Epi. 54: Are you ready for a virtual office that puts your hybrid team right on your desktop? Alexander Embiricos, Co-Founder & CEO of Remotion

Learn more about Remotion at: www.remotion.com

Find Alexander Embiricos on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/embirico/


JC: Welcome, everyone to another episode of The Future of Biz Tech. I’m your host, JC Granger and I have another fantastic guest on the show with us today. And listen, if you end up loving this episode, please show your love and appreciation by following this podcast wherever you’re listening, and be sure to give us a five star review preferably with some comments in there that always helps the algos because that is how other techies like you and I find cool podcasts like this. So today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing Alexander Embiricos, who is Co-Founder and CEO of Remotion.com. Alexander, thank you so much for being on the show. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself and what it is that you guys do.


Alexander: Cool. Thank you so much for having us JC, really appreciate it. So I’m the CEO of a company called Remotion. We’re a b2b SaaS company that helps leaders just like you build closer, more effective teams. and especially engineering teams, the way that we do it is we build something that we call a virtual office that helps teams feel connected and foster those missing casual conversations that you don’t get when you’re working remotely anymore. Quick backstory about me, I came to the states for college, funnily enough, because I wanted to build military aircraft, ended up getting into tech instead, was like a product manager at Dropbox, three years very formative experience. From there started a gaming company—completely failed. And as I was wandering the desert, figure out what I wanted to do, I started working with another Co-Founder, we were working on something else, but he moved to Chicago, this is a little before COVID. And we’re like, Well, we really want to work together. But all the advice says we shouldn’t co found a company remotely. And we don’t like all the advice of how to do it. There’s got to be a problem here. We started looking into it, built Remotion on the side and Remotion ended up becoming the main thing, half a year later, COVID hit. And it’s been a pretty wild journey since then.


JC: That is, I mean, lucky, but unfortunate timing, right? You know, nobody wants a pandemic, but it sounds like your software became very relevant in a short amount of time, I imagine. So, you know, what is it about I mean, a lot of people are probably gonna think, Okay, well, what’s the difference between what your software does versus just people getting on, like, Zoom meetings? Like, you know, walk.. paints the picture, I’m curious, you know, what kind of features are expanded into it to allow a better collaboration remotely? 


Alexander: Yeah, for sure. I mean, so, there’s a lot of like, really awesome research about this. And I think there’s gonna be even more great research over the coming years. But when you look at what people find hard about working remotely, it’s not actually getting work done. Like a lot of people are getting even more work done than before. The challenges for individual contributors tend to be like, maybe loneliness, especially if you’re younger, like you’re out of school, right? Like you move to a city so that you could like make friends and not feel like you can’t, right, that sucks. Maybe it’s forming new relationships, onboarding, maybe cheap teams changing up? And so when we look at what, what is it about the office that helps that happen, it’s not actually the fact that you’re you’re sitting in the same room or something, it’s the fact that you can have conversations outside of your transactional meetings, right? There’s like maybe 21 bouts of small talk throughout a week for an average person in an office. And that’s what’s missing. When you’re remote. Those conversations lead to trust, trust leads to higher productivity. So as a leader, like you’re trying to build trust in your team, and you have Zoom, zoom is great for getting work done. But it’s not leading to those smaller trust building conversations. And, you know, we’ve seen a bunch of leaders posting like happy hours week after week, and it works well, the first two weeks, and then people stop showing up, right? And it’s sort of a limit to what you can do with like scheduled programming. And that’s why we think, Hey, you used to have an office, and now you need a virtual office. So happy to talk about features.


JC: Yeah, well, that’s interesting, because, okay, so and again, correct me if I’m wrong here, because a lot of people have, let’s say, Slack, for example. Right? But those are typically going to be more professional talks. Are you saying that essentially, one of the features is that it allows people that have completely unrelated like, work, you know, personal work, discussions, whatever, you know, in a format, like on their screen where they can just kind of chit chat, like, you know, like water cooler style? Like, is that kind of what you’re saying as well to kind of help create that more personal connection?


