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Maybe it was the Guns N’ Roses pumping from the speakers. Or maybe it was the spell of Dubai itself, a newly minted megalopolis whose explosion from the Arabian sands screamed that the past was dead and the future had arrived. Whatever it was, when Dirk Ahlborn launched into his speech at the Middle East Rail conference in March, he basically gave the roomful of executives the finger. “There hasn’t been any real innovation in the rail industry for—I don’t know how long,” he said. “Either disrupt yourself or you are going to be disrupted.”

The audience sitting attentively in the convention hall included men in traditional dishdashas and women in black abayas. Other attendees wore suits and ties or even heels and short skirts. Together they formed the industry’s elite, people who built trains and ran railways around the world, while Ahlborn was the CEO of a startup, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), that hadn’t carried a single passenger or laid an inch of track.

But restraint doesn’t come naturally to Ahlborn, who wore, beneath his black suit, a white shirt open several buttons from the collar. Tall, with thinning brown hair and ruddy cheeks, Ahlborn began to pace the stage, TED-talk style, as he explained his vision for the future of transportation. “What is the hyperloop?” he asked. “It is a capsule, full of people, in a tube, elevated on pylons, going really fast. It’s that simple.”

Hyperloop capsules would use either a magnetic field or a continuous blast of compressed air to float above the bottom of the tube. Pumps would remove most of the tube’s air, creating an extremely low-pressure environment. Minimal air means minimal friction, so the capsules would travel at up to 760 miles per hour, powered entirely by solar panels. “How would your life be if you could travel 600 kilometers in half an hour, with a ticket price of $30?” Ahlborn asked. “If we achieve that, we really change the way we live.”

Dirk Ahlborn

The hyperloop concept isn’t just a fantasy, says ­Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ founder Dirk Ahlborn, shown here near the Dubai Metro. “It’s not like we want to invent an antigravity device.”

Ah, the hyperloop—the same scheme that Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, famously proposed in a white paper back in August 2013. The pronouncement incinerated the Internet, with some awe and lots of are-you-kidding? The technical challenges, while daunting, were poten­tially solvable, engineers opined. But economists estimated that Musk’s projected cost of $6 billion to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles was lowballed by a factor of 10 or more, not least because the cost for acquiring land for the route was grossly underestimated. The hype faded—but the outlandish idea was still alive.

By the end of the year, Ahlborn had launched HTT. In June 2014, Hyperloop Technologies (HT) entered the field, founded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar and former SpaceX rocket engineer Brogan Bam­Brogan. And this past January, Musk himself was back, tweeting his intention to build a hyperloop test track, possibly in Texas. The two startups announced their own test-track plans shortly thereafter, with both hoping to break ground by 2023. The race for near-supersonic land travel was on.

Hyperloop proponents face uncountable hurdles—technological, political, and financial. But the massive challenges seem to inspire rather than intimidate them. The hyperloop, they believe, will be an entirely new form of transportation, one that is quicker, cheaper, and more fuel efficient than anything that has come before. “If you think about the things that have been most exciting in history, that have captured headlines, it’s humans taking flight, ­Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, going into orbit and to the moon,” said XPRIZE Foundation chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis, who sits on HT’s board of directors. “We revel in moving people faster and farther than ever before, and hyperloop is in that same vein but in a different dimension.”

In Dubai, Ahlborn finished his presentation, and the audience applauded enthusiastically. He stepped down from the stage, and a man in a traditional white robe approached. I saw that he was Saqqaf AlAttas, a manager with Etihad Rail DB, which oversees operations for the United Arab Emirates national railway. He shook Ahlborn’s hand. “Everything starts with a dream,” AlAttas said. “And from what I saw, the hyperloop is not just a dream. It is already here.”


In reality, Ahlborn is not a deep-pocketed tech magnate—at least not any longer. Sure, the 38-year-old had been an entrepreneur since he was 18. And he had made millions as, among other things, the CEO of a pellet stove company. Subsequently, though, he lost his fortune when real estate investments tanked in the financial crisis. While he may have looked like Stark in Dubai, back home he was renting his place on Airbnb.

The hyperloop could be an entirely new form of transportation–one that is quicker, cheaper, and more fuel efficient than anything that has come before.

Ahlborn scouted the trade-show floor for new converts. “We are a company of the people,” he explained to one prospect. “We’re crowd-powered.” The message resonated. A software engineer agreed to do a passenger-­flow simulation for free. A building-materials vendor suggested alternatives to concrete. Paul Priestman, who recently designed the cars for the London Underground’s New Tube project, said his company could help with visual concepts. And Stephen Bradbury-Knight, a vice president of mobility and rail for the security-­services provider TÜV Rheinland, offered to think about safety standards.

