Matthew Stoudt’s latest startup has not only raised tens of millions of dollars in funding but hit Fast Company’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2022. The venture, Applied VR has attracted investment from top-tier investors like Jazz Venture Partners, F-Prime Capital, SVB Capital, and Sway Ventures. Go to Zencastr and fill out the contact information so Zencastr can help you, bring your business story to life.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Vetting and picking the right investors for your startup
- The future of medicine
- His top advice for other entrepreneurs
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Matthew Stoudt:
Matthew Stoudt has a strong track record of building innovative businesses. Matthew is currently the co-founder and CEO of AppliedVR. AppliedVR’s mission is to drive positive behavior by leveraging the unique properties of VR. The company is initially focused on the healthcare market and has rapidly become the leading medical VR platform, delivering validated therapeutic VR content to healthcare providers in the US and internationally.
Prior to founding AppliedVR, Matthew founded and built Outcast Media into the largest digital video platform at gas stations across the US. Matthew sold the business to Verifone in 2014. Matthew was also an EIR at McDonald’s Corporation where he successfully launched multiple businesses including an in-restaurant digital video network and a ready-to-heat meal solution in grocery stores across the US.
Matthew began his professional career in finance, raising over $1 billion in capital for high-growth companies while at DLJ and investing in high-growth companies while at Triumph Capital Group.
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Connect with Matthew Stoudt:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
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Alejandro: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a very exciting entrepreneur because the story that that he’s gonna be sharing is a story that is full of apps full of downs and full of success to because the company that right now he’s building is. Definitely a rocket ship. So I guess I don’t want to wait I don’t want to make you all wait any longer. So let’s say let’s actually welcome our guest today Matthew Stoudt: Stout welcome to the show.
Matthew Stoudt: Alejandro thanks for having me today. Look forward to the conversation.
Alejandro: So Matthew Stoudt: originally born in Indiana so I was life growing up.
Matthew Stoudt: Ah, as you would expect growing up in Indiana in the in the 70 s where you didn’t get a lot of exposure but I was blessed to have a dad that was a patent lawyer for ge and traveled the world and so he would come back from travels over to Japan and. China and different parts of Europe and regale me with these amazing stories of different worlds and different places and different people and really inspired me to want to go and myself travel the world. So when my dad passed away a while ago I made a promise. That I was going to go try and visit every country in the world before I die so I have 105 countries I use the un as my marker for it. So I got tell you covid kind of sucked because it.
Alejandro: Wow And where are you out on the list.
Matthew Stoudt: I Put a damper on being able to get out there and travel to the different countries.
Alejandro: And how do you think that traveling and experiencing difficult different cultures has perhaps shaped and and changed even the approach and your worldview towards addressing problems as an entrepreneur.
Matthew Stoudt: Um, well I’ll tell you first and foremost it starts with the power of empathy we know and I’ll go back to when when I was growing up and I don’t know that my dad ever would have used these words or I would have thought of these words but when he’d come back and he’d tell me about these places. He’s been. He really instilled in me this idea. That when you meet people someone from whatever their walk of life is whatever their politics are whatever their lot life is you meet them where they are no ah preconceived notions. No no judgments against them just get to know them and and find the things that connect to you. And you know he he died when I was 20 and I’ll I’ll come back to that in a second talk about the impact that had in my life. But when I started to go and travel the world myself listen a man I’ve been to some of the wealthiest countries of the world I’ve been to some of the poorest countries in the world I’ve met some of the wealthiest people some of the poorest people. But in every instance I always try to find those things that connect us and and bind us together and you know, really what my dad was teaching me was the power of empathy to understand people to you know, walk in and and meet them without those preconceived notions just to understand who they are. What motivates them what drives them and and I think it’s important as a leader when you’re building out your team. You know one of our we have 3 core values that every single person in our company knows can recite them on command it’s empathy evidence-based and entrepreneurial. And the empathy one is the core of what we do. It’s actually the world of vr it happens to be the core of vr as well. It’s ah vrs an empathy machine but it really can help you try to you know from a partnership perspective be empathetic to understand what your partner’s needs are from a patient perspective. Obviously you’ve got to be incredibly empathetic to understand their needs. And so it it just helped us the one.
