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Podcast S20E05

In conversation with… Teddy Flatau, wevo

Aerial view directly above electric car charging station sign at a parking lot

In this episode, Jon Slowe and Sandra Trittin are joined by Teddy Flatau, Founder and CEO from wevo energy, a company with a mission to bring simple, efficient and cost-effective charging to the most energy-demand environments. Jon, Sandra and Teddy discuss Teddy’s experiences as a serial entrepreneur, starting and growing wevo, and the EV charging market.

Episode transcript

[00:00:04.570] - Jon Slowe

Welcome to talking new energy, a podcast from LCP Delta. I'm Jon Slowe.

 

[00:00:09.310] - Sandra Trittin

And I'm Sandra Trittin. And together we are exploring how the energy transition is unfolding across Europe through conversations with guests from the leading edge of the transition.

 

[00:00:19.010] - Jon Slowe

Hello and welcome to the episode. Hello, Sandra.

 

[00:00:22.150] - Sandra Trittin

Hey, Jon. How are you doing?

 

[00:00:24.050] - Jon Slowe

Good, thanks. Back into it after the Christmas break. This is the first episode of 2024.

 

[00:00:30.750] - Sandra Trittin

Exciting things to come.

 

[00:00:32.190] - Jon Slowe

Yes. And excited today because we're talking with a founder of a company that's about two years old. We're going to introduce him in a sec. As I've come back from the Christmas break, I've come back even more determined to do what I can, what we can, to push the energy transition forward. And the thing that's in my mind, Sandra, is speed and time. We're not going fast enough, and we don't have enough time.

 

[00:01:01.010] - Sandra Trittin

Yeah, no, it's a good reflection, and I think the topic we are going to talk about today in the eMobility space, I think, will be crucial, right. Because we all know that transport makes a big bunch of our emissions and of our usage of, let's say, fuels. And I think in the eMobility space, will it be in the B2C, but also then transport logistics, et cetera, in the future? That's really crucial to get on changing.

 

[00:01:32.210] - Jon Slowe

And we're talking with someone who set up their own company two years ago, who brings that energy, that passion, that drive. I think we're here to push things forward at a fast rate. So, let's say hello to our guest, Teddy Flatau, co-founder and CEO of wevo. Hello, Teddy.

 

[00:01:49.560] - Teddy Flatau

Hi, Jon. Hi, Sandra.

 

[00:01:50.590] - Sandra Trittin

Hi, Teddy.

 

[00:01:51.970] - Teddy Flatau

Very excited to be here.

 

[00:01:53.650] - Jon Slowe

So, Teddy, for our listeners that aren't familiar with Wevo, and I guess there's probably a few of them, if you're successful, there'll be, well, not so many in the future. But can you tell our listeners what Wevo is? In a nutshell, an elevator pitch for Wevo.

 

[00:02:08.290] - Teddy Flatau

Definitely. So Wevo is a charge point management system. We basically manage chargers, electrical vehicle chargers. We focus on the high density, energy constraint’s locations. So, while there's many companies who do EV charging for public chargers or gas stations or sort of that thing, while we do that, our strength is focusing where there are many hundred chargers, 50 chargers in the building, whether it's a workplace or an apartment building. And what we do is we make sure that those chargers operate according to the user needs. So, we optimise the charging time, the charging speed, who charges first, who charges second, when they charge. And we actually make sure that everybody has their car ready when they need that, and that they get it at the lowest cost of energy, the cleanest energy, and with the least amount of infrastructure upgrades. So that's where our focus is.

 

[00:03:11.160] - Sandra Trittin

That's really interesting. Right, because coming back to your point of speed, Jon, this should help us to get going quicker, because what we hear now is that often there are constraints in construction given by the infrastructure. Having just a look at the Netherlands, for example, where projects in many different areas just get stuck because there's grid constraints on it. So, it must be a hot market for you, Teddy at the moment?

 

[00:03:38.970] - Teddy Flatau

It is hot and it's getting hotter because as more people use EVs, it becomes a mainstream. So while in the past, only the affluent would use an EV, and many of those would be living in a private home, we're now seeing more and more people embrace EVs. And those people live in apartment buildings, they work in congested offices in urban areas, and that's where the problem of energy really shows. And yeah, definitely we're seeing quite a good growth of our business. And actually, we have quite a unique solution in the market. And I'm happy to speak more about this later.