Alexander: Yeah, basically, our goal as a company is to create the space for conversations of between like two and three people. So like, small amount, the whole company, conversations between two and three people, where you talk about something that wasn’t like pre-planned or transactional, so it could be like, “Hey, how your kids?” could be, “Hey, how’s your dog?” It could also be like, hey, what’s the latest on this project? As well, like, that’s fine. But we view success is when we’ve had those conversations start happening on your team, where they weren’t happening as much before, funnily enough, like, if you look at the statistics, when COVID started, there was like an uptick in the amount of emails that were sent across teams by like, 25%. And that lasted for about three months. And this is across industries, not just tech, we were like, Okay, we’re gonna email more because like, we’re not getting stuff done, right? And that didn’t last it was like super tiring. And then what we ended up with instead, is an increase in video meeting load by like, 20%. Right? No surprise, six months later, Zoom fatigue hits, and everyone’s like, I don’t want any more video calls. Right? And so we still haven’t figured out how to get those, those small group casual conversations going. And that’s, that’s what we enable. I’ll tell you the story. There’s, we’ve spent a lot of time iterating and figuring out how to enable that – fun fact water cooler conversations like those don’t actually work. Everyone’s tried like water cooler stuff. And, you know, this just people just don’t use them. It’s it doesn’t make sense when you’re remote.


JC: That’s interesting. So then, does your software also include the ability for the actual professional conversations like I guess, for example, is it a separate software? Like we have slack, right? Okay. So with your software, they’ll be like, Okay, well, you can transfer to this, which is like Slack, you can do all your professional stuff, and you can still operate like real company, but then additionally has these more personal features to it, or is it like, no, it’s a whole separate thing?


Alexander: No. So that’s like kind of a great end state that we’re aiming for. But if you think about when slack was first adopted, like, I don’t know, when you folks got on Slack, maybe slack was probably dominant. It’s been dominant for ages. But when teams were first adopting slack, they weren’t thinking hey were gonna, like move our entire, like, I don’t know, Yammer or over to this, right? They were just like, oh, like these other people at my workplace are like laughing about these GIFs that are being sent around. And like, I’m missing out. So I want to download this tool too. So I’m not missing out on the gifts, right? And then over time, they get adoption for that. And then it’s like, well, actually, that’s pretty good tool, let’s do more and more work in here. And then slack slowly took over that way. And now slack is a, like, if you start a new company, what are you gonna do, you’re gonna, like, register your company, or whatever, and you’re gonna, you’re gonna open a Slack, right? So that’s kind of the approach that we’re taking here. Remotion can help your team be more productive. And when the pandemic first hit, that was actually how we were marketing, our tool was like, Hey, this is going to help your team more productive by enabling shorter conversations that are unscheduled, so you can cancel those meetings. But what happened is, as the as teams started figuring out how to work remotely during the pandemic, as all our competition got their act together, and as people resume fatigue, the value proposition of being more productive through more short conversations started to be really bad. It wasn’t even like a neutral value proposition people like actively did not want it. And this is something we kind of expected, although it happened faster than we thought. And now we’re what we’re building is we’re solving for the thing that people know is the hardest problem, which is, hey, how do I connect with my team or as a leader? How do I structure an environment where my team can naturally build relationships? And eventually, when teams adopt Remotion, they start doing all their work in Remotion. But we don’t pitch it that way. At all know, we’re like, Hey, you’re part of your team building diet, like, you know, you’re gonna do a happy hour once a month.


JC: ..progresses in that way?


Alexander: Totally yeah


JC: Got it. Okay, so who’s your perfect type of client? I mean, I know you obviously could something like this could work with any industry, but like, Who do you guys really, really like working with? Or which industry? Do you find gravitate has been gravitating towards this more than others?


Alexander: Yeah, for sure. So I mean, it’s actually been kind of interesting making that choice. We have customers from all over the world across a variety of industries from like architecture, even legal firms, and of course, tech firms. But as we’ve been sort of looking at the numbers, and figuring out what works best, it’s pretty clear right now that our focus should be on tech firms or tech, adjacent firms, like, you know, firms, maybe like your firm would still make sense for us, right? Even though you’re not like a pure software play. And then within those, the size that makes the most sense, for us, the moment is somewhere between like 11 and 80 people somewhere that range pretty wide range, but not less than 10 people, and 250 plus, we have some customers, but it’s harder for remote to work there. And then our, you know, it’s a multiplayer product, but the person who we need to champion our product tends to be a leader, someone who’s actually thinking about how the team works and the team culture on a day to day basis. So if I was gonna tell you, my perfect person, find me an engineering co founder at like a 50 person company who thinks about their team’s culture, and I would I would love to talk to that person. 


