projects are you currently working on?
We’re working on a series of innovative workspaces for Google and Yahoo! Saatchi & Saatchi, Mother London, Sutherland Global, Nike and Rapha, to name a few.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
From the good designers that populate our Studio!

Who do you admire both within and outside your industry?
Brands or organisations who have a clearly defined ‘higher purpose’ than merely the profit motive.

With your experience having worked for a myriad of exciting clients have you noticed any particular changes or trends emerging within workspace design?
I think if we take a step back from the architecture, and look at prevailing social, economic and technological trends you’ll see the clues; the demise of state and social institutions have given birth to a more informal social culture, and that’s reflected in more informal, less hierarchical work spaces. With the Western, liberal democracies having to deal with maturing economies, we find people working harder and spending more time at work, hence the provision of more lifestyle amenities; showers, cafes, play areas and learning environments. Technology is liberating people from desk bound computers and we see a move to more eclectic and diverse work settings, perhaps more domestic in feel – which brings us full cycle to informality again!

Taking this one step further If you were given a blank canvas by a client to design the workplace of the future, what would it look like?
I’d love to see clients think differently about work spaces being closed, introspective, private spaces and open up to more community focused, shared and collaborative spaces, perhaps with a shifting mix of like minded tenants – perhaps brining together business partners, supply chain, even customers, under one roof. Making it more accessible too.

Turning to Jump Studios itself where would you ideally be located?
East London for it’s vibrancy

What would it look like?
It’s more important how it feels, rather than how it looks….when designing, it’s always important to define the experience you are looking for first hand, before designing any spaces, elements or furniture.

What is most important to you – location, cost, transport, amenities?
A confluence of all these is the ideal

Would you consider moving to areas such as Haggerston, Dalston, Hackney Wick or what about south of the river Bermondsey, New Cross or Peckham for example?
London continues to be seen as a city at the forefront of progressive culture and creativity and this is in partly due to the concentrated, dense nature of the city; you end up with architects, fashion designers, musicians, technologists, artists all sharing the same spaces which leads to more interesting outputs. So long as London maintains this ‘friction’ any area including those mentioned will be desirable to ambitious creatives, entrepreneurs and thought leaders.

Is it imperative for your business to be in London?
Yes, but not exclusively in London. It is the best place for creativity, and so good to reinforce our positioning on a global stage, good for recruitment, good for retaining the best and brightest and not a bad place to live either!

To see more of Jump Studios amazing work please see www.jump-studios.com

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Kontor x Village Green

Kontor talks to Paul Byrne and Seb Marling of Village Green to learn more about this exciting creative studio based in Clerkenwell and what they look for in a workspace.

What does the studio stand for?
Creative excellence and rigorous execution across any field that we work in.

Being creatively led means you focus on the output and we find our clients respond to that. In general this has served us well. You can’t always get your own way and you have to make it pay but good work makes opportunities for more good work.

What direction is the business going in?
Recently our work has been very much across three areas. Property, our ongoing work for Nike and work for arts institutions such as The Barbican.

Broadly we are involved in branding, image making and marketing creative. Property branding and marketing has been a really interesting sector for Village Green over the past few years. It takes a little while to get underneath the business but there are some genuine creative opportunities to be had.

Where do you aspire to be?
More of the same. You are always looking out for a bigger project or a new exciting opportunity but we have been fortunate enough to have some great clients. We feel very confident in our ability to create good work at any level.

What exciting projects are you currently working on?
We are currently creating the branding and marketing for two properties in and around the City / Shoreditch fringes. Both have been very exciting and as ever we are enjoying immensly.  We also have a big project delivering for Nike which runs across image making, marketing, digital and retail environments and an interesting brief from the Barbican we are working on.