 

[00:04:20.660] - Jon Slowe

So, Teddy, you used to work with Centrica, and you set up wevo a couple of years ago. Tell us a bit about the personal side. So why start wevo? Why leave Centrica? What was the spark? Tell us a bit about that.

 

[00:04:34.070] - Teddy Flatau

So, I've been an entrepreneur most of my life, my adult life. I'm engineer, by electrical engineer by education. But I was always attracted to smaller companies, start-ups. Actually, wevo is my fourth start-up. And even Centrica, I got to Centrica through an acquisition of my previous start-up, panoramic power. So, when I joined Centrica, it took about a couple of years to integrate the previous company into Centrica. And then there was an opening at Centrica Innovation. That was a group reporting to the Centrica CTO at that time, and they were looking for somebody to lead EV charging. And I jumped at this opportunity. And actually, for two years I worked at Centrica Innovation, the innovation arm of Centrica, defining and working on smart charging, mainly in the UK, launching what now is known as Hive Charging. If you live in the UK, you know, Hive Charging is a solution that Centrica British Gas introduced to many residential users. They have thousands of users in the UK. But at some point, I felt that I wanted to create something of my own. And I was attracted again to the start-up life. Working in an enterprise is very comfortable, but it's not as exciting as working in start-up.

 

[00:06:01.240] - Teddy Flatau

Definitely founding your own start-up. And Centrica was focusing mainly on private homes. And we started to feel that there was huge need of expanding EV charging to apartment buildings and workplaces, and there was a gap in the market. Nobody was catering for that. And actually, we started the company. Adi, my co-founder and myself, we started the company by actually going to our friends and family members who live in apartment building and tell them, ask to put a charger in your parking lot. And there was not a good answer. Not in the UK, not in the US, not in Israel. And then we said, oh, there's something here that can be addressed. And then we started wevo to basically address that need.

 

[00:06:45.120] - Jon Slowe

Very exciting. And how far have you got today? It's two years old, approximately. So, I don't know what metrics you want to share, like number of employees or customers or give us a sense of what's happened in the two years.

 

[00:06:58.010] - Teddy Flatau

So we've been very busy. We're now about 20 employees. We are active in the US, Europe, we're active in the UK, Germany, France, Nordics, Spain, Netherlands.

 

[00:07:14.490] - Jon Slowe

Certainly, a busy two years. Actually.

 

[00:07:16.570] - Teddy Flatau

A busy two years, yeah. More than half of our team is doing sales and support. So all those places I mentioned, most of them, we have actually sales and support people from a number of installations. We have over 500 paying customers, paying sites, some of them as small as five chargers, but many of them with thousands of chargers. Our largest installation is 3000 parking spaces, out of which about 300 are already using chargers, and about 30,000 parking spaces that are being electrified by wevuo technology globally. So quite an exponential growth. And we're very excited about this.

 

[00:07:59.550] - Sandra Trittin

Sounds great. And then with my background of flexibility. Right. Stepping a bit more into the solution, I get immediately interested. If I hear like thousands of charters, it's like, wow, that's also capacity for flexibility trading. Right? Which goes a bit, let's say, or can be aligned with your even local optimisation. So have you ever thought in that direction as well? Or how would you see that topic?

 

[00:08:27.820] - Teddy Flatau

Of course, one of the things I did in Centrica and some of the team members, we were managing flexibility in the US and Europe. And definitely this is a big part of the future. There are some low hanging fruits that we're already capturing. Like, for example, when we, so the idea is people come, let's talk about an apartment building. People come home at 6:00PM All of them plug in their car. And if you do nothing, everybody charges at 6:00PM. And probably the breaker is going to trip because there's not enough power in the building for everybody. So, the first thing we do is we look at the building constraints to basically do load management or load balancing to charge only to the required, to the available capacity of the building. But then you can start adding more inputs to the algorithm, like for example, energy prices in the UK, in the US, now it's starting to be in Germany. Also, we're starting to see time of use charges, so that when the grid is less congested, the price of the energy goes down. And since we are connecting to the building, to the common area of the building, it's typically connected to a higher capacity connection.

