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FanDragon eyes mobile ticket revolution

FanDragon Technologies has launched with US$12 million in funding to spearhead the development of secure ticket delivery solutions for mobile ticketing.  The company has simultaneously announced veteran technologist and entrepreneur Robert Weiss as founding chief executive officer.

FanDragon does not sell tickets, but rather provides software solutions that can be integrated into existing applications. The technology has been designed to commercialise the Aventus digital assets-focused blockchain protocol.

The company claims that rights-holders and fans can experience a more secure ticketing event experience and eliminate counterfeiting and unauthorised ticket resale. At the same time, rightsholders can engage directly with fans through FanDragon’s unique wallet feature, provide ticket purchasers with information about the event, and better understand the fans who attend multiple shows.

A FanDragon spokesperson says the company is unable to disclose its investors, but provided IQ with the following quote from Weiss: “At FanDragon Technologies, we’re focused on transforming ticket delivery. Our mission is to provide innovative, secure technology to any organisation that sells tickets helping them to delight their customers with a truly agnostic mobile-first experience.

“Our blockchain-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) [platform] empowers anyone from venues to ticket vendors, and all points in between, to acquire visibility and regain control while unlocking new revenue streams through audience engagement. We’re targeting businesses across the full spectrum of ticketing markets, including sports, music, theatre, cinema, family entertainment and theme parks.”

“We’re targeting businesses across the full spectrum of ticketing markets…”

The FanDragon and Aventus teams have been collaborating for the past several months to design a next-generation blockchain-powered SaaS platform.

In a joint statement, Aventus founders and IQ Trailblazers Annika Monari and Alan Vey comment: “We created the Aventus Protocol with the goal of addressing consumer frustration, giving talent and venues the option of enforcing pricing, and improving confidence around selling and buying tickets.”

FanDragon’s board of directors consists of Weiss, Monari, Vey and Mike Jones, the former CEO of Myspace and current CEO/co-founder of start-up Incubator Studio and the Science Inc. fund.

Before being named CEO of FanDragon Technologies, Weiss served for nearly five years as the CEO of the Arpanet Group, a technology and digital media advisory and investment firm.

The convergence of secure ticketing and blockchain technology saw the acquisition of Upgraded by Ticketmaster in October 2018, the company which also added anti-counterfeiting service SafeTix to digital tickets in May. The Aventus Protocol, meanwhile, launched its solution in 2018, after raising more than $18m in an ICO (initial coin offering) and recruiting the likes of promoter Bernie Dillon, ticketing consultant Michael Waterson, tech guru Andrew Ford and former Eventim UK MD Rob Edwards.

 


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Trailblazers: Annika Monari and Alan Vey, Aventus

Welcome to the latest edition of Trailblazers – IQ’s regular series of Q&As with the inspirational figures forging their own paths in the global concert business.

From people working in challenging conditions or markets to those simply bringing a fresh perspective to the music world, Trailblazers aims to spotlight unique individuals from all walks of life who are making a mark in one of the world’s most competitive industries. (Read the previous Trailblazers interview, with O Beach Ibiza’s Tony Truman, here.)

This week Trailblazers welcomes its first-ever joint interviewees: Alan Vey and Annika Monari, founders and co-CEOs of blockchain ticketing start-up Aventus Systems.

Aventus is the developer of the Aventus Protocol, an open-source Ethereum-based protocol that aims to create a “more fair, secure and transparent event ticketing industry” by eliminating counterfeiting and unauthorised ticket resale.

Since launching in 2106, the company has secured partnerships with new entertainment venture Kind Heaven, located at the Caesars Entertainment-owned LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas, as well as bringing on board the likes of Professor Mike Waterson, who recently released a follow-up to his 2016 secondary ticketing review, and former Eventim UK MD Rob Edwards.

Aventus raised US$20m in an initial coin offering (ICO) last September to fund its vision of a global standard for ticketing.

 


How did you get your starts in the industry?
Vey: I did my thesis on film rights distribution with Bafta and the BBC at Imperial College London with help from Professor Will Knottenbelt, the director of the Centre for Cryptocurrency Research and Engineering. Annika and I made a killer team so we started Aventus after researching what blockchain technology can bring to solve core challenges in the entertainment industry.

