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Tinu Abayomi-Paul: business leader showcase

By getting to know how business leaders tick, we may groom our own leadership paths. Today, we chat with Tinu Abayomi-Paul who has owned a successful web visibility company for over 14 years.

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Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Business leader showcase

This East Coast gal is stuck on West Coast time, and once dreamed of being called the Honorable Abayomi-Paul. Tinu Abayomi-Paul is the Owner of Leveraged Promotions, established in 1998, and today spends time telling AG readers what her days look like, what keeps her up at night, and things that only people very close to her would know.

We often revere leaders, but often for their current work, without knowing where they came from, but by knowing what makes people tick, we can not only better connect with one another, but we stand to gain by being able to identify with traits shared with various leaders as a means of inspiring our own leadership paths.

Below is an unedited interview with Abayomi-Paul, in her own words:

Tell us about yourself and your work.

There arel all kinds of fancy words and phrases used to describe what I do but it boils down to this: I help businesses get more customers via the web, which includes mobile.

I’ve been doing this since 1998, at first working just with friends’ sites or organizations that weren’t pursuing a profit. At one point I owned the third most popular poetry site in the world, after poetry.com and Def Poetry Jam. It was called Fireseek, then later Urban Poetic. We had a partnership with About.com which included advertising. At the time I had a full time job, and that advertising got me the equivalent of an extra paycheck after I shared it with my partner.

Due to some health concerns and losing my job, I started thinking about how great it would be to help other people do what I did with the poetry site. At first it started out as helping other people get an extra paycheck a month. Then in 2004, I made more in one day than I did in a month at my temp job. The place I was working for went back on a promise to give me time off for my sister’s wedding. I quit and never looked back. I taught myself everything I could about promoting a business via the web – while promoting my business via the web. I tested things, then sold the knowledge or did the same for other companies.

Walk us through a typical day in your life.

My days living in Las Vegas, where I started my business, have spoiled me – my body won’t switch back from West coast time no matter what I do. I typically get up around 9 am East coast time unless I have something pressing to do. I start the day with research – what has happened with Google, social media, marketing, or PR since I went to bed? Have my colleagues written anything that would inspire me to debate or creation?

Then I share what I’ve discovered, do some commenting. Then I write. Articles, blog posts, work on books I’m writing, ghostwriting sometimes. About once a week I incorporate the creation of audio and video content – new habit I’m forming. By this time it’s midday.

At this point I check in with all my teams to make sure all the client projects are going well. Then I double-check my email, text, social media and phone messages to make sure I haven’t missed any fires that need to be put out.

After lunch is when I have the majority of my meetings. I find myself mentally sharper as the day goes on, even though I tend to get physically tired faster if I don’t pace myself.

I try to wrap it up by 6 pm, but I fail about 40% of the time, so my day often ends around 8, much as it pains me to admit.

What did you do before your current career?

I was in IT, mostly Help Desk. My last long-term job was with the MGM Mirage. They have this cool command center wall – you know how in the movies, NASA has this wall full of screens with lots of different information? It was like that. Before I moved to Vegas, I worked on the Help Desk at the IMF. I was working the swing shift with the Mission Travelers. People would go to remote areas where sometimes there was only dial-up access, so we couldn’t connect to a person’s computer like we could if they were in the building. Nor could we have come drop off their computers. So we would have to visualize the problem and give them oral instructions for how to fix things.

It was ideal for me because I have a kind of photographic memory. It’s not like on TV – it’s more like if I’ve seen something recently and enough times, I can remember something I’ve seen like I’m still looking at it. Like I can be in the supermarket, and look at the last time I saw the refrigerator to know if we have something.

What is something unique that you do to balance work and life?

I meditate and read affirmations. It reduces stress and helps me focus. I used to do it daily, and that what when I was most successful with the least effort. Working my way back to that.

What keeps you up at night?