 

[00:09:42.660] - Teddy Flatau

They can enjoy those benefits. So, we can now start charging like at 10:00PM or midnight, whenever the rates go down and save money for the drivers. But the next big thing is to actually connect to ancillary services, flexibility service and so on, and then start impacting the grid. This is definitely something that we're starting to do. And as we get more and more capacity, the virtual power plant aspect of EV charging will become more and more important to manage the load on the buildings.

 

[00:10:15.430] - Sandra Trittin

And this is then getting also quite exciting, I would say, because as you were saying already, it's growing so quickly and so much. Right. It's really an important piece, I think, for the future.

 

[00:10:29.500] - Teddy Flatau

Definitely a typical household that has an electrical vehicle. About half of the consumption of the apartment comes from the EV. So, we have this asset, this asset which has a very high consumption, but it's also very flexible. It's very hard to change your heating or cooling or cooking habits, but EV, typically an average EV charges between one and two hours per day. People don't really care if they charge 6:00PM, 7:00PM, 8:00PM or two in the morning. What we do is we ensure they're ready in the morning. So we employ AI analytics. We learn the habits of the people, of the tenants, and we know that they're typically leaving at 9:00AM. So, we find the best spot to charge the car so that they're always ready when they have to leave. But within those hours between the plug-in and when they leave, we find the least congested and lowest cost time slot to charge automatically. They can, of course, always override this by pressing a button, but then they would have to pay a little bit more.

 

[00:11:36.640] - Sandra Trittin

That makes sense.

 

[00:11:37.580] - Jon Slowe

Teddy, I'm interested in what you said earlier when you said you talked to your friends and family about charging in apartments. And it was hard that if you live in an apartment, it's hard to charge your EV there. Tell us a bit about why what you found the problem was and how wevo's addressing that.

 

[00:11:57.770] - Teddy Flatau

There are multiple levels of issues. So, the first one is where do you connect the charger? So, let's say you live in apartment building with an underground parking garage. Let's even say you have a dedicated parking space. It's your own, it's your parking space, you park there, where do you take the power from? So, one option, let's say you live with an 8th floor, is to have somebody come, an electrician and dig or trench or put some wire into your 8th floor electrical panel. But then you have to get approval of the house board or the lease holder.

 

[00:12:35.590] - Jon Slowe

I don't like the idea of trying to do that.

 

[00:12:38.610] - Teddy Flatau

So that definitely is not going to work. The other option is you get your own dedicated utility connexion that's not supported in many countries.

 

[00:12:50.530] - Jon Slowe

And that feels like a lot of hassle as well. A lot of paperwork.

 

[00:12:54.930] - Teddy Flatau

Exactly. And many utilities don't want to do that because imagine 100 tenants in a building, each one needing to put their own metre. And that's very complex. So, the obvious solution is to connect to the common area power. Let's say there's already some power in that garage, that's controlling the lighting and the ventilation in the garage. So, what we saw in most cases that they got the approval from the house board or the landlord, and typically the first one or two drivers are okay because they get their permission, they get a certified electrician, they connect the panel. But then what happens when you get over three or four? What happens suddenly every day at 6:00PM? The power trips. And then the garage is dark, and they call the electrician and the electrician says, oh, sorry. Because that panel wasn't built for EV, it was built for lighting. So, they exceed the power of the tunnel and then everything goes dark. And then typically what we saw is there's a note from the house board or the landlord saying, sorry, we don't instal any more EV chargers.

 

[00:14:02.470] - Jon Slowe

The load management then becomes the crux, the real critical part of this.

 

[00:14:07.740] - Teddy Flatau

Critical, exactly. The load management, but also the billing. Now in those initial use cases, each like the first three tenants would put their own submitter and somebody from the house board would go with a pencil and a note and take the readings. And then over WhatsApp or email say, oh, you own us this amount. That's not very scalable because they have to reimburse the building for the power, for the cost of the power. We automate all of that. What we do is we do load balancing so that we can actually increase the capacitor parking lot about between ten to 20 times compared to non-managed. And the reason is that, simply, there's 24 hours a day. We know when, we learn when people are there. So, in theory, on average, an EV driver charges 1 hour a day, so they don't have to all charge at 6:00PM. Most buildings don't have an energy problem, they have a power problem. So, by splitting this and spreading this across the day, we can actually do that. And the other thing we do is we handle billing. So, every tenant puts their credit card, we collect the money from the tenant and then pay the landlord or the house board or the leaseholder, depending on the financial structure, for the energy cost.