JC: And then what about what about like, sales managers? Right? Because I know that the sales, sales departments sometimes struggle, especially remotely to have those kinds of relationships. And because they’re very active, like, those personalities are very active. And those personalities typically struggle more being remote than most. So what about sales? 


Alexander: Totally. the sort of the top three functions that user emotion are say, so engineering first, then sales, and then operations, like, you know, customer support or something. So sales is right up there. Now, hopefully I’m not going to offend anyone on this podcast, and I’m sure you’ll edit me out if this is going to be offensive. But one of the dynamics we’ve observed is that at a 50 person, company or 80 person company, we start in one function, and then the entire companies are Remotion. But how that works depends on who uses Remotion first. So I’m a product manager by training. Let me tell you something, you ask an engineer, if they want to spend more time talking to me, and they don’t?


JC: Yeah, that’s what I thought like Engineering talk to people?


Alexander: So here’s the thing. And again, this is, you know, we’re having fun with this. But nobody wants to spend more time talking to their PM. And so if you have the pm champion, a communication tool, no one’s down. Yeah, right. But everyone wants to spend more time talking to people who are billing software at a software company, right, the PMs want to talk to them. The designers want to talk to them. The salespeople want to talk to them, too. Right?


JC: Yeah true, questions from their prospects – they can answer.


Alexander: Totally. So the reason that we like targeting engineering so much is because they are a Nexus from which we can grow. We actually have some really successful sales deployments, yet, even bigger companies, too. But we’ve noticed that those tend to stay more within sales, and they don’t tend to spread to other orgs as much I think, because of these dynamics we just talked about.


JC: I bet you didn’t see that happening when you first start the software. Yeah, but that’d be like a really interesting discovery, right?


Alexander: No, it was super interesting. And, you know, I, you know, this is my, I guess, my second startup, but the first one failed so badly. I think of it as my first. And you know, for me, it’s been kind of interesting, because at the beginning, I was like, yeah, like Remotion is for anyone who works remotely and I wasn’t thinking about, like, which function should we land at? I wasn’t thinking about what company size made sense. It was just like anyone should use this. And it’s, it’s sort of been an increase in discipline that we’ve been gradually building that helps us distribute the product better, and also build better features.


JC: What is that you have your target demographic down? It takes time, right? I mean, I started my agency like 11 years ago. And you know, we started off just like every other agency doing everything for everyone, right? Because they kept asking for more stuff. Like we actually only started off with one service, but we just kept saying, yes, yes, yes, yes. And then eventually, you know, that growth curve kind of starts to peak and you’re like, Alright, now you kind of want to start saying no, no, right? And then you start dialing on exactly like who your your perfect audiences. So I get that I just, I just, I had a feeling that there’s no way you anticipated Engineering, being the department that was gonna end up being the the growth point in an organization, but I follow the logic, right? There’s no way I would have called I would have lost all my money, if I if I had to bet on i, right? I think that’s super interesting. It makes sense. So on that note, then let’s talk… you got your target demographic dining, find you to that point, where you understand who your most your best audiences, obviously, like you said, anyone could use this, right? A lot of big companies could use this and small ones, too. But you figured out who it is. So what are you doing right now? Cuz I’m a marketing guy. I like to hear what people are doing for marketing. What are you doing right now to get the word out- you’re on a podcast, that’s one. Okay. What else? How are you getting a hold of engineers in the tech space?


Alexander: Totally. And you know, a lot of this is pretty new to us, like the focusing in on engineering specifically is happening kind of like as we speak. So still early stages here. But the thing that works, the best that we think will continue to work. scalably is content content seems to be working pretty well. For us. We have a unusual point of view on remote work in many ways. For example, blog posts coming out next week about what we call objective based recruiting, happy to talk about if you’re interested, but the content seems to be a good source of acquisition for us. And we’re trying to figure out how to scale that viral loops, also very effective and incredibly challenging for us. So you know, viral loop is basically when you give someone a reason to share, and then you make it easy to share, our product is really effective at spreading within a company. But once we are basically the tool for the company, we don’t spread to the next company unless people get drinks together and talk about it, which doesn’t happen as much during COVID. And so we’re trying to figure out, like, you know, how can we let people take the value that they get within their company promotion and use that across companies? So that’s, you know, viral loops, the second answer there. And the third thing that we’re beginning to test is actually, hey, like, we have this hypothesis around sales, you know, maybe not the number one hypothesis for target audience. But it’s interesting, let’s dig in. But we don’t seem to be acquiring as many teams that are in sales. So we’re actually starting to test like light outbound, more targeted, sort of performance marketing, very, very early experiments, but just so we can test other hypotheses with that.