Alejandro: And I love that because I find that as human beings you know we tend to label people very quickly and that pollutes our our judgment. No anything. Yeah.
Matthew Stoudt: I listen I the think that what breaks my heart right now in America is this level of divisiveness that we have and the tribalism that exists and it’s we we were lacking empathy. We’re lacking the the capacity. Take the time to hear someone else and hear where they’re from and find those things that unite us not divide us and it’s unfortunate. But.
Alejandro: Now in your case a Matthew Stoudt: I mean you got into math I mean well what? what? really? what really made you you know, go into the math and and social sciences you know type of um, you know spectrum.
Matthew Stoudt: So why have I’ve always been driven or interested in in math and solving problems and and whatnot my it’s funny I had this hyb Heardd this idea of going and becoming a lawyer Alejanddo I Know you’re a lawyer and my dad was a lawyer. He was a patent lawyer.
Alejandro: Ah, right.
Matthew Stoudt: And I remember doing summer sessions at a law firm and I went back the next summer and did a session at the law firm and they were working on the exact same cases and I was pulling more files for the exact same things and I’m like man I have 0 interest in becoming a lawyer and then when I was. I was fortunate in college to get an internship down in Dc and at some point I had harbored ideas of going off to become a senator and I’d done an internship with senator Dan Coates out of Indiana and I was talking to him about my pathway and how I had that interest in politics and whatnot and he said. And giving a great piece of advice I said Matthew Stoudt: there are way too many lawyers on Capitol Hill what we need is more business professionals down here people who actually understand how the real world works and who can understand when we actually pass legislation. It has an impact on businesses and on people’s lives and if you don’t have an understanding of how to run a business. And how to how would I you know how to how to build businesses then you’re never gonna understand how to pass legislation that can actually have positive impact and that really resonated with me and and so when I came back and I was in this honors program at northwestern and again I didn’t. What where I was going to go with it all I knew is wasn’t going to become a lawyer and so but everybody in my program ended up going into investment banking or or consulting and between had opportunities in both but ended up doing investment banking which was just a fantastic experience and really helped me understand you know how you. Build break down a business see a wide variety of different businesses that helped shape. You know my the future for when I started getting into it myself.
Alejandro: And you did that for quite a while I mean close to 6 years
Matthew Stoudt: Well I was in investment banking for 3 years and then I did took it took a break off to become and pretty much an illegal immigrant farm picker over in Australia and then came back and did private equity.
Alejandro: There you go.
Matthew Stoudt: And because always been an entrepreneur heart ever since I was a little kid I was building little businesses that probably got me into more trouble than it was worth but um’ve always wanted to get there and so investment banking was the first step it helped me understand how do you build financial models and think about the cash flows and all the. The core elements of how it works and see a variety of industries and then private equity got me 1 step closer and we were doing a rollup in the tradehow business and so I got to work with a really smart sharp Ceo and then when I went back to b school that was purely to come back out with ah. Yeah to to finally get into that entrepreneurial side of the world.
Alejandro: So tell us about getting sorry tell us about getting into the entrepreneurial you know journey. So about you shock which why say obviously a shocking you know, um sequence of experiences for you as well. So.
Matthew Stoudt: Yeah, so you shock was that was my first venture that I did and when when I went to business school again I went to Kellogg and I’d had a strong financial background I wanted to get more of a marketing background to round out my skill set came out did us and when I was at school I was always focused on doing us doing. The startup route and so I met a good friend of mine that I developed there and he and I came out together created ushock the original idea of it was a virtual hard drive. Basically back then year we didn’t have ubiquity of of broadband everywhere. But you did have that at universities and so we thought that was a good. Ah, starting point and you know if you look ahead and we would have been prehen enough. We always believe that the value was that virtual hard drive and and probably we were the predecessor to what you know is Dropbox today but we just. But a different direction and became more of a marketing engine and kind of a city search for universities and yeah, we had all these projections about how big we’re going to get and everything and and we were blown up and hitting our numbers but we happen to be doing at a time when the markets weren’t necessarily friendly. This was in ninety nine two thousand so we were just at the top of the dot com and and then we became part of the dot bomb and you know we blew grew up built it up and then blew it up but we had some good learnings and in there and came out of that that I think what what makes what doesn’t kill. You makes you stronger. And sometimes you got to have some of these these downs that you really can learn from that can drive you forward. So.