The next day, Ahlborn was joined by an HTT team member, a former Italian pop star-turned-tech entrepreneur, Gabriele ­“Bibop” Gresta. The three of us hopped onto the new Dubai metro and rode through a canyon of geometrically contorted skyscrapers. The ice-pick tip of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, spiked above the skyline. We disembarked at the Palm Jumeirah, a tree-shaped archipelago of artificial islands, and walked into the perfumed lobby of an expensive hotel. There we met a jocular Italian named Giuseppe Ugge, whose job, he told me, was to introduce the United Arab Emirates royal family to foreign business executives with ideas to sell.

Alhborn was ready. Dubai would be the perfect location for a hyperloop, he said. Land is expensive in California—as it is near every major city in the United States and Europe—and navigating the gauntlet of regulatory and political hurdles will take years, if not decades. Dubai, in contrast, has abundant empty land, and a massive project can be built there with the say-so of a single person: Sheikh Mohammed, the emir of Dubai. Also, Ahlborn reminded Ugge, Dubai will host the World Expo in 2023. Since the first world’s fair in 1851, the expo has introduced millions of people to such technological wonders as the telephone, typewriter, escalator, and talking films. Dubai, Ahlborn proposed, could be where the hyperloop makes its world debut.

Send me your plan, Ugge said, “and if it is good, we can introduce you.”


At the end of an industrial block in Los Angeles, past the PlayPen strip club and a homeless man who snoozed facedown amid a collection of marijuana canisters, I entered the headquarters of BamBrogan and Pishevar’s Hyperloop Technologies. I blinked at the incongruent scene inside—6,500 square feet of open warehouse illuminated by skylights and framed by ­exposed brick walls. Employees tapped at computers and scribbled on whiteboards.

Hyperloop Track

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to break ground in 2023 on a 5-mile track that will serve Quay Valley, a real-estate development in California. It will start carrying passengers as soon as 2023.

Whereas HTT has no office, no salaried employees, and essentially no cash resources, HT has a full-time staff of more than 30 people and $10 million in seed funding, which it raised in just a few months. The company aims to hit $80 million by the end of this year. (Pishevar, who is well on his way to becoming a billionaire thanks to investments in companies like Uber and Airbnb, pledged to put up half the money if needed.) The company has also recruited a well-­connected board of directors. In addition to Diamandis, it includes political operative Jim Messina, who master­minded President Obama’s 2012 campaign, and entrepreneur David Sacks, the founding COO of PayPal.

It was April, not long after I’d returned from Dubai. BamBrogan strode up, a lanky 43-year-old whose thick mustache and twink­ling eyes made him look like the ringmaster of some steampunk circus. When I asked about the skeleton key dangling from a lanyard around his neck, he cryptically pronounced, “This is the key to anything but not everything.” Mischievous air aside, BamBrogan is a serious engineer: At SpaceX, he had led the early design of the Dragon spacecraft and the upper-stage engine of the Falcon 1 rocket.

The hyperloop, Bam­Brogan told me, was actually the latest iteration of an idea that has tempted engineers for more than a century: Put a train in a tube and remove most or all of the air. Rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard proposed the basic plan for what is known as a vacuum-tube transportation system in 1904. In 1969, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation wrote in Popular Science that the government was studying several “tube-­vehicle system” concepts. Both HT and HTT are now pursuing the same notion.

The companies envision depressurizing the hyper­loop tube to about 100 pascals—not a total vacuum, but 1/1000 of the natural atmospheric pressure at Earth’s surface. With so little air to push out of the way, the capsule requires very little energy to attain near-­supersonic speed. Solar panels atop the tubes, charging the equivalent of about five Tesla Model S batteries per capsule, should provide sufficient power to run the entire system.

Engineer Sandeep Sovani, working independently from HT and HTT, recently ran hyperloop airflow simulations for the software company Ansys. The overall concept is valid and has great promise, Sovani says. “I think tube transportation technologies are to this century what railways were to the 19th century.”

The calming vibe was carefully engineered. First-time passengers, after all, would be anxious about riding a bullet through the barrel of the world’s longest gun.

Implementing the relatively simple idea, however, will be tough. To move the capsules through the tubes, HT is investigating the use of linear induction motors, which would use the repulsive magnetic force between the hyperloop capsule and the tube floor to generate propulsion. Subway systems and roller coasters already use such motors, so BamBrogan initially thought he could buy the primary components off the shelf. But because those systems top out at around 70 miles per hour, not 700, existing technology probably won’t work. “We would rather invent as few things as we need to,” BamBrogan said, “but it looks like we may go in the direction of customizing a system.”