JC: Is there anything you’ve done? That absolutely did not work? Like, you’re like, I tried this marketing, and it completely failed, like nobody can..


Alexander: No, I mean, just so we’re learning, right? We’re really learning that. Just to give you an example of how much like we fell flat on our faces so many times. So the way this company, the way we even got started. And so we’ve raised the series A now. We’ve raised $13 million, which still feels pretty…


JC: Congratulations!


Alexander: Thank you, although I will say like in today’s climate, that’s like, not the same number as it was. But, you know, the way that that happened was, we had this idea, we had this product, COVID hid and we’re like, wow, our products not ready. But we just feel bad not letting people use this because this is useful. So we put it out on a website called Product Hunt, which you probably know, and a bunch of people just signed up, we had no idea what we’re doing, we just put it there, and a bunch of people signed up. And that usage led to our Series A right? But we didn’t earn that usage. When I think about it, we just put our product on a site and like people came, it’s like the engineer screen. And so I remember the first few cycles of goal setting after the product launch, we’re like, cool, we’re just gonna assume the line will keep going up. And it didn’t, because we didn’t do anything. We just assume that it would keep going up because people would talk about it. And so we’ve really had to learn, you know, what are the things that work? What are the things that don’t work and how to create like discipline around getting things done? So I realized you asked, like, what doesn’t work? Well, obviously doing nothing. Yeah.


JC: Yeah, sitting there and praying doesn’t work. It turns out.


Alexander: Yeah and another example of something that has had a lot less results than we thought was we tried a bunch of campaigns to create shareable content around Remotion. So like, hey, you Remotion. Remotion gives you this dock so you can see your team and who’s around. And like, we try to help people feel like more than just green dots, you can take little selfies and like some teams take it every day, other teams take them less often. The key is like to not be on live video, but to still feel present. And so we tried a bunch of campaigns around getting people to share that content. And we had a limited amount of sharing. And then those limited number of shares led to very few conversions. And at the end of the day, we did the math, and we’re like, yeah, like, we’re still a small company, our customer base is quite small, any sort of one off viral campaign, it’s just not going to yield meaningful results. And so, you know, we, again, we’ve, we’ve just gotten more disciplined around doing the math around like how much we think something can yield. And at this point in time, the biggest thing that we have to figure out is companies how to get more traffic, you know, that’s a bigger problem than like the virality of the product.


JC: You know, I’ve always said that, you know, the great thing about starting a software company is that, you know, after you build it, and you’re always there’s always iterations, don’t get me wrong, right. But like, 80% of your equation is marketing for the most part after that, because like, what else? Like what are you doing? There’s no warehouse of overhead, you know, you don’t have shipping departments like, like, mostly it’s like, okay, we built it now. It’s like, well, now it’s all marketing. Well, let’s talk about the future here, right? It’s the Future of Biztech, gotta ask the question, my first question about the future is that, where do you see your industry going? Right. So, you know, a lot of the different software’s that fall into your, you know, realm right out there, where do you see like that five year Future? Right, all things considered with, you know, between you and your competitors? Where do you see things going as a whole? Do you see any, you know, legislation affecting anything? Do you see demographics or politics affecting anything? Do you see technology? Really, you know, like, any kind of AI that’s gonna come in and disrupt? You know, if you had a thought experiment, where do you see your industry going in five years?