Monari: When it came to the ticketing industry, neither of us had any prior experience other than as consumers. We don’t see ourselves as a ticketing company – we’re a software company building IaaS [infrastructure as a service] and SaaS [software as a service] solutions into the ticketing and wider entertainment industry. We want to strengthen and support existing ticketing providers using cutting-edge solutions on the blockchain.

Tell us about your current roles.
Monari: We founded Aventus together and are now joint CEOs. Our day-to-day role includes the development, marketing and growth of the Aventus protocol and associated infrastructure, as well as the technology that allows ticketing companies and inventory rights-holders to get commercial benefits from the blockchain.

Who, or what, have been the biggest influences on your career so far?
Vey: For both of us, Professor Knottenbelt has had a huge influence after introducing us to the Ethereum blockchain. He also introduced us to Daniel Masters, CEO of Global Advisors and chair of Coinshares, who secured us funding just months after we finished university and helped make our token-sale launch a reality.

Monari: Mike Jones, the former CEO of Myspace and the founder of Science Inc., a venture-building studio and incubator, taught us some invaluable lessons on how to build relationships and get to market quickly. Also, Cary Granat, CEO of Immersive Artistry and former president at Miramax, has been a key mentor in the events industry world. We teamed up together for Kind Heaven, an immersive Las Vegas experience which will become one of our first proof of concepts for ticketing on the blockchain.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Monari:
It’s cool being able to go to a traditional company and a huge player in the industry – someone who is very knowledgeable but quite set in their ways – and introduce them to something new. We lead them through the process, get them to understand and engage, and when you succeed it’s very rewarding.

“The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change”

Vey: Getting a great team together and being able to build industry changing products is very rewarding. Going out to meet all these important people in the entertainment space and bring good news and exciting relationships back to our team always feels great.

And the most challenging?
Vey: We haven’t done this before, so people think we have no idea because we’re young, or try to take us for a ride. We’ve publicly raised a lot of money, so certain people look at us like a piggy bank. We’ve tried to address this by hiring a senior and experienced management team with a background in the entertainment industry who can bring that gravitas to the table.

Monari: It’s hard to hire the right people. Mike Jones gave us a lot of mentorship and advice around who and how to hire, and there are two types of people we look for. The first are really driven, vibrant, hungry people, who are perhaps less experienced but want to make a difference and to learn. Then there are the heavy hitting industry experts, who will bring that expertise and perform at a high level, bringing real ROI.

What achievements are you most proud of?
Monari: The token sale itself was an incredible moment. Having come up with an idea, standing in front of tens of thousands of people pitching it, and then having it validated to the degree where people crowdfund you in minutes is really an amazing feeling.

We worked so hard for six months and we were almost in tears one day. At that point we knew that even if we didn’t get there, we’d given it everything we could.

What, if anything, do you think the music industry could do better?
Monari: The music industry can be very traditional and resistant to change. The way they do things is entrenched, so coming in with new technology can be challenging.

The way we see it, events – and entry to those events – have existed since before the Colosseum in Roman times. It’s an age-old industry and we’re trying to introduce the tools to do things in a more efficient and technologically driven way.

 


If you’d like to take part in a future Trailblazers interview, or nominate someone else for inclusion, email IQ’s news editor, Jon Chapple, on jon@iq-mag.net.

Blockchain ticketers welcome Ticketmaster’s Upgrade

The nascent crypto-ticketing sector has welcomed last week’s acquisition of Upgraded by Ticketmaster, with reps for blockchain-based ticket sellers saying Live Nation’s interest proves the buzz around the technology is justified.

The ticketing giant announced on 18 October it had acquired San Francisco-based start-up Upgraded, whose digital tickets are protected by blockchain technology – a tamper-proof ‘distributed ledger’ which permanently stores all transactions, best known for providing the foundation for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Ticketmaster’s Justin Burleigh said incorporating blockchain into Ticketmaster’s platform “will continue our progress to improve ticketing and create a safer and more seamless experience” for fans.