At full speed, hyperloop capsules won’t use wheels, so HTT may generate a magnetic field in order to levitate them. This is a proven technology: Witness maglev projects like Shanghai’s Transrapid; its trains can hit 268 miles per hour. The problem is cost. Maglev trains are more expensive to build than conventional ones—according to one source, Transrapid cost $63.2 million per mile of track—and if HTT has a radical idea to slash that expense, Ahlborn hasn’t revealed it yet.

Both companies are also investigating a different strategy: air bearings. Jets of air blasting down from beneath the capsules would enable them to skim through the tube like a puck streaking across an air-hockey table. Computer designers currently use air bearings to float the spinning platters inside hard drives, and manufacturers use them to levitate heavy objects in factories so they are easier to manipulate. Air bearings make theoretical sense in vehicles too—they’re low friction and don’t wear out the way wheels would. The U.S. Air Force successfully tested air bearings on rocket sleds back in the 1960s. HT could learn from those experiments, BamBrogan said, but the sleds traveled on a monorail track and so were a fundamentally different type of vehicle. The hyperloop’s bearings, like its motors, will need to be invented almost from scratch.

Since a hyperloop tube would not be totally depressurized, the air that remains poses yet another engineering challenge. If the capsule fits snugly inside the tube, it would have to push an increasingly high-pressure mass of air ahead of it, a phenomenon known as pistoning. (Imagine a plunger pushing liquid through a syringe.) One solution, Musk suggested, would be to make the tube’s diameter roughly twice the width of the capsule so some of the air could pass around it. He also proposed mounting a giant compressor on the front of the vehicle. The compressor would suck in air and pack it down to perhaps 1/20 of the volume, then both blast it out through the air bearings and pump it into the tunnel behind the capsule.

Vacuum Train

Robert Goddard proposed the vacuum train as a freshman at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1904. As he wrote later, “The possibilities of this method of travel are startling…a running time from Boston to New York of ten minutes is perfectly possible.”

HT is using Musk’s 2-to-1 tube-to-capsule ratio as the starting point for its design. The company is also studying how to incorporate an air compressor. Josh Giegel, an HT engineer, showed me a tiny piece of twisted metal that he had recently 3-D printed in the possible shape of a hyperloop compressor blade. He would soon be testing it in a wind tunnel behind the office.

But when aerospace engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research­ Center did an independent analysis of the hyperloop concept, they concluded that to prevent pistoning, the tube would likely need to be four times the width of the capsule, even with a compressor. The finding didn’t invalidate the hyperloop concept, Justin Gray, a member of the NASA team, explained when I phoned him at Glenn. But if a tube hundreds of miles long needed to be twice as wide as projected, the cost of construction would balloon.

Throughout my visit, BamBrogan ping-ponged between an entrepreneur’s brashness and an engineer’s caution. “I don’t think anybody thinks that hyperloop is a bad idea,” he said. “But a few people do think hyper­loop won’t exist or can’t exist.” That’s why the company is gunning to build a test loop as soon as possible. A successful demonstration, BamBrogan said, would be “our Kitty Hawk moment, when the thing flies.”


Silicon Beach, located across town from HT’s headquarters, hosts Google, Yahoo, Snapchat, and hundreds of other tech startups. Long before those companies, though, the area was home to a different kind of entrepreneur: the aviator Howard Hughes. The cavernous wood-paneled hangar where he once built planes now holds a full-scale hyperloop simulator. Eight feet wide and ringed by glowing white lights, it looks like a giant Cheerio crossed with a portal to the afterlife. I stepped into the capsule and sat down next to Marta Nowak, an architect involved in the design. “OK,” she said, “are you ready to take a ride?”

The lights in the hangar dimmed. Atmospheric music began to play, with piano arpeggios dancing gracefully on top. “We are still in the station; the doors just closed,” Nowak said. Then, she informed me, the capsule began accelerating. Hyperloop critics have complained that the ride would be nausea-­inducing—”New Super-Fast Transport System Powered by Passengers’ Screams,” The Onion quipped. But according to Nowak, passengers would actually feel and hear very little due to the gradual acceleration—it would take several minutes to reach full speed—and broad turns. The experience would be like flying in a plane at 30,000 feet, only quieter. The lighting in the simulator was low and purplish. “We can look back and see our fellow passengers,” Nowak said, and I glanced over my shoulder at a dozen rows of seats extending behind me.