Alexander: Totally. So I think the the biggest thing, and it’s pretty obvious that will affect our industry, is the change in how many companies are working remotely. And how many companies are working hybrid. So, you know, when we started the company, we assumed this was just going to be a really a long journey of helping more companies become remote. And that’s because you know, I personally care about that, as an immigrant. Like the jobs in America are awesome. That’s why I’m here, I want to move eventually, right? And we thought we’d be kind of helping push the market and COVID hit, and now everyone’s working remotely, who can, of course, who has like a knowledge worker type job. And now as COVID is reopening, you know, omicron permitting, we’re starting to see our customer base shift to, you know, okay, we because remember, our customer bases, people who want a virtual office, so they like the idea of an office and like talking without having a scheduled meeting, we’re seeing that a lot of those people who have people in the same cities are opening co working spaces, or reopening offices, right? And we think that that’s going to be the majority of teams who who can do so they’re going to be teams who like, Hey, we’re gonna hire the best talent that we can, if they’re not in the same city, fine. We’re hiring you anyways. But if you are in the same city, let’s hang out once a week, let’s hang out twice a week. And so we think that the market is going to move to a predominantly hybrid model. And that’s going to be yet another thing to learn, like, teams still haven’t figured out fully how to work remotely. Now up, but there’s gonna be a whole nother thing. Because when you have hybrid, you all of a sudden have a second class citizen problem, like, Hey, we got people in the office, you know, they’re naturally becoming friends eating lunch together, and we’ve got folks who aren’t in the office, how do we give them equal access to information, how to give them equal access to promotion, to relationships. And this is going to be a major problem, because demographically, there are differences in for example, how likely it is that a man or woman want to come into the office when they’re a parenting age, for example. So there’s a lot of big differences that are going to really matter. And so the way that I see our industry evolving is right now we have a bunch of tools. Some of them are, are great for remote work. Some of them are great for hybrid work. And I think that we’re going to kind of see a split, where we’re going to have some of the heavyweight tools out there in the space, we call it the virtual office space, by the way, they’re going to remain for very remote first companies. And I think most people like seeing other people in real life sometimes. So we’re going to have a different set of tools kind of going for that market. And that’s going to be us. Yeah, happy to share more about that. But that’s how..


JC: How do you see this? This is a question one, how do you see the you know, web 3 metaverse? You know, playing into this right? I mean, right now you know, you have Facebook coming out with you know, they’re you know, there’s virtual land that virtual land now is gonna turn to virtual office buildings and stuff like where do you see this? And are you are you have any plans, like, we’ll talk about you personally, now your company, but as your company have any plans to take advantage of what is most likely going to be a gold rush into a virtual environment completely? You know, I mean, the right now you got the big clunky, you know, Oculus, you know, headsets right? But eventually that tech will get down to maybe glasses. So you know, where do you see you guys going in the future when it comes to that? Are you going to try to capitalize on that?


Alexander: Yeah, I mean, maybe I could summarize my point of view by saying that I’m more interested in augmented reality than virtual reality, fleshing this out a little bit. I might be one of the more crypto-verse that you have on the show. You know, I’m really interested in how crypto is leading to componentization of the financial stack. But as for, you know, myself seeing people spending most of the time in a virtual space, you know, the entire premise of Remotion is that people like seeing other people, and they like seeing them in real life or an unscheduled matters. And I think that’s going to continue to be true. So I personally believe that as, especially as COVID subsides, and people adopt more hybrid strategies, most of the the product experiences that will be successful will be experiences that incorporate physical presence in an office, and your remote teammates in a way that is subtle and elegant. So you’re not like taking a headset off to talk to your neighbor in the office, right? So Remotion right now, I totally wish I could screen share here, but it’s podcast. It’s a very, very lightweight experience, it sort of sits to the side of your screen, kind of like your taskbar in Windows or your dock on macOS.


JC: Because I think a lot of people were thinking it would take up their screen.


Alexander: No, it’s super light. And the reason we built it that way, even though like maybe it makes it less powerful for a fully remote team, is because we’re thinking ahead to when people are going to be in an office and you’ve got your your colleague, for you know, I was gonna say four meters, let’s say 12 feet away from you. And then you’ve got some remote people, and you want to keep both of those equally present in your mind. And so we started there, because everyone has a laptop already who’s working in this job? When AR technology becomes prevalent we will very likely adopt that. But I don’t see us getting down to the VR metaverse realm.


JC: Interesting. Okay, personal question here before we wrap up? Sure. When you were kid, like, what was your dream? Like? What did you want to do when you grew up? So to speak? And then is this it? And if not, how did it like how that path?


