Unlocking Commercial Funding: How South African SMEs Can Easily Access Funds for Business Opportunities

Guide to Accessing Commercial Funding for South African SMEs

Discover essential strategies and resources to secure commercial funding for your South African SME. Learn key steps, eligibility criteria, and expert tips to navigate the funding landscape effectively.

Ray Kroc strategically leveraged commercial funding to acquire the raw diamond that was once owned by the McDonald brothers. This shrewd move catapulted him into the realm of billionaires, while the McDonald brothers, in contrast, continued to operate on a smaller scale.

A Guide to Accessing Commercial Funding for Your Business

Explore the pivotal importance of understanding how to access commercial funding for your business. With this knowledge, you can fuel growth, expand operations, and seize new opportunities. Our comprehensive guide outlines the essential steps and strategies to secure the financial support your business needs to thrive. Whether it's for launching a new venture, scaling operations, or navigating through challenging times, mastering the art of accessing commercial funding is indispensable. Gain insights into building strong relationships with lenders, crafting compelling funding proposals, and optimizing your financial position. Start paving the way for your business success today.

Key Factors to Consider When Seeking Commercial Financing:

How to access commercial funding

Business Funding Image

Written by: Malose Makgeta

MBA with 20+ years experience in SME development and funding. LinkedIn Profile

Commercial Funding Lessons Case Study Movies: The Founder, War Dogs and Moneyball


How to access business funding is the process of tailoring a funding search and approach, as well as identifying and obtaining funding commitment from funders/investors. This skills programme provides entrepreneurs and business managers with a platform and tools that makes it simple and quick to access funding. It also includes a training and mentorship programme that prepares and supports entrepreneurs in preparing funding proposals and gaining access to funding on their own.


Commercial funding - the process of accessing funds for business activities, purchases, or investments from banks and other financial institutions. Banks and other financial institutions are in the business of providing capital to businesses, consumers, and investors to help them achieve their objectives.


Be able to access commercial funding to start or grow a business.


Many new businesses require business funding to help them get off the ground. This can be used to cover expenses such as finding a location, developing a website, hiring employees, or purchasing inventory. Businesses have numerous start-up funding options available to

Key Lessons

Contrasting Commercial Funding Ventures: Ray, Billy, and Ephraim

Ray Kroc: The Franchising Maestro

Ray Kroc's journey in McDonald's involved a pioneering approach to commercial funding through franchising. Instead of relying solely on commercial loans, Ray revolutionised the fast-food industry by offering franchises to entrepreneurs. Franchisees provided the capital for new stores, allowing McDonald's to expand rapidly without burdening the company with substantial debt. Ray's innovative franchising model became a cornerstone for McDonald's success, transforming it into a global phenomenon.

Billy Beane: Data-Driven Decisions and Budget Constraints

In Moneyball, Billy Beane's approach to commercial funding took a different route. The Oakland Athletics faced budget constraints, leading Billy to leverage data analytics to make strategic player acquisitions within financial limitations. While not directly using commercial loans, the A's innovative approach showcased a reliance on analytics and efficiency to compete against teams with more substantial financial resources.

Ephraim Diveroli: Government Contracts and Financial Risks

Ephraim Diveroli and AEY's funding journey in War Dogs took a riskier path by relying on government contracts in the arms industry. AEY secured funds by bidding on and winning contracts to supply arms to the U.S. government. While this approach provided capital for expansion, it came with ethical and financial risks. The dependence on government contracts introduced volatility and legal challenges, highlighting the perils of navigating a high-stakes industry.

Diverse Business Funding Strategies, Shared Business Lessons

Ray's franchising model, Billy's data-driven decisions within budget constraints, and Ephraim's reliance on government contracts illustrate the diverse strategies entrepreneurs employ for commercial funding. Each approach carries its own set of challenges and lessons, showcasing that successful business expansion often involves navigating a complex landscape of financial decisions and risk management.

Commercial Funding Options: What You Need to Know About Commercial Funding

According to Smart Capital Mind article, What Is Commercial Funding?, Commercial funding refers to any type of loan offered by lenders to help an individual or business with some sort of financing. These loans are generally backed by some sort of collateral on the part of the borrower, which allows the lender to receive some sort of recompense if the loan is defaulted.