I don’t have payroll, because I hire other companies instead of other people. It’s cleaner until I need permanent people. But making sure I have enough work to keep working with the same teams keeps me up at night. I am also almost at the point where I need a permanent assistant. So I worry about finding room for that in the budget on a consistent basis, someone trainable but who already has the basic skills I need. I was burned once by someone who was a sharp self-starter, but turned out to be untrustworthy.

If you could spend one day in the life of another industry leader, who would it be?

Toni Morrison. She was an editor for a long time, then started writing at 45. She later won a Pulitzer Price and a Nobel Peace Price. At heart, I’m a writer, I think what we read fuels who we are. So I’d love to see how her mind works from the inside.

What tools can you not live without?

I’d throw my phone in a lake if I could. I hate texting, and I want my phone to do less, not more. answer calls consistently and stfu. But my work and my life need to be mobile. Not to mention the fact that I’m addicted to mobile apps.

So I’d have to say my iPad. A very close second would be Jungle Disk – a product by Rackspace that, in conjunction with Amazon s3, gives my company network drives. I also adore LastPass. I kill PC laptops in six months on average, so instead of constantly losing everything, I just save it all to the cloud. I back stuff up to a brick too but with a network drive you don’t have to go through the restore process.

If you could start your current career over, what would you do differently?

I would have skipped directly to owning a company that builds useful or fun software, and focused on creating content for the people who liked the software my company built. I thought I had to be able to code and all that. And I had a serious problem, which I’m currently still getting over, with thinking I had to do everything 1- myself and 2- perfectly. Now i know it’s more important to be timely, and that I can correct as I go. The grammar police and the haters will find something wrong with what you’re doing no matter what.

I’d be making mobile apps and web apps for business now. I still will but it would have been nice to have been doing this from the beginning.

At age 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As my mother constantly reminds me, I wanted to get a PhD like my father, and also be a judge. I fantasized about being called the Honorable Dr. Abayomi-Paul. I will likely still get a doctorate, but I eventually realized that my dream was to go to law school, not to be a lawyer. And I decided I’d wait until I could afford to go without getting deeper into school loan debt, and if I still wanted to do it, I would.

Tell us something about you that people wouldn’t believe unless they knew you.

I’m much quieter in person than my long, rambly writing would have you believe. MUCH.

What inspirational quote has stuck with you the longest?

I’m paraphrasing what I was told is Emerson, but I can’t remember what essay this quote is in, nor have I had much luck Googling it.

“Your attitude towards a given situation is more important than the facts that actually prevail.”

I’ve found that to be universally true. Most of think our thoughts and emotions are just electrical impulses that happen to us, that we’re enslaved to them. In life I’ve learned that your thoughts are a choice that you can make conscious, and that we can control a great deal of our emotions. Some of my early close friends think it odd the way I often deal with conflict, because they grew up with me being confrontational, even when the situation didn’t necessarily call for it.

But around college, I began to realize that if my TRUE goal is to resolve a conflict, and not just to win an argument or stress myself, then what’s the point of arguing over stupid things? It’s not like your anger can Do anything. It’s not like worry makes things better. It’s not as if your tears have curative powers. I’m not dead inside or anything – I still have so-called negative emotions. But now, instead of something bothering me for weeks or months, I have learned to shift my focus so it only affects me for minutes or hours.

Most incredibly, it’s what frees up my energy for achieving what I want to in life. Drop as much of your baggage as you can – no one helps you carry it.

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28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    @shashib Thanks Shashi. 🙂

  2. AmyVernon

    June 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I haven’t known Tinu that long, so it was really great to learn more about her background. That said, I’m not the slightest bit surprised at all the awesomeness she’s done. I’m so glad you profiled her – she’s someone who really gets “it,” whatever “it” that may be at the time. She’s also the hardest working woman in show business, someone I truly look up to and admire.