Hyperloop tubes are solid, eliminating any view, so instead of windows, the builders installed flat-panel displays on the capsule walls. They started out showing starry skies, and then the cabin brightened and the scenery changed to farmland, a lake, and a forest streaking by. When we reached our destination, I felt like I had time-traveled in a high-end spa. Nowak said the calming vibe was carefully engineered. First-time passengers, after all, would be anxious about riding a bullet through the barrel of the world’s longest gun. “If people try the hyperloop once and like it, they are going to take it again,” Nowak said. “But if they don’t….”

Looking To Get From San Francisco To Los Angeles? Here’s How Long It’ll Take

Hyperloop might be fast, but riders will still need to reach a station, board a capsule, and travel to their final destinations. Those extra elements will slow down the 30-minute dream. But will hyperloop beat other options anyway? To find out, we engineered an imaginary race. Six people leave an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District and meet in Highland Park, Los Angeles, to settle a dispute over the best tacos on the West Coast. Each will take a different mode of transit: a train, a plane, a car, the hyperloop, the (also hypothetical) California High-Speed Rail—and a fixed-gear bicycle, the single-speed mainstay of hipster transport.—Katie Peek

The mock-up of the capsule—a Styrofoam-­and-­plywood vessel augmented by a video projector—had been built by post-graduate students in the department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA. Under the direction of architects Craig Hodgetts and David Ross, the students had also created computer models of the station and capsules. The UCLA team collaborated with HTT as part of a program called Suprastudio, which pairs students with industry partners to give them real-world expertise.

I exited the simulator feeling sublime. But to skeptics, such as transportation blogger Alon Levy, my experience might be emblematic: The hyperloop was a mirage—unfeasible and expensive. What’s more, they said, Musk may have had ulterior motives in proposing the concept in the first place. He makes no secret of his disdain for California’s plan to build a $68 billion conventional high-speed rail line. Levy and others suspect that Musk’s objective may have been to erode support by touting the much-sexier hyperloop—look, folks, only $6 billion for a supersonic levitating train!

Whatever Musk’s motivation, the idea is now bigger than him. That’s why a UCLA student told me that she and her friends spent 14 hours a day toiling on prototypes, why BamBrogan and Pishevar are investing so much money, and why HTT’s volunteers comprise something that is more than a company and closer to a movement. They are all infected with the Walt Disney strain of futurism in which you try to engineer a bigger, brighter tomorrow, not merely another smartphone app. In the capsule I asked Nowak if she would be excited to ride for real. “Absolutely,” she said. “We could walk right now to the station, and in 30 minutes have dinner in San Francisco. That’s crazy!”

After the ride I wandered through a door in the rear of the workspace and into an adjacent hangar. It was even more vast­—315,000 square feet of silence and shadows. A cathedral of audacious engineering, this was where Hughes had built the Spruce Goose, whose 320-foot wingspan has never been surpassed.

The plane was flown only once, for a mile, before it was mothballed. An expensive, widely mocked boondoggle, it serves as a cautionary tale for the hyperloop’s creators. But the Spruce Goose, wider than a football field and built almost entirely from wood, is also an inspiration. You might not succeed at building something crazy, something so monumental and complex that most people say it can’t be done. But it is hard to resist the impulse to try.

How To Solve The Pistoning Problem

Air remaining inside the hyperloop tube will pile up in front of the capsule and slow it down. NASA engineers analyzed a potential two-part solution.

Two-Part Solution

1. Let It Blow By

Musk proposed making the tube nearly twice as big as the capsule. This would allow enough room for some, but not all, of the air to flow around the capsule as it speeds through at Mach 0.99.

2. Pump It Through

A compressor can suck air in and pump it out below and behind the capsule. But the air must first be slowed by a diffuser to Mach 0.6. Higher speed requires a bigger diffuser—and a larger capsule.

Bottom Line:

The tube might need to be four times the width of the hyperloop capsule, and the speed should be capped at 620 mph, or roughly Mach 0.80. That would raise the construction costs and add five minutes to an LA to San Francisco trip.

This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Hyped Up.”

Hyperloop Illustration

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How To Use The Sostac® Planning Model And The Race Framework

Marketing plan integrating the RACE Framework alongside PR Smith’s SOSTAC® planning model

Given the increasingly omnichannel nature of marketing today, applying an effective, data-driven approach to your marketing strategy is more important than ever. But it can be difficult finding a structure that works for your team and integrates your objectives across your customers’ journeys. That’s where SOSTAC® and the RACE Framework come in.