A commercial loan is a debt-based financing arrangement between a company and a financial institution like a bank. It is typically used to fund large capital expenditures and/or cover operational costs that the company could not otherwise afford. Expensive upfront costs and regulatory barriers frequently prevent small businesses from obtaining direct access to the bond and equity markets for financing. Smaller businesses, like individual consumers, must rely on alternative lending products such as lines of credit, unsecured loans, or term loans.

Commercial loans are given to a wide range of business entities, usually to help with short-term funding needs for operational costs or the purchase of equipment to help with the operation. In some cases, the loan may be extended to assist the business in meeting more basic operational needs, such as payroll funding or the purchase of supplies used in the production and manufacturing processes.

The recipient of commercial funding, commonly known as a borrower, obtains financial support from a lender. In due course, the borrower is obligated to repay the borrowed amount, inclusive of interest, at a prearranged rate. These loans serve a diverse range of purposes, catering to businesses in their nascent stages, individuals aspiring to purchase a home, or any entity in urgent need of funding that exceeds its own financial capacity. This financial arrangement facilitates economic activities by providing essential capital to those who require it, fostering growth, and enabling various ventures to meet their financial objectives. Whether it be a startup seeking initial capital infusion, a homebuyer navigating the real estate market, or an organisation with immediate financial needs, commercial loans play a crucial role in supporting and sustaining a dynamic and evolving economy.

Commercial funding options may include:

Commercial funding plays a vital role in driving economic growth, promoting innovation, and fostering entrepreneurship. It enables SMEs to access the capital needed to pursue opportunities, expand operations, create jobs, and contribute to the overall development of the business ecosystem.

Choosing the Right Commercial Funding Solution

Various commercial funding instruments are available for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that come with repayment terms. These instruments provide SMEs with the necessary capital for their business activities, and each has its own unique structure. Here are some common commercial funding instruments for SMEs and their repayment structures:

  1. Bank Loans

    Bank loans are a widely used funding option for SMEs. The repayment structure for bank loans typically involves:

    • Principal Amount: The loan amount received by the SME.
    • Interest Rate: The cost of borrowing, expressed as a percentage of the loan amount.
    • Repayment Period: The duration over which the loan is to be repaid, usually ranging from months to years.
    • Repayment Frequency: The frequency at which loan payments are made, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually.
    • Amortisation Schedule: The schedule outlining the repayment amounts and dates, including the allocation of principal and interest components.
    • Collateral: In some cases, banks may require collateral as security for the loan.
  2. Trade Credit

    Trade credit is a financing arrangement with suppliers where SMEs can purchase goods or services on credit. The repayment structure for trade credit typically involves:

    • Credit Terms: The agreed-upon period within which the SME must make payment for the purchased goods or services.
    • Payment Due Date: The specific date by which the SME must settle the outstanding balance.
    • Discounts for Early Payment: Some suppliers offer discounts if the SME pays the invoice before the payment due date.
    • Revolving Credit: In certain cases, SMEs can establish ongoing trade credit arrangements with suppliers, allowing them to make multiple purchases on credit within predefined credit limits.
  3. Factoring

    Factoring is a financing method where SMEs sell their accounts receivable to a third-party factor. The repayment structure for factoring typically involves:

    • Advance Rate: The percentage of the accounts receivable amount that the factor provides as an upfront payment to the SME.
    • Factor's Fee: The fee charged by the factor for providing the advance payment and managing the collections.
    • Collection Period: The duration during which the factor collects the outstanding invoices from the SME's customers.
    • Reserve Amount: The remaining portion of the accounts receivable, held by the factor, minus the advance payment and factor's fee. This amount is paid to the SME after the customer payments are received.
  4. Asset-Based Lending

    Asset-based lending involves using the SME's assets, such as inventory, equipment, or accounts receivable, as collateral for a loan. The repayment structure for asset-based lending typically involves:

    • Loan Amount: The amount of funds provided to the SME, which is determined based on the value of the pledged assets.
    • Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio: The percentage of the asset value that the lender is willing to lend. This determines the maximum loan amount.
    • Interest Rate: The cost of borrowing, expressed as a percentage of the loan amount.
    • Repayment Period: The duration over which the loan is to be repaid, typically ranging from months to years.
    • Repayment Frequency: The frequency at which loan payments are made, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually.
    • Collateral Evaluation: The lender assesses the value, quality, and liquidity of the assets pledged as collateral.
  5. Equipment Financing