What is one of your favourite projects to date?
Alphabeta from a property perspective. We were brought in following our work on the Bonhill Building (home of Mind Candy and others) to brand and market a huge 220,000sq ft building on Finsbury Square initially called Triton Court. We needed to alter perspective so a strong branding aesthetic was brought in alongside a very understanding client. We developed everything from the marketing suite, to the agents presentation, interior wayfinding, all marketing collateral and website etc…good brief, good client and good results.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
Never an easy answer to that. We are quite intuitive and the senior team have worked together for quite a while now so there are subliminal modes of understanding bouncing around the studio. That said, individually people have quiet different aesthetics and approaches. Like most designers, I imagine, It’s about the things that we see and take an interest in and how we research, share ideas and refine them.

Who do you admire within your industry?
From a creative studio perspective I think there are a lot of groups / people out there doing great work. Too many to list. Many we like do very different work to VG but if ever you see work you wished you’d done you admire it and take inspiration from it.

Turning to the property side of things what is it that you as a studio look for in a workspace?
An open area that we can make our own.

Given a blank canvas where would you be located?
Clerkenwell works well for us as its close to Central but also on the fringes of Shoreditch and The City.

What is most important to you?
Location, cost, transport and amenities are all important. It’s a balance of all.

How, if at all, has this changed over time?
At a previous agency some of us were based in West London as that was where many of the companies we worked for happened to be, but over time the work comes to you wherever you are and East London feels more like home.

Would you consider moving to areas such as Dalston, Haggerston and Hackney Wick or what about south of the river, Bermondsy, New Cross, Peckham?
All the areas you mention are interesting. As long as the area is well connected for all of our staff I think we’d be open to most of them; as a small business we are cost sensitive. Haggerston currently has many lovely spaces and is an area we are quite fond of.

To see more of Village Greens amazing work please see www.villagegreenstudio.com

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Kontor x Hello Work

Alex Hill from Hello Work tells us more about their vision to revolutionise the traditional workspace.

Alex, tell us a bit about yourself and Hello Work.
I’m project coordinator at Hello Work, which Allied London set up a year and half ago as a next generation property company to service their workspace assets. Hello Work looks at the new way of working and providing workspace for businesses of any size.

Where did the inspiration for Hello Work come from?
It came from looking at the relationship between start-ups and the property industry and the inefficiencies, especially in terms of cost, flexibility and how the traditional office market doesn’t allow for the new age of business to evolve and adapt to market demands. This is important from Allied London’s perspective, in regards to developing the right building that will stand for the next 50-100 years.

How does the concept of Hello Work therefore cater for those start-ups?
It works with developers to provide workspace for companies at every stage of the growth cycle, so whether you are a one man band with a great idea looking to hot desk or whether you are more established and want to take a number of permanent desks in the co-working facilities all the way up to the larger self contained units. The difference between competitors and us is that we allow for growth through our spaces, as well as nurturing our ecosystem keeping our community engaged, so it becomes the place you want to be! The concept began with start-ups; however larger international corporations are now evolving the way they work so the workspace concept becomes appealing to them also.

In terms of the roll out where is Hello Work currently and where do you plan to take it?
We have our first co-work space in Manchester which is currently 3,000 sq ft with 300 members and have an aggressive 24 month plan to open two more spaces in Manchester, one in Leeds and two in London.

Hello Work in Manchester is part of the Old Granada Studios site; do you envisage it being an integral part of the wider scheme?
Absolutely. It’s very much a site with the ‘Shoreditch feel’, based on creativity, independence, and creating experiential spaces. There’s currently no property company or platform to service those requirements, especially those with larger workspace requirements. We like to be forward thinking and work with different contractors, agents and the tenants themselves which in turn replicates our ethos and brand so it’s a great synergy. We have over 100,000 sqft of workspace and are at about 80% occupancy within 6 months.

In terms of your growth plans you mentioned London, are there any particular areas that you have your eye on?
It would be silly not to look at East London, however, we feel that does overlook other exciting areas. If you look at Southwest, Hammersmith for example there’s lots of exciting and established enterprise companies. All along the central line provides exciting locations for us, and not just your usual spots, we will concentrate on the micro market and ensure the fundamentals are in place.