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

       @AmyVernon Thank you so much Amy. I’ve been in meetings for the past few hours but I tell you, I’ve been on a (natural!) high all day at being featured in AG Beat. Really, since I was asked. It’s so humbling, and such an honor. Looking forward to getting to know you better, FW. 😉

  3. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    @kamichat Thank you, Kami and of course @AGBeat. Wonderful day because of this.

    • AGBeat

      June 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      @Tinu @kamichat #lovingit

  4. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    @AnneWeiskopf Thanks Anne. 🙂 Miss you.

    • AnneWeiskopf

      June 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      @tinu Miss you too. Hope to be up for air soon. xoxo

  5. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    @dyhatchett Glad you liked it, Danielle. Thanks for spreading the word.

  6. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    @AmyVernon Thanks wifey. 🙂 You’re the best.

  7. maddiegrant

    June 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    What an awesome interview!  Tinu you are an inspiring woman!

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

       @maddiegrant Thanks Maddie. Means a lot coming from you. 

  8. ginidietrich

    June 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    It’s so funny how we attract friends who are so much like ourselves. I had no idea about some of these things about Tinu, but now it makes perfect sense I love her as much as I do. I have the same sort of photographic memory she describes (drives my friends and family nuts), I also wanted to go to law school, but not be a lawyer, and I’m an introvert.
     
    This is a really, really good interview, Lani. I learned so much about my friend!

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

       @ginidietrich NO WAY. Well. I knew about the introvert part but… NO WAY! Wow, this is incredible. You know, I didn’t Used to attract friends like myself. I used to attract people who needed to be taken care of in some way. Don’t know if I had some kind of martyr complex or what. But that’s besides the point – the point is, I made and am making a conscious decision to move more towards successful people I admire like you and the other ladies in this thread. It blows my mind to find that I’m on the right path. Can’t wait to talk more about our similarities!

      • ginidietrich

        June 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

         @Tinu You’re TOTALLY on the right path. And we have an awesome photo together – one of my favorites, by far.

        • Tinu

          June 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm

           @ginidietrich I freaking love that picture. 🙂 We look happy and amazing.

  9. jasonkonopinski

    June 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Hey! I know her. 🙂
     
    Fantastic interview indeed. 

    • Tinu

      June 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm

       @jasonkonopinski Jason! Hey. Thanks for reading this. Wasn’t sure how folks would take this, as it petrifies me to open up, truth be told. Your supportive comment is more helpful than you know.

  10. OSoyombo

    June 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    @ginidietrich she’s Nigerian too !

  11. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    @PivotPointCom Thank you ladies. 🙂

  12. Tinu

    June 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    @ginidietrich Now that’s high praise coming from you. Thank you SO much. 🙂

    • ginidietrich

      June 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      @Tinu LOVED that interview!

  13. Shonali

    June 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I consider you a good friend, @Tinu , but I learned so much about you from this that I didn’t know before…! So cool. And I can absolutely vouch for you being much quieter in person. On the other hand, it’s not that much different, because if people read below (ot between) the lines of what you write, they are able to see the deep thought… and that’s what I see when I see you IRL. Which is why I SO much love spending time with you IRL (never enough).
    I wanted to be a lawyer too, at one point… did I ever tell you that? I still think I’d make a terrific lawyer (and, perhaps, why I make a good PR person – at the risk of sounding arrogant – because I weigh all sides of a situation).
    This was just a terrific interview, Lani!

    • Tinu

      June 29, 2012 at 12:28 am

       @Shonali Wow. I can’t wait until next week. 😉 It’s absolutely wonderful to know you in life. No, I didn’t know you wanted to be a lawyer. And the best thing about this interview is what I’m learning about the people all around me. 🙂 

  14. Tinu

    June 29, 2012 at 12:33 am

     @laniar This comment is addressed directly to you, Lani. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be showcased. I can’t tell you how much I swelled up with pride and then blushed with humility and then rose with pride again, over and over today. You know, I’m one of those people who will look at several thousand positive experiences and focus on the one bad thing that happened, if left to my own devices. And today was one of those days where I felt like I disappointed someone who I was trying to help. Tried to make it better, but they were pretty much done with me. (And I later realized – the crazy thing is that they were mad at me for doing as they asked!  So the real issue was the consequences of making bad decisions. anyway…)So I was feeling inadequate and then pissed at myself for not knowing that I should have walked away from that situation a lot earlier than I did. Normally, like I said in the article, I would let something like that go rather quickly. But this was one of those cases where the incident dragged out over the entire day.  So every time I got over it, there it was again. However, I had this to focus on. I don’t do what I do for recognition or even acknowledgement… but when it comes it sure does my heart good. Thank you so much. 