The Aventus Protocol Foundation – which raised more than US$18m in its initial coin offering (ICO) last September, and has since recruited high-profile names including ex-Eventim MD Rob Edwards and Waterson report author Prof. Michael Waterson to bang the drum for its open-source ticketing platform – says it is “thrilled to see the adoption of blockchain networks”, with the acquisition “validat[ing] our own vision for blockchain ticketing”.

“Along with Professor Waterson, we are excited to see ticketing organisations look toward blockchain as a potential technology answer to a plethora of ticketing challenges,” says the company in a blog post. “Ticketmaster acquiring Upgraded is welcome news as the ticketing industry moves towards a more secure, controlled and fairer ticketing experience.”

“The acquisition is yet another sign that serious players are clearly interested in implementing blockchain technology”

“Whether this move benefits the industry as a whole, or only Ticketmaster clients, remains an open question,” it adds.

Ticketfly co-founder Dan Teree – now COO of the recently launched Tari Labs, whose Tari blockchain will serve as a secure resale platform for ‘digital assets’, including tickets – says the acquisition is proof major music industry players are waking up to blockchain’s potential.

“TM’s acquisition is yet another sign that serious players are clearly interested in implementing blockchain technology as a means to turn tickets into digital assets,” he tells IQ, “and therefore gain more control over how tickets are transferred and monetised in the secondary market.”

Tari said in May blockchain can solve the problem of “economic leakage”, where middlemen reap the revenue from the resale of virtual goods, such as tickets. He said Tari will be designed to help compensate original “owners”, like artists, sports teams, event promoters and other parties.

“This news validates the application of blockchain ticketing on a larger scale”

“Firstly, our opinion is that this is a positive step,” adds Tom Roetgering of Netherlands-based GUTS Tickets. “Although you could raise questions about the way Upgraded tackles the dishonest reselling of tickets – and with that the ultimate motive behind the acquisition – the truth is, you never know what these kinds of moves will mean for the future. We are ultimately happy with this news, as it validates the application of blockchain ticketing on a larger scale.

“For us it has, obviously, been clear for quite some time that this is the way the ticketing industry is headed. Seeing the major players now dip their toes into blockchain is good PR, both for them and for us. As mentioned, it remains to be seen if and to what degree this acquisition will have any impact on the ticketing sphere. Meanwhile, we are building and gwe are building and growing.”

An exec from a fourth blockchain ticketing company, who asked not to be named, suggests Ticketmaster – which recently shut down its secondary ticketing platforms in Europe – will likely use Upgraded’s tech to control resale and, for the first time, be able to reimburse artists and promoters when their tickets are sold on.

“Now Ticketmaster’s involved, the rest [other ticket agencies] will have to follow suit,” they add. “This is as significant as when we first got digital, and later mobile, tickets. It’s time to evolve or be left behind.”

 


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Tech the key to controlling touting, finds second Waterson report

Warwick University economics professor Michael Waterson – known to the music industry as the author of the government-commissioned Waterson report into secondary ticketing – has called for the UK ticketing sector to look at ways in which technology can be used to improve consumer experience online, including increasing online security, making transactions more transparent and enabling greater controls over the secondary market.

In ‘Ticketing as if consumers matter’, which serves as a follow-up to his May 2016 report – which made several recommendations, including banning ticket bots, investing in consumer protecting agency National Trading Standards and prosecuting violators of the Consumer Rights Act, all of which were accepted by the British government – Prof. Waterson outlines ways in which he believes online ticketing could be made more consumer friendly.

He focuses particularly on two technological solutions:

The report was funded by a grant from blockchain ticketing platform Aventus, for which Waterson is an advisor.

“In my view, a desirable ticketing system would be one that puts consumers first, both in terms of ease, fairness and choice,” Waterson writes. “Currently, many of the participants in the market do not have consumers foremost in mind, and the lesson from various other markets where technology has shown significant potential is that ultimately, a framework that provides what (most) consumers want wins out.”

‘Ticketing as if consumers matter’ can be read in full here.

 


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How technology can end ticket touting for good

This week’s news that Ticketmaster is closing its secondary websites Seatwave and Get Me In! sent shockwaves across the ticketing industry  –  but most agree this is a step in the right direction when it comes to combatting touting and preventing sky-high prices in the secondary market.