With regards to the actual designs of the Hello Work space, where do you draw your inspiration?
We’ve travelled to the likes of New York, Amsterdam and Berlin and have been taking inspiration from a wide variety of places and spaces, which we then turn into reality with Hello Work. We feedback our ideas to our architects and they will translate our brief to provide us with a base concept, we’ll then evolve the top layer of design to make sure it has the Hello Work personal touch.

How do you see the co-working and serviced office market evolving over the next few years?
I think it will go national and establish itself as a core platform for the businesses discussed earlier. There is a lot of activity going on in the regions, they just haven’t shouted about it until now. I think it’s quite diluted in London already and we’ll see a retraction of co-working operators as they consolidate and evolve, the larger operators are now entering the market and will probably end up taking up an even greater market share.

How do you plan on promoting the Hello brand to become an established market player?
We invest a lot of time in networking, being a part of the community, attending events and become a face in the local community, before opening a space. Then we roll out our Hello campaign including a number of events which engage potential members. If we’re not sure on a location these events provide real-time feedback as to which areas work better than others. Upon finding the right location and property the whole promotion campaign escalates quickly including a carefully combined marketing plan. The real key however remains word of mouth and being embedded within the community, to demonstrate we are genuine as opposed to who has the largest marketing budget and who can shout the loudest.

To learn more about Hello Work please see www.hellowork.co.uk

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Kontor x Bibliotheque

We caught up with Tim Beard, co-founder of Bibliotheque, to find out more about the company and what they look for in terms of workspace.

What is Bibliotheque and what does the company stand for?
A design Studio. Creative Thinking. Intelligent Creating.

What did you set out to achieve?
Constantly pushing to make things better. By creating beautiful, useful and innovative work.

Where do you aspire to be?
In London. (A bigger studio would be a step forward though).

What exciting projects are you currently working on?
A new kind of Watch magazine. A website for restauranteur Alan Yau. An identity for an Old Bond Street art foundation. A new permanent gallery at the Science Museum.

What is one of your favourite projects to date?
Identity for Ollo. A mobile broadband service provider, for emerging markets.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
Books, Art, Music, Food, Film, Conversation, Exhibitions, The Past, The Present, The Future.

Who do you admire both within and outside your industry?
Anyone who continually innovates, and pushes the boundaries, at the highest levels. Comme des Garçon is always a pretty good place to start. We try to look outside our industry for inspiration, rather than inside it. Those who are good, know it, and don’t need us to tell them.

Turning to the property side of things, what is it that you look for in a workspace?
A single big raw open space, with character. Not a place with nasty polystyrene tiles on the ceiling.

Given a blank canvas where would you ideally be located?
Right where we are now. EC2.

What would it look like?
Honest, with some interesting materials, Grade A finishing and the look of being put together by a combination of Tadao Ando, Saana, Peter Zumthor and Herzog & de Meuron. We’re thinking of hiring them.

What is most important to you – location, cost, transport, amenities?
All of the above. When we moved in our rates were more than our rent. Cost is a bigger and bigger issue, which will invariable impact on the other three parameters.

How do you occupy the space and why?
We try to make it our own, within the parameters that are set for us. We just need to create an environment which facilitates good work, inspires our staff and is centrally located for all travel parameters.

How do you see things going in the future?
Unless there is a change in rental prices, out of Central London.

Where are your competitors moving?
Further east.

Would you consider moving to areas such as Dalston, Haggerston and Hackney Wick or what about south of the river (Bermondsey, New Cross, Peckham etc)?
Dalston/Haggerston/London Fields/Hackney Wick – Yes to all. South of the River is not on our specific radar for a studio – but I wouldn’t rule it out if the place was right.

Why would you move to some and not others?
Being as central as possible is very useful to us. For both our staff and our clients connectivity. You pick up a surprising ammount of work, just bumping into people on the street, and staying engaged with your collaborators.

Would you consider other regional cities?
London is where its at for us.

One day. (After New York and Tokyo).

To see more of Bibliotheque’s amazing work please see www.bibliothequedesign.com

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