 

[00:15:28.460] - Sandra Trittin

Just getting one more question on the load balancing, because out of my own experience, actually, I'm living in an area where we share like, 20 different parking lots in one garage. Each parking lot is assigned to a single owner. Exactly what you were describing happened. The utility at one point said, like, you first have to put some kind of load balancing in there before we can allow more than three installations. But how important would you see brand agnostic approaches there? Because now we have, let's say, four EVs in the garage. Right? But the last parking lots will be equipped probably in ten years from now or even in 15 years. And I'm not sure if all the brands will still exist, or how would you see this evolvement and how this can fit together? Or how can you make sure this always fits together right from a technical point of view?

 

[00:16:27.130] - Teddy Flatau

Amazing question, Sandra. So, first of all, I want to reassure you, you're not alone. In Switzerland, 60% of people live in apartment buildings.

 

[00:16:35.850] - Sandra Trittin

Yeah.

 

[00:16:36.370] - Teddy Flatau

So, actually, this is one of our target markets, and we believe our solution will be greatly needed. By the way, Scotland much less. I think we're about 10%. But Central Europe, Germany, Switzerland, Italy have a lot of departments. You've hit the problem at the head. Basically, there are companies, charger companies, who say, I can do that with my charger. The problem is that those are typically proprietary solutions that only work with those chargers. And there are two major problems with that. First of all, you're locked into that charger vendor, and then later there may be better solutions or the price can go down and you can't mix and match, but the biggest problem is companies may not exist. And we've seen that recently. There's a lot of consolidation in the market. There were some companies, charger companies that had some hardship times and some of them even got acquired by other companies. We're talking about ABA recently, and easy had a big issue recently, and so people are getting concerned about putting all their eggs in one basket. Luckily, there is a standard, and that standard is OCPP, the open charge point protocol, which standardises the way chargers communicate with management systems.

 

[00:18:07.220] - Teddy Flatau

wevo energy is an OCA open charge alliance member. We are OCPP certified and everything we do is standard. So, we support, we're hardware agnostic, we support any charger. And the beauty is that you can then mix and match. And because it's an open protocol, you can change any of this. If somebody, let's say if we will in the future, somebody wants to replace us, they can do that because it's open. But you can mix and match any charger you want. You can put different management systems. And we insist that open protocols is the key going forward.

 

[00:18:44.680] - Jon Slowe

Teddy, what have you, in the two years that you've been working on this, what have you learned that you didn't expect or what has surprised you? You've done start-ups before, so you know the start-up journey. But what's been different this time, either related to wevo or the market, or what stood out? As you look back over the last two years?

 

[00:19:07.790] - Teddy Flatau

I think one of the things that surprised me is that each market is very unique and there are different things driving different markets. For example, when we started working in the US, it took us a while to understand that it's really driven by incentives. So, because the US market is still a little bit behind Europe, I would say two to three years. But the government is really trying to push very hard to move forward in the US, in some areas, you can get 90% of rebates to install EV charges at your apartment. So it's very important to work with the utilities, with the incentive plans to make sure your solution is approved. I think in Europe there is a lot of... It really depends. Germany, for example, I'll give you that anecdote. Even when we put our website in SEO, the search terms in Germany and the UK are very different. People in Germany search for load balancing like that number two or three. In the UK, people more look at other terms. So, we have to adapt. And that's why one of the key decisions we made is that we're going to hire salespeople and support people in the countries that speak the language, that live in the country, that understand the culture. So, we're not going to run everything from headquarters, it's going to be a very distributed organisation.

 

[00:20:36.720] - Jon Slowe

That's interesting, because energy markets do vary massively from country-to-country. But to drive the transition forward at the scale and the speed we talked about at the beginning, I think you need international companies with, particularly when you're talking about software and platforms, you need scale, you need to be multi-market. So, it's a real challenge sometimes, I think, to bring that multi-market, scalable platform to very individual markets, even that are next door to each other.