    • laniar

      June 29, 2012 at 12:41 am

       @Tinu I typically reserve my highest regards for people like you that are so hard on themselves, wear their heart on their sleeve, and lose sleep over things never being good enough. It’s tough, but it’s that drive that separates people like you, and you are so very highly admired for your endlessly positive traits. This was a fun interview!!

      • Tinu

        June 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

         @laniar Thank you. That really means a lot. 🙂

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Business Entrepreneur

Why receiving big funding doesn’t guarantee startup success

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You finally got that big funding check that allows you to make your dreams come true, but most startups fail because they shoot for the moon.

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funding box

The first thing every startup needs to get off the ground is funding. It’s crucial to have enough capital to cover equipment, inventory, and employee salaries, along with other basic expenses unique to the industry. Most startups cover these initial costs through business loans and capital from private investors.

Some business owners perceive getting funded as the first milestone toward success. While receiving capital is critical for success, being well-funded doesn’t guarantee success. Plenty of well-funded startups have failed, gone bankrupt, and all but disappeared.

How could so many well-funded startups possibly go under? The 90% failure rate for startups is due to a variety of factors including bad timing, no market, and most of all – mishandling of finances.

Here’s why receiving big capital doesn’t guarantee success.

Getting investment capital provides false hope

Getting funded can make you feel invincible and cause you to be too relaxed about spending money. It’s a powerful feeling to have plenty of money and know an investor believes in your business. Investors are smart; they wouldn’t throw money at a startup unless they had every reason to believe it will succeed, right? Not exactly.

Startups in big tech areas like Silicon Valley and San Francisco often have an easy time generating large amounts of capital from investors who can’t wait to throw money at the latest startup. Many investors ignore risk and throw their money at long-shot bets hoping to invest in the next Facebook or Instagram. The size of the pot is too mesmerizing not to take the risk.

These long-shot bets carry similar odds to winning a “Pick 6” bet in horse racing. The Pick 6 is one of the hardest bets to win because you have to pick the winning horses for six consecutive races. What if the top horse becomes injured before the sixth race? Investors who toss money at random startups have to pick a startup that will continue to meet all the right circumstances to become profitable long-term. Some of those circumstances are unpredictable.

No business owner wants to view their startup as a long-shot bet. However, the reality is that many startups are. You can’t gauge your potential for success based on how much funding you receive.

Having plenty of cash encourages premature scaling

When you’ve got the cash to scale your startup it seems like a waste not to dive in. Just one look around the internet reveals plenty of videos and articles encouraging entrepreneurs to scale their business. Advice online gives the impression that if you’re not scaling your business, you’re falling behind. However, scaling too soon can tank your startup.

Research conducted by Startup Genome found premature scaling to be the number one cause of startup failure. Nathan Furr from Forbes.com explains this finding and what it means for businesses. Premature scaling is defined as “spending money beyond the essentials on growing the business (e.g., hiring sales personnel, expensive marketing, perfecting the product, leasing offices, etc.) before nailing the product/market fit.” Furr says any business is susceptible to premature scaling – not just startups.

The problem is that premature scaling depletes your cash reserves more quickly. This leaves you with less cash to fix mistakes and readjust as you go along. Failure is what happens when you don’t have the necessary cash to fix mistakes and move toward success.