Alejandro: So now in this case I mean there’s a lot of people that are talking that we’re heading potentially into another downturn and I think that when you’ve lived through it it it. It gives you a lot of perspective. So how would you plan differently now you know ahead of.
Matthew Stoudt: Um, so it’s interesting. You know when we think about Covid when Covid First hit people bothering I’m go to actually backtrack for a second. So the last downturn I led through was in oh wait.
Alejandro: Another downturn.
Matthew Stoudt: But you had the big financial crisis and we had done a we had just done an acquisition. We were just getting ready to go out to to market to raise capital and Lehman Brothers Folds and I don’t think we had you know? Ah I was a much younger leader at that point in time not nearly as experienced as I am now and we we. Just didn’t we didn’t move nearly quickly enough to to recognize what the the depths of the frozen markets were going to have in the in the world at that time and so we went through some pretty lean years and had a lot of tough experiences. But again you you learn from all of these experiences so now fast forward and and I’ll give you the example of covid so when covid hit we literally had just started to build out a a sales team for our current business going into hospitals and covid hits in March and the beginning of march. Literally everything freezes up in the world of healthcare you can’t get access into hospitals any longer all of our clinical trials were put on hold and and again we were about ready to go raise some capital and so having learned all of the the. Ups and downs from what we did before in the world of outcasts my last company we you said listen we we don’t know how deep this is gonna be. We don’t know how bad this is gonna be this could only be a month or it could be you know now look at this. We’re still almost two years into this thing. And and so we said we’ve got to measure twice cut once and we’ve got to cut deep so that we can ride out this storm for and we are the the mark we set for ourselves was at least twelve months and so we had to make some pretty pretty difficult cuts. The team we got out of the office we did everything we could to cut our burn down but we could with a straight face say to every single employee that we kept that you have a job for the next twelve months no matter what happens doesn’t matter how bad it gets out there. You have a job here and and I think the fact that we acted quickly. We responded to the facts that we had at in that moment as fast as we did I think says a lot about the leadership that we had at the the company and going to our our proudest moments that we were so decisive in that and then we did some things internal and we said there’s a lot of things. We can’t control. We can’t control when these chemical trials are going to start back up. Can’t control when you know hospitals are going to open back up. So let’s figure out. Let’s only focus on those things that are directly within our control and let’s really lean into that and that was a transformative moment for us so we ended up doing.
Matthew Stoudt: Ah, submitting to the Fda for this thing called breakthrough device designation. We got that we ended up running a decentralized clinical trial that wasn’t dependent on actually having a hospital or or a practitioner engaged and that we got phenomenal results that led to us getting ultimately Fda approval. And so all these things that we suddenly took completely back into our control led to the the strong success that we’re seeing today and in the business that we’re building and so when I think about this potential recession that’s coming up here I always you know want to focus on. Let’s make sure we’re only spending on those things that are going to add direct value to what we’re trying to create here and 2 if you’re creating something that is addressing a real true unmet need in the marketplace then and especially healthcare is something that. You know if it doesn’t get as impacted. It’s a little bit more recession resistant than a lot of the other industries. But if you’re if you’re creating something that creates true value There’s always going to be room and an opportunity for you. You just got to you know, make sure you don’t get over your skis and and start overspending.
Alejandro: And and we’ll talk about applied v are just in in a little bit now right before I mean obviously with you do shock as as we were alluding to the outcome was not the the desire one just because you know the the market conditions and then after this, you went a little bit of. Corporate America or an an entrepreneur in residence program. But what do you think? let you do and as they say once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur but after having you know, kind of like ah a failed attempt right at getting your desired outcome. What what do you think helped you to.
Matthew Stoudt: Yep.
Alejandro: Regain your confidence to go at it again and.