    Equipment financing allows SMEs to acquire or lease equipment for their business operations. The repayment structure for equipment financing typically involves:

    • Equipment Cost: The total cost of the equipment being financed.
    • Down Payment: A percentage of the equipment cost paid upfront by the SME.
    • Loan Amount: The remaining amount financed by the lender.
    • Interest Rate: The cost of borrowing, expressed as a percentage of the loan amount.
    • Repayment Period: The duration over which the loan is to be repaid, which is usually aligned with the equipment's useful life.
    • Repayment Frequency: The frequency at which loan payments are made, such as monthly, quarterly, or annually.
    • Equipment Ownership: Depending on the financing structure, SMEs may own the equipment at the end of the repayment period or have the option to purchase it.
  6. Invoice Financing

    Invoice financing enables SMEs to borrow against their outstanding invoices. The repayment structure for invoice financing typically involves:

    • Advance Rate: The percentage of the invoice amount that the lender provides as an upfront payment to the SME.
    • Discount Fee or Interest Rate: The fee or interest charged by the lender for providing the advance payment.
    • Payment Collection: Once the customer pays the invoice, the SME repays the lender the advanced amount and any associated fees.

These commercial funding instruments provide SMEs with flexibility in terms of repayment structures, allowing them to choose the option that best suits their financial needs and cash flow capabilities.

Steps to Secure Commercial Funding for Your Company

  1. Define funding strategy and terms and conditions - So, what kind of bargain are you looking for? What do you hope to gain from this experience? What percentage of your business are you willing to part with in return for capital? Are you looking for mentorship or purely funds? The first step in raising capital is determining what success looks like for you. You're more likely to secure investment if you have a clear plan in mind for the funds you want to secure, and execution becomes as simple as simply following your plan.
  2. Gather business information - Your business cannot exist in your head when you present to investors. If you haven't already, now is the time to research, document, and project (accurately) your numbers (users/customers, revenue, expenditure, and so on). Investors will want to know about the market potential, your business model, your marketing strategy, budgets and so much more. Make sure you have this information on hand.
  3. Find commercial funders - Do your research. What investors are active in your industry? Examine your network of contacts for a connection who might be able to provide you with a warm introduction. Believe it or not, finding a commercial funder is not the hardest part about securing funding. If you're having trouble, you should think about hiring a financial advisor.
  4. Create pitch deck - Raising commercial funding requires an immaculately prepared presentation with most compelling business details.
  5. Organise meetings - The commercial funding process can be a numbers game in more ways than one. Ensure that you schedule plenty of meetings to give yourself a good chance of landing at least one.
  6. Facilitate the due diligence process - Once you have convinced the commercial funders with your business plan then you have to follow through with some impressive evidence. Interested commercial funders will want to do due diligence, make sure everything already prepared for them.
  7. Enter into agreement - consider long-term implications of the finance facility agreement and use a good lawyer to ensure the detail is considered.