How to make the most of your funding and increase your odds of success

To increase the odds of developing a long-term successful startup, here’s what you can do:

• Save as much money as possible. For instance, you don’t need a giant office with expensive furniture right away. Work from home and hire a remote team until an office is absolutely necessary.

• Make sure the cost of acquiring each customer makes sense. Know how much money you’re spending to acquire each customer. Track all marketing efforts and eliminate the avenues that don’t generate paying, loyal customers. If the cost to acquire a customer is more than what they spend with your company, revisit your marketing strategy.

• Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement with your innovation. Skip Prichard advises startups to strive for a 10x increase in the value of whatever innovation is being provided to the world. For example, if your company is offering a lower price for a greater value, aim to increase the value 10x. Attract the early adopters who want big improvements and they will validate you.

Money is a tool – use it wisely

Celebrate when you get your funding, but keep that money in the bank for necessary expenses. Money is a tool that doesn’t guarantee success, but if you budget wisely, you’ll have a better chance at beating the startup odds.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to know when a candidate is a true fit for your startup

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Knowing whether a potential hire is a good fit for your startup is a difficult one, so we suggest asking these 3 questions at your next interview.

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startup hiring practices

Hiring, in general, can be a daunting task. Knowing whom you like to fill the role can seem pretty ethereal until you put pen to paper. The struggle is even bigger for smaller companies, such as startups, as they’re not only looking to fill a role based on skills, but they’re also looking to find someone who will jive with their existing employees and culture. And while culture-driven corporations like Apple do this to a degree, too, it’s nowhere near as delicate as hiring can be for a startup.

Startups often struggle in bringing on new hires from beginning to end. A lot more is at stake when you’re hiring for a small company. Any missteps can be detrimental to profitability, productivity, efficiency, and even business projections. But if you’re a startup looking to hire, look no further.

Writer and former Google Vice President, Jessica Powell, has some great questions to ask your potential future hires to limit any possible setbacks.

It’s important to realize that Jessica’s experience is pretty limited to corporations and that she’s spent much of her time at one of the biggest of them all – Google. Therefore, as a seasoned businesswoman with vast experience in startup life, I’ll be adding some colorful insights that should help both employers and employees even further.

1. In her article, Jessica alludes that an employee’s resilience is a big part of being able to handle a startup, and I completely agree. Startups are typically very touch and go. Even if the startup appears successful, policies, processes, and even something as critical as re-allocation of budget are all subject to scrutiny – often until a time when the company sells or goes public. This is exactly why Jessica recommends employers ask resilience-related questions, probing for “weaknesses and missteps”.

Our favorite question related to resilience that she suggests employers ask in interviews is: “Some people tend more easily to put responsibility or blame on others, and some people tend to put it on themselves. Where would you see yourself? Can you give me an example of when this happened?”

We like this question because it’s incredibly important to know if a new potential employee has perfectionist tendencies and is incredibly hard on themselves, or if they are incredibly hard on their co-workers. If you’re speaking with someone who already puts the blame on themselves half the time, you may be looking at a self-starter who has the potential to lead – very important when considering future scaling, especially because many startups like to promote from within. If they’re more on the perfectionist side of things, you may also be speaking with someone who is incredibly resilient. Why? Because they’re already hard on themselves, which often times leads to allowing others to be hard on them. That means they’ve probably experienced a lot of defeat, but they keep on going, which, in my opinion, is exactly the type of employee startups need.

2. Jessica also goes over how ambiguity in the workplace (again, something very common for startups) can affect new hires, which is why she makes it a point to ask pointed questions that not only gauge the potential hire’s comfort with ambiguity, but also what they value their work environment and career and “to see how they approach complex problems”.

We actually have 2 questions we think startup employers should ask in the ways of ambiguity. The first is pretty basic: “Do you love your routines or do you like to do things on the fly? How much structure do you like in your work day?”