Matthew Stoudt: Yeah, so I gotta tell you I was at Mcdonald’s Corps as an entrepreneur residence there and you know it it was it was a a safe harbor I guess for me, right? because I had gone from this from this one business where you. Calling everybody up and you’re lucky if you have people calling you back to something at Mcdonald’s and anyone you call is going to call you back right away and so that was it was good from that perspective. Um, but again, you know you’re working in a big large organization and you know as as much as as as we like to think that we were. Still have the mother ship that’s guiding things and we went through some turmoil from a senior leadership perspective as one of our you know one of the ceos got fired but live first came in and then we had another guy who and Charlie Bell and unfortunately got diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away about a year and a half later but through all of that. Ah I you know was it was good to have that safe harbor but I was quite frankly there was it was a girl I was dating at the tie. We’re not dating I’d gone on a couple dates with her and she pulled up an an old photo of me and she looked at it and she said. You know Matthew Stoudt: I I look at you now and I look at this photo of you and looks like you did you that spark you had is no longer there what happened and I started to do a little bit of self-reflection and realized that you know I really had sort of the beaten myself up because the. Failure with youshock was the first time had not succeeded at something in my life and it took a toll but that just that one comment by this one random person really woke me up and said what am I doing here. You know this is not where where my heart is is not what my desire is. Want to get out and do something so we i’ had been working on something inside Mcdonald’s and then realized I had an opportunity to go do it on a broader basis outside of the 4 walls of Mcdonald’s and so I ended up quitting and moved to l a and started up what ultimately became outcast advertising at a gas station.
Alejandro: Sorry well we’ll edit that piece. So um, so basically on and on this note you know Alcas was a very successful you know outcome. You know the the first time that you really went through the a full cycle as an entrepreneur entrepreneur really.
Matthew Stoudt: Yeah.
Alejandro: But I know that there you had to deal too with the ups and downs of fundraising. So how do you deal you know with with fundraising taking longer. Perhaps you know like being at a point where you know you doubt whether or not, you’re gonna make it and be able to make payroll. So how do you keep going.
Matthew Stoudt: Ah, so again I think each person has their own pathway and how they deal with certain things for me I’ve I’ve always been a big believer in the power of Teen and in the power of partnership and so you know whenever I’ve gone out and started a business I’ve always had a a really strong partner because they’re gonna be the days that.
Alejandro: When they go and get stuff.
Matthew Stoudt: Yeah, you’re going to have self-doubt they’re gonna be days that your partner has self-doubt and and you you’re there sort of each other to to bolster each other and and to ride out the storms that you’re inevitably going to face and then the second one is also just I think it’s the power of culture in an organization. Um, so a very quick story with with outcast. We’d gone through a challenge in the financing world where we literally we we got to the point where we couldn’t make payroll and it was one of the toughest days of my life to have to do a call with the entire company and tell them. That I you’re not going to get paid today and I can’t tell you when you’re going to get paid and I can’t ask you to come back tomorrow to to work and I can’t ask you to come back until I can actually get you paid. But I said you know the leadership team here will be here tomorrow. The next day and the next day and every single day until we actually get this taken care of and the you know every we didn’t lose a single person every single person in the organization showed up every single day until we were able to get that cleared and then talk about. Having to have the the self-confidence you know at some point just to figure out how you how you get people paid by hook or by Crook you know we ended up not paying our payroll taxes and a few other things just so we could get all the money that we could into the hands of the employees. And that put a personal liability on my neck that was well over a million bucks that I certainly couldn’t afford to ever have to pay off but I had to have this undying belief that we had a real asset. We had something that actually was creating value and so despite the the personal risk that that I took on. You have to have this fortitude that says I believe it’s going to happen and then you got to do whatever it takes to make it happen and you know from that low point we turned around and about. 9 to twelve months later ended up selling to gobarco one the the world’s largest gas pumpult manufacturer and ended up having a good return for investors. So it was. You know it’s interesting to see when you go through these things and and how you test yourself to be able to come out on the other side then one last thing I’ll say is.