Secondary sales will still be permitted through Ticketmaster’s own site ,  but unlike on the existing secondary sites, you will only be allowed to charge for tickets at face value or lower. A 15% surcharge will be added to each ticket in order to cover the booking fees initially paid by the seller.

In the current climate of growing legislative scrutiny of secondary markets, including the recent ban on ticket bots and action being considered by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority against secondary seller Viagogo, Ticketmaster’s decision is a canny move which distances them from the growing consumer dissatisfaction with secondary platforms.

At part of the ticketing industry, we welcome Ticketmaster’s move to close Get Me In! and Seatwave as platforms for secondary sales, which have seen consumers being charged huge premiums to get hold of tickets for events against the wishes of artists and event organisers. The announcement is a significant step in ensuring primary ticket vendors are committed to fair-value resale, and is a real testament to the tireless work of consumer protection campaigners such as FanFair Alliance and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers.

We must continue to work together with stakeholders across the ticketing industry to protect rightsholders and gain greater transparency over resale

However, ticket scalpers and other scammers hoping to make a killing on a big-ticket item will still be able to choose to sell tickets through alternative secondary markets such as Viagogo. This shift to fan-to-fan ticket exchanges must be powered by technological innovation, helping to protect the resale of tickets and reclaim some control for artists, venues and promoters.

One of the advantages of holding tickets on the blockchain is that ticket inventory rightsholders have the ability to set rules and parameters around which secondary platforms are whitelisted (or indeed blacklisted) to resale their tickets. Minimum and maximum price caps can also be set, giving artists and ticket agents the ability to stipulate ‘face value-only’ resale.

Welcoming the Ticketmaster news, FanFair Alliance said that “while enforcement action is still urgently required to clamp down on rogue operators such as Viagogo, we are now much closer to a genuine transformation of the secondary market  – where large-scale online touts are locked out, where innovation can flourish, and the resale of tickets is made straightforward, transparent and consumer-friendly.”

We must continue to work together with stakeholders across the ticketing industry to protect rightsholders and gain greater transparency over the resale of tickets, bringing more value to consumers. Only with a combined approach can consumers and rightholders be properly protected by new technology.

 


Annika Monari is co-founder and director of Aventus Systems.

Aventus continues hiring spree with ex-Eventim MD

Fast-growing blockchain ticketing company Aventus Systems has hired Rob Edwards, formerly managing director of Eventim UK, as chief operations officer (COO).

Edwards was MD of Eventim UK, the British division of German ticketing giant CTS Eventim, from January 2009 to January 2016, when he left to join Ambassador Theatre Group to oversee its Evolution ecommerce project. Prior to joining Eventim, he was GM/VP of sales in Europe for ticketing software company AudienceView, and previously worked as VP of product and head of technology for Tickets.com in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany.

Edwards’ appointment follows last week’s news that Andrew Ford, a tech industry veteran, had joined Aventus as CMO ahead of the upcoming launch of its Aventus Protocol blockchain.

“Blockchain technology and ticketing are a perfect fit”

“The open-source Aventus Protocol offers the ticketing industry an amazing opportunity to enhance security, combat fraud, and improve efficiency,” comments Edwards (pictured).

“Blockchain technology and ticketing are a perfect fit, and the incredible team behind Aventus who are building a bridge to the blockchain for the ticketing supply-chain through the delivery of tools and blockchain API connectivity make this one of the most exciting opportunities of my career.”

Aventus co-founders Alan Vey and Annika Monari jointly comment: “Rob’s vast ticketing knowledge, network and expertise, combined with his experience with and interest in new technologies, make him a huge asset to the Aventus leadership team.”

 


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Aventus appoints CMO ahead of imminent launch

London-based blockchain ticketing platform Aventus Systems has hired Andrew Ford as chief marketing officer.