We love this question because startups are often moving so quickly that any employee needs to be accustom to changes be made on the fly. It’s a question that basically assesses whether or not something is a go-getter and can work with unknowns. Let’s say you’re an employer hiring for a sales role. What someone who has never worked at a startup might think is that they’re 100% supported with consistent documentation, training, and pay.

What they don’t realize is that startups often shift gears pretty quickly, so any collateral they may have provided you (I’ve worked for startups where this wasn’t even offered), for example, can quickly become out of date – and with the limited resources some startups have, it could be a month or longer before someone actually gets you what you feel you need to do well in your job. If that’s too ambiguous for you as an employee, you may consider working in a more corporate environment.

The second question is one that I see fit for anyone above entry-level, but mostly for those potential hires who are looking for an upper management or leadership role. Reason being, this question brings experience into question and obviously, if you are entry-level, you don’t have much yet. The question is: “Where was your favorite place to work and why?”

There’s a lot that an interviewer can learn about an interviewee with this question. Not only does the topic of past employment come up, but it also asks the potential hire to dig deep and explain why they liked their past role. This can often lead to other probing questions, such as “why are you looking to leave your current role” and “was there anything about this role you didn’t like?” Depending on their answer, an employer can quickly see if the interviewee’s past experiences, and their preferences, line up with what the employer is looking for.

There are many more great questions you can ask in interviews, but when it comes down to figuring out if someone is fit to work at your startup, starting with these questions can push you past the average, cliché questions at warp speed, making room in the often time-crunched interviews for solid and valuable data on the potential hire.

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Business Entrepreneur

Which city has your back when trying to start your business?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Have you ever wondered which city will support your big idea, and help you achieve your dreams? Well here are the top 10 entrepreneur friendly cities.

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So, ya want to start a business? (Even if you don’t, just play along.) Well, then it’s important to know the best city in which to start a business. Take a moment to come up with your top-10 predictions prior to seeing what Inc. Magazine and Startup Genome had to say are at the top.
The top 10 are as follows: 1. Austin (what’s up?!), 2. Salt Lake City, 3. Durham, 4. Denver, 5. Boise, 6. San Francisco, 7. Charleston, 8. San Diego, 9. Phoenix, and 10. Miami.

10. Miami:

  • is number One in rate of entrepreneurship
  • number 19 in high-growth company density
  • number 22 in net business creation.

Much like the weather, the startup scene just keeps heating up.

9. Phoenix:

  • is number 2 in net business creation
  • number 7 in population growth
  • number 9 in job creation.

Many have flocked to the Arizona city for warm weather and lower costs of living.

8. San Diego:

  • is number 7 in rate of entrepreneurship
  • number 7 in high-growth company density
  • and number 7 in early-stage funding deals.

Three rated sevens in a row? Somebody call Monica Gellar!

7. Charleston:

  • is number One in net business creation
  • number 6 in high-growth company density
  • number 10 in job creation.

In the Souths of Carolina, founding tops funding.

6. San Francisco:

  • is number One in early-stage funding deals
  • number 2 in wage growth
  • number 8 in high-growth company density.

All of this in spite of the pricey cost of living.

5. Boise:

  • The capital of Idaho is number 2 in population growth
  • number 3 in job creation
  • number 3 in net business creation.

According to the data, you can buy four houses in Boise for the cost of one house in San Francisco. Breaking that knowledge out at my next cocktail party.

4. Denver:

  • is number 2 in rate of entrepreneurship
  • number 4 in high-growth company density
  • number 8 in wage growth.

People have been moving to this Colorado city like crazy

3. Durham:

  • is number 3 in high-growth company density
  • number 8 in net business creation
  • number 10 in job creation.

This North Carolina hub was once known for big tobacco

2. Salt Lake City:

  • is number One in high-growth company density
  • number One in job creation
  • and number 3 in population growth.
  • This spot is popular with adventure seekers

    1. Austin:

    • is number 3 in population growth
    • number 27 in net business creation
    • number 4 in early-stage funding deals.

    The American Genius’s home town is leading the nation in job creation and high-growth company density.

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