Alejandro: Yeah, a hundred percent
Matthew Stoudt: When I taught what we’ were doing before our dead outcast right? It’s advertising at a gas pumpmp. There is 0 mission in advertising and a gas bump. In fact, it might even be an anti missionss when you talk to some people and they put their complain about it so we had to make the mission about each other. We had to make it about the person to yourre left and the person to your right? We were outcast doing something pioneering something hadn’t been done before and it was an amazing experience to learn how to really build and um, a powerful culture and now I’m at a place with obligbr where we have an amazing mission. And I gotta take all those great learnings from how you build culture and apply them to where having a really powerful mission and this has been.. It’s been an amazing ride so far.
Alejandro: So then let’s talk about applied vr your like your latest baby. So let’s talk about a play Br and and for the people that are listening to really get it. What is the business model of applied Vr How do you guys make money.
Matthew Stoudt: Yeah, so we are creating this new entire category of therapeutics. It’s called we call it immersive therapeutics. It’s the world on vr and down the road pyb ar that can actually have a real therapeutic impact on people. And it’s based on 30 years of science and and evidence that demonstrates the power that of of a pixel over a molecule. We talk a little bit about that later. But what we’re going after is the world of chronic pain and we’re using vr and the content the program that we created to actually help chronic pain sufferers. Ah. Deal with their pain and learn how to actually modulate their pain so that they can lead a better quality of life and while they bring down the pain that they feel it’s a doctor prescribed pay or reimbursed model so we went through the Fda first and only vr hardware software combo. Platform to get approved by the v by the fda I mean that happened back in November and so now we’re in the process of you know, optimizing it getting ready to do some pilot tests with doctors in a couple different regions and then building the body of evidence that you got to have to be able to get the payers on board to. To to do the reimbursement. So.
Alejandro: And and to this to this end. How much capital have you guys say raised today.
Matthew Stoudt: We’ve raised 70,000,000 today. We did our series b for the end of last year right before we got before we got Fda approval and we have some great investors on our stack really happy to It’s amazing to see that. You get quality investors in how can really help with the business. Our lead investors were jazz ventures f prime svb ventures and then sway who’s been a long time and investor in us.
Alejandro: And you are talking about the importance of empathy and you know how you are definitely applying that you know across the across the board when it comes to culture I find that also it’s important to bring investors because they’re gonna be. Ultimately part of the board too and they’re gonna help with this strategy that management executes but to have them align too with the values of the business. So How did you go about making sure that empathy was also present in those investors where typically you know there is more entitlement.
Matthew Stoudt: Um, yes.
Alejandro: You know with with this folks right? So how do you go about that that.
Matthew Stoudt: Yeah, well, it’s ah well listen I think sometimes to depending upon what stage of the company you are. You’re gonna have to be less picky than than more picky but we were fortunate in and I list and I’ve dealt with.
Matthew Stoudt: With all different types of investors some that have been very helpful and some that have been actually you know somewhat destructive quite frankly, but in this you know, given where we were and so then begin going back to the experiences that I’ve had in the past we we you start off with the quote. No asshole policy.
Matthew Stoudt: Right? So Just just time is too short and what I’m doing right now is this not worth the energy to to deal with reallytankerous investors and so when we go out, you know, always want to get to understand who the investors are. On a personal level and look at trying to build a relationship before you you end up going into a long-term marriage with them and so it’s It’s really about just taking the time to have the conversations to talk to other ceos and entrepreneurs that they’ve worked with to understand what that is and just as they’re doing diligence on you. You have to do diligence on Them. You got to take the time to do it to to get it right.
Alejandro: And when it comes to due diligence doing due diligence to investors I mean any pointers that perhaps you can share on how you typically go about it or or anything that you can share for perhaps the the first time founders that are thinking about going out and raising money on how they can really filter. For the right investors that have the right type of resource and.
Matthew Stoudt: I think the number 1 thing you can do is find other companies or ceos of other companies that have actually dealt directly with that. You know it’s just like if you’re you’re when you’re hiring employees. You’re Goingnna have a much higher success rate of of hiring someone that came from a reference than someone that you just sort of meet out of the blue and yeah, you can you? You can do a great job vetting them all you want but you’ real going to make a mistake or 2 but when you get those referrals in of people that you trust. Have a much higher chance and so that to me that’s the number 1 thing is you know, really check your network and see who you’re connected to or when you’re looking at that when you finally are talking to a couple of investors make sure that you get connected to not only the people they put you in front of. But also try to do a little bit of networking and and and network into ones that they didn’t put you in touch with so that you can make sure you’re not just getting sort of ah a filtered story.