Ford – a tech industry veteran who has held senior roles at Norton/Symantec, Dell, BT, HP and data analytics firm Pitney Bowes – will work alongside Aventus co-founders Annika Monari and Alan Vey, CTO Andy Grant and their team to prepare for the upcoming launch of the the Aventus Protocol, an open-source blockchain on the Ethereum network its creators hope will revolutionise the industry by facilitating the “secure and transparent creation, promotion and sale of tickets that is not controlled by any one entity”.

Ford (pictured) will focus on developing marketing strategy to sell the benefits of blockchain technology to the ticketing industry.

“Hiring a world-class leader in technology marketing like Andrew represents a milestone for our initiative,” says Monari. “Andrew is the perfect person to lead the effort of shaping and bringing our brand and blockchain protocol to market.”

Speaking to IQ recently about the global slump in cryptocurrency/token prices, Monari said she was unconcerned about the fall in the value of the company’s AVT token, which will be used to power the Aventus Protocol. “Some people are focused on getting best price possible for their market caps,” she explained. “But we’re focusing on building our product, and the market will ultimately reflect that.”

“We are excited to facilitate the bridge between the industry and the power of the blockchain”

“I chose to join Aventus because their vision, leadership and technology are some of the strongest I have seen in my career,” says Ford, commenting on his appointment. “We are at the forefront of creating new technology for the ticketing industry that will solve many of the issues that have been impacting the existing companies in the space.

“We are creating real value with new blockchain technology and tools, and that is exciting to a part of.”

In September 2017, Aventus successfully crowdfunded 60,000 ether tokens, valued at more than £40m today, shortly after appointing Professor Michael Waterson and promoter Bernie Dillon to its advisory board.

The company says it plans release the initial iteration of its protocol and tools in the coming months.

“Since the Aventus token sale, we have been expanding our team and developing our protocol,” adds Aventus’s other co-founder, Alan Vey. “We are now nearing the completion of our first version and are excited to bring it to the market and facilitate the bridge between the industry and the power of the blockchain.”

 


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Music coins weather the cryptopocalypse

The companies driving live music’s cryptocurrency revolution have insisted the future of blockchain technology in music remains bright, as the market struggles to recover from a dip that saw more than US$550bn in value wiped off between January and early February.

Representatives of blockchain ticketers Aventus and Crypto.tickets and live music marketplace Viberate – all of which have seen the price of their coins plummet since the start of the year – tell IQ they are unconcerned about the recent fluctuations in bitcoin and other ‘altcoins’, saying the underlying tech is more important than the price of their tokens and market cap.

“We were always expecting volatility,” says Vasja Veber, founder and COO of Viberate, whose VIB token has fallen in value from an all-time high of US$0.71 on 4 January to $0.26 as of today (14 February). “That’s the nature of the market: When it goes up everyone’s happy, and when it goes down… well, people aren’t!”

Veber says it “would have been a problem if it was only our token that fell [in value], but everything was in the red. The new investors who bought in in December bought into a bubble, which has deflated.”

Aventus director and co-founder Alan Vey says he hopes the crash will encourage investors to “think about other facets of the technology” behind the blockchain. “I think in this big ride, this crypto journey, people haven’t really appreciated the power of the blockchain technology,” he explains. “So far, it’s been mostly speculation on the price of coins.

“So, for us, the downturn isn’t too much of a concern, as there’s still value in what we’re doing. It’s all about the fundamental value for us.”

“There’s a lot of market manipulation out there”

“The price of bitcoin does not affect Crypto.tickets as a business and its tokens,” confirms Egor Egerev, CEO of the Russian company, whose TKTX coin has fallen from $0.14 to $0.04 on the Yobit exchange since 14 January. Egerev warns against conflating cryptocurrencies and the blockchain platform on which they’re based, which has applications in ticketing, licensing and music rights.

“We should divide the crypto space into two independent spheres: cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based start-ups,” he says. “We often merge the two: most of us understand ‘crypto’ and ‘blockchain’ as the same. But in the future, this will change, and we will consider cryptocurrencies as just a small part of the bigger blockchain world.”

Annika Monari, Aventus’s other director and co-founder, says her company has so far actively tried to avoid inflating (‘pumping’) the price of its AVT token, which will be used to power the company’s ticket sales platform. (One AVT coin is currently priced at $2.30, down from an all-time high of $6.76 on 8 January.)