Alexander: Yeah, it’s crazy. So when I was kid, well, first, I want to be an astronaut. Then I realized I was good at math. And I wanted to build things that flew. And you know, I was pretty typical young boy, I wanted to build fighter jets and missiles. And I thought America had the best ones. And that’s when I decided that I would do my engineering school English, and come to America. And that’s why I came here. And then I remember freshman year, I was, you know, slightly tooting my own horn. But I was an incredibly qualified freshman grad, I’d already like spent the summer building jet engines for the Royal Navy in the UK and everything. I remember going to the career fair, and like talking about and like, Look, I’ve done all this stuff. And I’m like, 18, like, you should hire me. And they’re like, but you’re not American, we can’t give you clearance. We don’t we want to make you know, we’re not going to hire you. And maybe if we do, it’ll be for commercial aircraft. And that’s when I started really questioning my interests, and ended up you know, realizing that what I liked most about engineering was software, programming. And then I realized, okay, I can go down this space. And as I started studying software, I realized I really enjoyed human computer interaction. And ultimately, what I found most fulfilling in my life is two things. First, is like building things and giving them to people. Like I love doing onboarding calls for a product we still do today. And I still do, because hearing someone like this morning, tell me like, wow, this is awesome. That’s gonna help me so much like that really motivates me. And the second thing that I really started to enjoy is, is building teams. When I was in college, I tried to start a few clubs and totally failed. I just don’t know, I didn’t know how to do it. And then as a product manager at Dropbox, I kind of saw a little bit how it could work and got really interested in that as a theme. And so, you know, I’d say this is totally what I’m happy to be doing. But it’s not really it’s not the same as what I thought I’d be doing when I was 14.


JC: No, but I mean, I can relate. I thought I was to be a fighter pilot for a long time as I looked into it. Yeah. I went to I went to Embry-Riddle, which was nice. You’re familiar. 


Alexander: Yeah. I applied to Embry Riddle.


JC: Yeah, it was a tough school. And then I ended up transferring out to CU Boulder, which also had a really good program as well. But yeah, it’s interesting that I got in the market. I was like, I’ve never looked back, right. This is this is my jam.


Alexander: Yeah, at some point, I’d love to just I realize I’ve kind of like given snippets of what Remotion is I would love to give a tangible, like explanation of what it is at some point.


JC: Let’s give an example real quick. Before we wrap up, for sure. 


Alexander: Cool. Okay. So, you know, basically, again, summarizing, as a leader, your goal is to help your team build relationships, the thesis we have is that those are built with small group conversations that are not about like a specific work items or like casual. And so Remotion gives your team space to have those and we’ve tried a thousand things. But the number one thing that you can think about is like the best example for how it works is we create co working rooms for your team. So like in an office, you’d sit around a table, maybe there’d be a stereo playing some music, and so you’re not talking, but the music creates a shared experience. And then it’s super easy to just be like, Oh, hey, so what do you think of the game and Remotion crates, the same thing. So you get Remotion, you get this little dock that shows your team. And in that dock, there are rooms with music playing that’s shared by everyone. And people will hang out on you with their cameras off for hours every day. And then from there, it’s super easy to unmute, and you end up finding your team is just talking way more than they were before. And you can start canceling meetings and they start bonding more. So that’s what our product provides.


JC: That’s actually really cool, right? So you can share some music. All right. That’s a great example because I want to check this out. We’ll talk after this. I want to demo some of this here. I have some interest here. This is cool. How can people reach you personally, or the company if they are interested in the product or service or high level deals? I’m trying to talk to you.


Alexander: Yeah, sounds good. So our website is Remotion.com and I am alexander@remotion.com. Feel free to email me just mentioned that it’s, you know, from the podcast, super happy to chat about anything, really. And otherwise, I’m @Embirico on Twitter. It’s E-M-B-I-R-I-C-O and I’d love to chat.


JC: Awesome. And listen, for everyone else listening out there. Again, if you’d like to hear today, be sure to subscribe to this podcast and give it a five star rating with a little bit of comments behind it. So other techies like us can find it and enjoy learning about all these amazing and helpful b2b software’s on the market today. Alexander, thank you so much for being on the show. I’m very interested in your software. And I look forward to my own little demo with it.


Alexander: Thanks for having me, JC.


JC: Bye




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