Alejandro: And that’s that’s fantastic advice there now if I was to ask you you know now let’s say if you were to go to sleep tonight and wake up in a world Five years later imagine tremendous news you haven’t slept like this in your life and you wake up in a world where. The vision of applied is fully realized what does that world look like.
Matthew Stoudt: So if you let me sleep until about 8 years or 9 years I’ll tell you what my vision is we have a pretty big, pretty big vision here. So we’re we’re creating this whole new category of immersive therapeutics and as I talk to my team about this all the time. You know when you’re thinking about certain businesses you’re going to go in. You’re just simply making a better ecommerce platform or something else. You got to be a good executer and leader within what you’re doing but what we’re doing creating this entire new category. We have to be next level leaders. Means that we’ve got to be able to truly understand how to build an industry around us build coalitions. You know at first you think about in healthcare you think about payers patients and providers. But we also have to think about policy and two years ago if you and I were having this conversation I would never. Thought that I’d be talking to you about that. We’re actually trying to change policy on the federal level and the state level in America and in fact, we actually have a bill that we got submitted into the California legislature that’s going to help support bringing reimbursement for Fda approved nonpharmacological alternatives to help address this opioid epidemic. So ah and in the world of immersive therapeutics right? as opposed to digital therapeutics which is an app on a phone most people don’t have vr headsets and so ultimately for us to get successful is we need to be able to get our hardware software out into the homes of everybody. In America and ultimately around the world and so our vision here is to be a vr pharmacy that dispenses this next generation therapeutic wherever the patient is whether it be at their home and the clinic or in the hospital and so when I wake up 8 years from now. You’ll have a headset in your home. Your parents will have a headset in their home. Your friends will have a headset in their home and they’ll be accessing it from a think of it as a vr a cvs for vr where we’re dispensing a wide variety of therapeutics. That are that can address a wide range of indications such as chronic low back pain which was our first indication to endometriosis to total msk to fibromyalgia to schizophrenia to. Bipolar to you know a wide variety of disease conditions and we’re the engine that’s powering it all and at that point you know, immersive therapeutics is ah truly a part of standard of care in healthcare care in America and globally.
Alejandro: I love it now if I was to put you into a time machine Matthew Stoudt: and I bring you back in time and I give you the chance to have a chat with your younger self with that younger Matthew Stoudt: that was coming out of the Mba program at the at kellock and. You’re able to give that younger Matthew Stoudt: one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Matthew Stoudt: Ah, that is a great Question. My friend I I Think what I saw there’s the piece of advice that I would give is. Ah I was gonna say you always believe in yourself. But I I fundamentally have always done that so that’s kind of how how I’ve gotten where I am I I think I think what I would do is I know exactly what it would be be willing to say no to things. When you’re an entrepreneur you’re trying to figure out what works What doesn’t work and sometimes as you’re you get a little bit scared. You don’t be. You know the funding may not be coming in as fast as you want or whatever the challenge is and you start to do a bunch of different things and you start to test a bunch of different things and you get caught chasing. Bright Shiny objects in different areas that sound interesting in the moment but it doesn’t keep you true to your North Star. So you’ve got to have a very clear vision of what it is that you want to build and then you got to be maniacally focused on making sure that you don’t get distracted away from what that north vision that that North Star vision that you have is. So be willing to say no to things.
Alejandro: So I love it. Matthew Stoudt: for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to get in touch and say hi.
Matthew Stoudt: Um, the best way is always my email address I’d love to say that I’m big on social media. But that’s I try to stay off that as much as I can so it’s Matthew Stoudt: at applied vr I o.
Alejandro: Amazing. Well Matthew Stoudt: thank you so much for being on the dealmaker show. It has been an honor to have you with us. Thanks.
Matthew Stoudt: Thanks a lot Alejandro Love the work you’re doing.
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