 

[00:21:05.220] - Teddy Flatau

yeah, I think the technology is the same and the product is the same. It's the go to market that changes. We're learning. I think that our solution is a good fit for most of the countries, but you do have to. There's specific metres, like if you want to integrate to metres that measure the panel. If you want to integrate to vendors, charger vendors. The US and Europe are different vendors, dominated by different vendors. So, you have to modify and adapt your go-to-market and your messages per-country and per-region. But the bulk of the product is the same. We have made varied changes across different territories.

 

[00:21:48.950] - Jon Slowe

So, sort of like 80% common, 20% tweaks and localisation.

 

[00:21:54.140] - Teddy Flatau

Yes, but those are the 80% that count. If you don't have them, you're going to send nothing.

 

[00:22:00.070] - Jon Slowe

And what about the next years? Looking forward, I imagine your ambitions are an exponential curve in terms of growth. But what's going to be the one, or what are the one or two things that you think will be your biggest challenge, or that keep you awake at night, or that you think you've got to absolutely nail to succeed?

 

[00:22:20.370] - Teddy Flatau

Well, as a CEO, you get all the problems escalated to you. So good night sleep is something I haven't had for a while, but I enjoy it. I really enjoy managing the company. I think if you look at the wevo, when you started wevo, our slogan, our tagline is electrify every parking space. And we do really believe in that, because in the past, in the past, or even still today, EV was more something for the more wealthy people. It was more expensive; you had your own parking space. But as we see the growth of EV and the price going down, we're seeing all the Chinese vendors now coming into Europe, BYD and others. I think it's going to become more and more a commodity, and everybody will need to have an EV and charging and we definitely need to electrify your parking space. And so that's our mission. That's what we wake up every day to, to make sure that everybody can charge at home, at work. Research says that 80% of the charging is either at home or at work, and only between ten to 5% is going to be on the go. So we need to make that very easy, very inexpensive, and very natural.

 

[00:23:39.310] - Teddy Flatau

Like, you charge your phone, you come home, you plug in your phone, you don't worry about it. And so that's what we think about. I think the next step is what Sandra spoke about is integration with the grid. But I would even say take it to integration with solar and local generation. SolarEdge is one of our investors, and we have a strategic partnership with them. Actually, this week, we launched the integration to the SolarEdge inverters and the ability for the system to look at the solar production and tie charging to solar production. So, assume you are a workplace and the sun only, like summer in Italy, for example, and the sun shines at like 10:00AM. You start having solar production by 2:00PM your solar cells are peaking power, and you have a fleet of electrical vehicles. Now, if you don't do anything, they charge in the morning at seven and eight when there's no solar, but then at noontime or 2:00PM. You have to export to the grid, and typically at lower rates. What we do is we tie those, we sync those like, we know when the cars are going to be needed, we know how much energy they're going to need.

 

[00:24:52.860] - Teddy Flatau

So, we actually sync the sun solar production with EV charging, so that you always use your local generation instead of buying energy expensive from the grid and exporting at low cost. We can actually, based on pricing in Europe now, you can actually save two thirds by integrating the charging with the solar energy and grid size integration.

 

[00:25:19.130] - Jon Slowe

I think that's fascinating how the journey from EV charging, EV load balancing, to optimising distributed assets at a building or at a location. Sandra, what do you think about those two directions, that grid flexibility, and that local optimisation?

 

[00:25:38.410] - Sandra Trittin

So, I think, personally, I think it's good to have a prioritisation for the local optimisation, because this is where the energy is produced. It's local consumption, it's normally renewable production which gets consumed. So, I'm personally really convinced it should be first locally consumed, and then you can do all the add-ons, right? Like optimisation against flexible tariffs for the remaining part of the charging, add on any kind of flexibility services, either to grid or to trading optimisation. I think it's like a staging process where I'm always surprised on is a little bit that there's still more work in general to be done on the on-site and HEMS (Home Energy Management) optimisation than I thought personally. And this does not only relate to wevo, but in general, to many companies also out of the charging. Right, that I personally had the impression always that the local optimisation is far more advanced than what we are seeing now. But it's good. I mean, we are on the right path. And then we come back to the topic of speed. Jon. Right, that you mentioned. Now, we really have to get that done as quickly as possible.

 

[00:26:53.570] - Jon Slowe

So, Teddy, we're getting to the point now where we bring up the talking new energy crystal ball, and let's build on what Sandra is saying about speed and look at 2030. We'll set the dial this week to 2030. Give us a picture of wevo in 2030. What's your vision? What would you like to have achieved with wevo? So, we're in 2030. You're giving an elevator pitch for wevo. What does it look like?