“Right now, it’s just a game,” she explains. “There are lots of coins out there with no link between the volatile digital asset [the token] and the underlying technology.

“For us, it’s not about focusing on the tokens, or worrying about the speculation on their price, but about creating that fundamental value.”

“There’s a lot of market manipulation out there,” agrees Veber, alluding to the ‘pump and dump’ schemes in which traders conspire to artificially inflate the price of fundamentally useless coins before ‘dumping’ them for profit – something highly illegal in traditional, regulated stock market trading.

“There need to be clear rules of the game to get rid of scam projects”

“If you have shares in stock X it’s illegal for you to spread false news and take advantage of the increase in price,” he continues. “We follow the same rules as public companies, as we see our token as a publicly traded commodity.”

There are, however, as yet no laws in most of the world compelling such self-regulation on the part of blockchain/crypto companies, and new coins continue to con investors out of vast sums of money with alarming regularity (the most recent is LoopX, which pulled an ‘exit scam’ earlier this week after raising $4.5m in investment).

“The cryptocurrency market lacks regulation,” comments Egerev, who adds that there need to be “clear rules of the game to get rid of scam projects, and to strengthen start-ups that do create new markets and business models using blockchain”.

Monari says that while Aventus believes in free markets and doesn’t want to see “everything completely regulated” to within an inch of its life, “we’ve seen a lot of people hurt by fraudulent token sales, so there needs to be some degree of red tape.”

Ultimately, says Egerev, the success of Crypto.tickets and other companies applying blockchain tech to live music will depend less on their coin price and more – as it should – on the quality of their offering. “Industry expertise and experience is more important than positive positioning,” he says, “so those who can present ready-to-use systems in 2018–2019” – such as Crypto.tickets’ blockchain ticketing platform for Kraftwerk’s recent show in Moscow, and the recently launched BitTicket, which has already partnered with several festivals in the UK – “will be the ones changing the industry through blockchain very quickly”.

“Some people are focused on getting best price possible for their market caps,” concludes Monari. “But we’re focusing on building our product, and the market will ultimately reflect that.”

 


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Dillon, Prof Waterson join blockchain ticketer Aventus

Michael Waterson, the British economist who led a government-commissioned review of the UK secondary ticketing market, has joined the advisory board of Aventus Systems, the developer of a blockchain-based ticketing system.

Joining Prof. Waterson on the board – which will “provide strategic, technical, and legal counsel for the Aventus team as they bring their solution to the global ticketing markets” – are veteran promoter/consultant Bernie Dillon, formerly of Hard Rock Live and now director of Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Live; William Knottenbelt, director of cryptocurrency research at Imperial College London; and Daniel Masters, of Global Advisors’ bitcoin investment fund.

“My investigation into the event ticketing industry, particularly in music, brought home to me how a structure has grown up that leads to consumer confusion and frustration, alongside a range of dubious practices,” says Waterson (pictured). “Technologically the problems are challenging, but, to me, Aventus has a comprehensive approach to their solution. Provided there is sufficient industry buy-in, Aventus can be a real force for positive change.”

Dillon adds: “Anyone who has ever attended, hosted or produced a live entertainment event, be it a UFC fight, boxing match or concert, has been affected by counterfeit tickets or extortionate secondary resale prices.

“Provided there is sufficient industry buy-in, Aventus can be a real force for positive change”

“Aventus brings a refreshing solution to these age-old problems that could very well end fraudulent activity and unregulated ticket touting once and for all.”

More information about the Aventus platform, which the UK-based start-up describes as “a revolutionary global standard for the fair, secure and transparent creation, promotion and sale of tickets that is not controlled by any one entity”, is available here.

An initial coin offering (ICO) – a type of crowdfunding campaign for cryptocurrency-based start-ups – was planned for this month, but has been pushed back to August after a collapse in the price of Ethereum, a Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency which would have funded the ICO.

IQ investigated the potential for using blockchain to eliminate ticket touting earlier this year. Other companies active in the space are GUTS Tickets in Amsterdam and Lava and Citizen Ticket in the UK.

 


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