Best Practices for Applying for Commercial Funding for SMEs

Securing commercial funding for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can be a competitive process. However, there are several steps SMEs can take to increase their chances of obtaining commercial funding. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Develop a Strong Business Plan: Create a comprehensive business plan that highlights your SME's unique value proposition, target market, competitive advantage, growth potential, and financial projections. A well-prepared and persuasive business plan can attract potential funders.
  2. Understand Funding Requirements: Research and understand the specific requirements and criteria of the funders you are targeting. Tailor your funding application to align with their preferences and priorities.
  3. Prepare Financial Statements: Ensure that your financial statements, including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, are accurate, up-to-date, and well-organised. Provide supporting documentation to demonstrate your SME's financial stability and performance.
  4. Build a Strong Credit History: Establish a positive credit history for your SME by making timely payments to suppliers, lenders, and other creditors. A good credit history enhances your credibility and increases the likelihood of funding approval.
  5. Showcase Industry Expertise: Highlight your SME's industry expertise, unique insights, and knowledge. Demonstrate your understanding of market trends, customer needs, and competitive landscape. This showcases your ability to navigate industry challenges and seize opportunities.
  6. Network and Build Relationships: Attend industry events, join business associations, and actively engage with potential funders. Building professional relationships can create opportunities for introductions, referrals, and potential funding partnerships.
  7. Seek Professional Advice: Consider seeking guidance from financial advisors, accountants, or consultants experienced in SME financing. They can provide valuable insights, help refine your funding strategy, and enhance the quality of your funding application.
  8. Explore Diverse Funding Sources: Do not limit yourself to a single funding source. Explore diverse options such as banks, venture capital firms, angel investors, crowdfunding platforms, and government grants. Diversifying your funding sources increases your chances of success.
  9. Highlight Growth Potential: Clearly articulate your SME's growth potential and the opportunities that commercial funding can unlock. Illustrate how the funding will be utilised to expand operations, develop new products or services, enter new markets, or increase market share.
  10. Be Transparent and Responsive: Maintain transparent communication with potential funders and promptly respond to their inquiries or requests for additional information. Demonstrate your willingness to collaborate and provide any necessary clarifications.

Remember, obtaining commercial funding requires persistence, preparation, and a compelling case for support. By implementing these strategies and presenting a well-prepared funding application, SMEs can significantly increase their chances of securing the commercial funding they need for growth and success.

Best Practices for Applying for Commercial Funding: Ray's Recipe for Success

Picture this: Ray Kroc, a determined entrepreneur with a vision but a thin wallet. The year is 1954, and Ray, fueled by ambition and an appetite for success, dreams of expanding the McDonald's brand beyond its modest origins. Now, let's delve into the heart of the McDonald's saga, where Ray's vulnerability transforms into a catalyst for ingenious problem-solving. Spoiler alert: it involves a touch of humor and a pinch of business savvy.

In the journey of securing funds for the first McDonald's store, Ray found an unlikely ally in Harry Sonneborn. Their collective journey is an epitome of tenacity, where they navigated the financial landscape with strategic finesse. Rather than succumbing to financial constraints, they identified creative solutions. Harry, armed with financial acumen, played a pivotal role in crafting a financial model that would pave the way for McDonald's meteoric rise.

How did they do it? Ray and Harry's approach holds valuable lessons. They tapped into their networks, leveraging personal connections to open doors for funding. But this wasn't just about securing funds; it was about crafting a compelling narrative. Entrepreneurs, take note: personalized pitches and highlighting the unique selling points of your venture can turn skeptics into supporters. In the business game, charisma and resourcefulness often outshine deep pockets.

Amidst the financial intricacies, one crucial element stood out: passion. Ray's unwavering belief in the potential of McDonald's fueled his determination. The alignment of personal passion with the business venture became the cornerstone of their success. Entrepreneurs, take a cue from Ray; when your heart is in sync with your venture, the hurdles become stepping stones.

Wrapping up our financial feast, let's extract some practical tips from Ray's playbook. First and foremost, embrace your network—relationships matter. Craft a compelling narrative that not only outlines your venture but also paints a vivid picture of its potential. And don't forget the secret ingredient: a dash of humor. In the world of business, laughter can be a powerful connector. So, entrepreneurs, when the financial road gets bumpy, remember the Golden Arches and their recipe for financial flair!

How to Access Commercial Funding:

Accessing commercial funding involves a systematic approach to secure financial support from various sources. Here are some steps SMEs can take to access commercial funding:

  1. Evaluate Funding Needs: Determine the specific financial requirements of your SME, such as working capital, expansion plans, equipment purchase, or research and development.
  2. Prepare a Business Plan: Create a comprehensive business plan that outlines your company's vision, mission, target market, products or services, competitive advantage, financial projections, and growth strategy. This plan will serve as a crucial document when approaching potential funders.
  3. Research Funding Options: Explore different commercial funding options available for SMEs, including bank loans, government grants, venture capital firms, angel investors, crowdfunding platforms, and trade credit. Understand the eligibility criteria, terms, and conditions associated with each funding source.
  4. Identify Suitable Funders: Identify funders who align with your SME's industry, stage of growth, and funding requirements. Research and compile a list of potential funders to target.
  5. Prepare Documentation: Gather and organise the necessary documentation, which may include financial statements, tax returns, legal agreements, business licenses, and any other relevant information required by the funders.
  6. Submit Funding Applications: Complete funding applications accurately and submit them to the selected funders. Follow the guidelines provided by each funder and ensure that all required documents are included.
  7. Engage in Presentations and Negotiations: If shortlisted, be prepared to present your business plan and financial projections to potential funders. Engage in negotiations regarding the terms, interest rates, repayment schedules, and any other relevant aspects of the funding agreement.
  8. Review Funding Offers: Evaluate the funding offers received from different funders, considering factors such as interest rates, repayment terms, collateral requirements, investor expertise, and potential additional support or resources they may provide.
  9. Select the Most Suitable Funding: Choose the funding option that best suits your SME's financial needs, long-term goals, and overall business strategy. Consider the funding source's credibility, reputation, and compatibility with your SME's values and objectives.
  10. Secure Funding: Once you have selected a funding source, complete any remaining paperwork, meet the specified conditions, and fulfill any requirements to secure the funding for your SME.

Remember that accessing commercial funding can be a competitive and challenging process. It requires persistence, thorough preparation, and a strong business proposition to attract potential funders. Seeking professional advice from financial advisors or consultants experienced in SME financing can also be beneficial.

Another way to access funding is to apply for a business loan. Prepare a business plan, value proposition, expense report, and five-year financial projections before applying to banks and funding institutions. When reviewing your application, most banks or credit unions will request a combination of these documents.

These loans frequently necessitate the posting of collateral, typically in the form of property, plant, or equipment that the bank can seize from the borrower in the event of default or bankruptcy. Cash flows generated from future accounts receivable are sometimes used as loan collateral. Commercial real estate mortgages are one type of commercial loan.

When a financial institution considers making a commercial loan, it considers an applicant's creditworthiness, as it does for nearly every other type of loan. In most cases, the company applying for the loan will be required to present documentation—usually in the form of balance sheets and other similar documents—that demonstrates the company has a positive and consistent cash flow. This assures the lender that the loan can and will be repaid

If a business is approved for a commercial loan, it can expect to pay interest at the prime lending rate at the time the loan is issued. Banks typically require monthly financial statements from the company for the duration of the loan, and they frequently require the company to obtain insurance on any larger items purchased with loan funds.

In a nutshell, a raise occurs when a company develops a growth strategy and presents it to a willing investor (in the case of an equity raise) or lender (in the case of a debt raise). After the investing/lending party has completed their due diligence, an agreement is negotiated and signed for the exchange of funds in exchange for either equity or debt.

It takes more than your product or big idea to succeed. Regardless of stage or amount raised, most investors look for three things before investing: (1) a proven and curated team; (2) a large total addressable market; and (3) an interesting product and vision that aligns with their thesis.

Make the impression of traction - A successful raise necessitates instilling a deep fear of missing out. This process must be completed with the perception of traction within the investor community; adoption and validation in some way, shape, or form (perhaps through other businesses); and curation via the appropriate introductions, combined with an exciting pitch and storyline.

Be organised - It demonstrates that the company will be well-managed. Every process, regardless of the stage of your business, should have a start and an end date.

Navigating the Process of Obtaining Commercial Funding

Prepare a business plan, value proposition, expense report, and five-year financial projections before applying to banks and credit unions. When reviewing your application, most banks or credit unions will request a combination of these documents.

Equity raising - The exchange of a percentage of a company's ownership in exchange for capital is known as equity raising (or funds).

Debt financing - The exchange of a debt for capital is referred to as debt raising. Examples of debt raising include loans, credit cards, and bonds. Companies often choose a mix of debt and equity financing options. A business owner, for example, may take out a loan or apply for a line of credit to address temporary cash flow issues, but they may also be able to secure investment.

Make sure to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each bank loan offer you receive. Which of the following offers the lowest interest rate? What are the terms and conditions? The terms of financing have a significant impact on whether a venture succeeds or fails.