 

[00:27:22.640] - Teddy Flatau

We're electrifying every parking space. Well, not in 2030, but in 2030, I want to have hundreds of thousands, if not million parking spaces on the platform. If we continue the exponential growth, we're in, we're going to do that. And we're more involved, definitely, in the more assets you have, the more you can influence globally, or even on a country basis, the grid status. So, if you have, let's say, you had 100,000 cars, a specific country, and multiply that by eleven kilowatt or ten kilowatts, which is the average load, you can really become power plant, and you can start controlling things on the country or even higher levels. So, yeah, definitely. I see wevo energy is a strong player in the energy space. Combining energy, mobility and AI, or machine learning, that's what we're here to do.

 

[00:28:27.490] - Jon Slowe

Well, as we were saying at the beginning, Teddy, the transition needs that speed and that drive that I'm sure you're bringing to the sector. So, congratulations in everything you've achieved so far in two short years and wishing you all the best for the next years. Thank you.

 

[00:28:44.390] - Teddy Flatau

Thank you for having me here. It's been a pleasure meeting you. And Sandra. We should definitely speak about your parking garage.

 

[00:28:51.570] - Sandra Trittin

Yeah, for sure!

 

[00:28:57.050] - Jon Slowe

Thank you so much, Sandra. A lot of our podcasts are coming back to your analogies, to your heat pump, or now your parking garage.

 

[00:29:07.390] - Sandra Trittin

Yeah. So, it's great to be in that electrification phase. Right? So, I get all these experience hands on myself.

 

[00:29:17.910] - Jon Slowe

I would imagine a lot of similarities between what Teddy was talking about and your experience at Tiko and then your work after that in virtual power plants, bringing together distributed assets, solving a specific problem, but then using those assets for the wider energy system.

 

[00:29:34.280] - Sandra Trittin

Yeah, and it's getting much more interesting now, right? Because ten years ago I think it was all about the technical capabilities and the capabilities of showing that it's possible to control distributed energy assets. Now it's much more in optimising on the algorithm side, also having the different kind of inputs, because formerly you just had the asset and probably personal constraints or usage constraints of the consumer. Now you start to have grid constraints on top, you start to have tariff constraints, right. Because there are more and more flexible tariffs coming up. You also have different market opportunities in putting flexibility not only on grid services like ancillary services, but also trading is now much more worthable. So, I think in that space it's getting much more interesting out of that complexity reason. And the second thing is that the distributed energy assets are finally growing, right. And I see that as one of the biggest topics for this year, right? Can we keep on that trajectory, growth path on mobility, but also on storage, solar, et cetera, that we were seeing over the last years. But how about you, Jon? What's your take on the eMobility space for 2024?

 

[00:30:58.790] - Jon Slowe

I think what Teddy was saying about it becoming more and more mainstream. I think back to when at LCP Delta, we started our EV charging research and the question we were looking at was, how will people charge? Question we're now looking at is, how are people charging? But it's moving so quickly from that innovator early adopter segment into the mainstream. And I think there'll be increasing frustrations, you and I, Sandra, we don't mind putting up with planning our journeys and charging and becoming quite involved in it because it excites us. It's our job. But for a lot of people, they just want simple, easy solutions. And companies like Teddy's and others, I think, are so critical that they move fast enough to offer customers those simple, easy solutions, because I think so many people, if it becomes painful and difficult, they'll give up.

 

[00:32:01.190] - Sandra Trittin

Let's try to support them, right? And let's get that going, get that.

 

[00:32:05.850] - Jon Slowe

Back to that speed and time. Let's leave it there for today.

 

[00:32:09.720] - Jon Slowe

Thanks everyone for listening. Hope you enjoyed today's episode and look forward to welcoming you back next week.

 

[00:32:15.280] - Sandra Trittin

Thanks for tuning in. We are excited to bring you captivating conversations from the leading edge of Europe's energy transition. If you've got suggestions for topics or guests for future episodes, please let us know.

 

[00:32:26.970] - Jon Slowe

And if you're enjoying the podcast, then please do rate it and share it with colleagues. For show notes, transcripts, and more, please visit lcpdelta.com.

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