Understanding the Requirements for Commercial Funding

Common required documents when applying for grants and incentives

How institution Assess Commercial Funding Applications

Commercial funding applications are assessed by funders using a comprehensive evaluation process to determine the suitability and risk associated with providing financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Here are the common factors considered during the assessment of commercial funding applications:

  1. Business Viability: Funders evaluate the overall viability and sustainability of the SME's business model. They assess factors such as market potential, competitive advantage, growth prospects, management expertise, and the ability to generate profits and repay the funding.
  2. Financial Performance: The financial health and performance of the SME are thoroughly examined. This includes reviewing financial statements, cash flow projections, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and any existing debts or liabilities. Funders assess the SME's ability to manage finances effectively and meet financial obligations.
  3. Collateral and Security: In cases where collateral is required, funders assess the value, quality, and liquidity of the assets offered as security. This provides a safety net for the funder in case of default by the SME.
  4. Repayment Capacity: The SME's ability to repay the funding is a critical factor. Funders assess the SME's historical and projected cash flows, debt-to-equity ratio, revenue streams, and repayment capacity. They consider the sufficiency and stability of cash inflows to meet interest and principal payments.
  5. Industry and Market Analysis: Funders evaluate the industry and market in which the SME operates. They assess market trends, competition, customer demand, and the SME's positioning within the industry. This analysis helps determine the potential risks and opportunities associated with funding the SME.
  6. Management Team: The skills, experience, and track record of the SME's management team are considered. Funders assess the management team's capability to execute the business plan, make sound financial decisions, and navigate challenges effectively. A strong and experienced management team increases the likelihood of funding approval.
  7. Funding Purpose: The purpose for which the funding is sought is evaluated. Funders assess whether the funds will be used for productive business activities such as expansion, research and development, working capital, or equipment purchase. The alignment of the funding purpose with the SME's overall strategy and growth objectives is crucial.
  8. Risk Assessment: Funders conduct a risk assessment to identify potential risks associated with funding the SME. This includes analysing industry-specific risks, market risks, financial risks, operational risks, and any other factors that may impact the SME's ability to repay the funding.
  9. Compliance and Legal Considerations: Funders evaluate the SME's compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. This includes assessing licenses, permits, contracts, and any potential legal issues that may pose a risk to the SME's operations or repayment capacity.

It is important to provide accurate and detailed information in their funding applications, addressing these assessment factors. Additionally, maintaining transparent communication and promptly responding to any inquiries or requests for additional information from the funders can enhance the chances of a successful funding application.

Commercial Funding Key Takeaways:

Financing plays a pivotal role in the realm of business, serving as a cornerstone without which numerous financial transactions would be unattainable. Particularly at the inception of a business venture, there is often a scarcity of capital, and the fruition of profits is typically a time-intensive process. It is during these critical junctures that entities such as banks and other financial institutions, equipped with the necessary capital resources, become highly sought after. The provision of commercial funding emerges as an indispensable component for a myriad of individual projects and business initiatives.

In the intricate landscape of business operations, the availability of loans becomes a linchpin for facilitating various financial activities. At the outset of a business endeavor, the dearth of capital can pose a formidable obstacle, hindering the initiation and development of projects. Profits, on the other hand, often materialize over an extended period, necessitating a consistent infusion of financial resources. In this context, financial institutions, particularly banks, wield considerable influence as they possess the requisite capital to bridge the funding gap.

Moreover, the significance of commercial funding extends beyond the mere provision of capital. It serves as a catalyst for economic growth by enabling entrepreneurs and businesses to translate their innovative ideas and plans into tangible realities. Whether it be the establishment of a new enterprise, the expansion of an existing business, or the implementation of innovative projects, loans act as the lifeblood that sustains and nurtures these endeavors.

The symbiotic relationship between borrowers and lenders forms the backbone of the financial ecosystem, fostering economic development and entrepreneurship. As businesses flourish and generate returns on investment, the cycle perpetuates, with lenders reinvesting funds into new ventures. This cyclical process not only sustains individual enterprises but also contributes to the overall vibrancy of the business landscape.

In conclusion, loans stand as a linchpin in the intricate web of business transactions, bridging the gap between capital scarcity at the inception of ventures and the eventual realisation of profits. Financial institutions, particularly banks, play a pivotal role in this dynamic by providing the much-needed capital that propels business initiatives forward. Beyond mere financial transactions, commercial funding serves as a catalyst for economic growth, empowering businesses to turn aspirations into tangible achievements and contributing to the vitality of the broader business environment.

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