For marketers looking to rapidly grow their businesses through an insights-driven, efficient and streamlined marketing strategy, we recommend utilizing the Smart Insights RACE framework to get started. This popular structure enables marketing managers and teams to critically evaluate each stage of their marketing funnels across the customer lifecycle of Plan – Reach – Act – Convert – and Engage.

SOSTAC® is another widely used tool for marketing and business planning.  The positioning of the SOSTAC® planning model divides up the close working that agile digital marketers seek to create between objective setting, situation, and control. That’s where the RACE Framework, which integrates data throughout the planning process, comes in.

The SOSTAC® planning model, which walks through the process of creating and executing a marketing plan, encourages data from the control stage of previous marketing plans to be fed back into future situational analysis. Through this defined structure, strategists and planners using this model will always inform their future objectives with recent learnings. Moreover, both models offer valuable insights for using data in marketing strategy planning today.

In this post, I give an example of how I have applied PR Smith’s SOSTAC® Planning Model – which is my interpretation of SOSTAC®, alongside the RACE Framework.

What is the RACE Framework?

The popular RACE Framework has been a strategic jumping-board for marketers and managers to rapidly review and adapt their marketing strategies since 2010. By implementing real-time customer data alongside the latest trends and innovations, marketers can confidently plan, manage, and optimize their customer journies.

The 5-step RACE Framework empowers digital leaders and newbies to track and measure their key customer touchpoints and quickly identify opportunities to build on their existing strategies and tactics to improve their results and accelerate their ROI.

Plus, the RACE Framework can be applied to businesses in any stage of development, with a variety of objectives and resources. For example, our new free guide for businesses looking to adjust their digital marketing strategies during inflation is integrated across RACE, to support marketing leaders to make the right decisions for their marketing strategies.

Structure your marketing plan around a funnel proven to boost performance. Join Smart Insights as a Free Member for instant access to our free digital marketing plan template to hone your skills and drive the results you need.

Free digital marketing plan template

Our popular marketing planning template is structured across the Smart Insights RACE Framework. Join Smart Insights as a Free Member to download our digital marketing plan template today

Access the Free digital marketing plan template

What is SOSTAC®?

Created in the 1990s by writer and speaker PR Smith, the SOSTAC® framework has built an authoritative reputation as the framework of choice for different scales of business including multinational and start-up organizations across the world.

The SOSTAC® process covers six key areas. We will discuss each of these areas in depth, and apply the RACE Framework to find out more.

Situation Analysis






Multichannel marketing growth

If you’re looking for a visual example, the process for creating a digital marketing plan has also been summarised in this Multichannel Marketing Plan infographic. My recommendations cover many of these planning and management activities, but not all, due to space.

Stage 1. SOSTAC® Situation Analysis

Stage 1 of implementing your SOSTAC® planning framework is setting out the situation analysis. The situation should provide an overview of your organization – who you are, what you do, and how you interact and trade online by addressing internal and external factors impacting the business.

This section should be painting a picture of your organization and to do this, consider using some of the following methods to bring this section to life:

Who your digital customers currently are (how do they interact with the brand, the platform/s used, demographic breakdown.

SWOT analysis – what are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the whole organization.

Competitor analysis – who are your competitors? How do they compete? e.g. price, product, customer service, reputation, what are their key differentiators?

Digital channels landscape. list out all the various digital channels used and the success of each for your organization – what’s performing well or not.

Free digital marketing plan template

Our popular marketing planning template is structured across the Smart Insights RACE Framework. Join Smart Insights as a Free Member to download our digital marketing plan template today

Access the Free digital marketing plan template

Below I’ve gone into a bit more detail for a few of these areas:

Digital Customers

An analysis of who your digital audience is should be defined in a section. This is essential to ensure you’re providing a clear picture of existing customers and who you are looking to also target. If you’re operating in a competitive environment, consider including what your online value proposition (OVP) is should you have one?

For example, how do you envision your organization to differentiate itself from the competition? To help define your organizations OVP, David Chaffey recommends the 6Cs of customer motivation framework.

Customers Personas

Creating customer personas helps brings to life who your existing customers are and what their motivations are. Persona creation also helps to get buy-in across your organization in helping to paint a picture and bring to life your customer profiles. To create a series of personas, a majority of this work can be completed by extracting existing data through your CRM system and analytics and then build on this to create a profile picture of your existing customers.

For an e-commerce retailer, information you could consider extracting from your CRM could include:

Male/Female Split – What is the percentage split?

Age profiling – Average age as well as being able to develop categories of age groupings

Location/Address details – Percentage of customers who reside in the UK as well as overseas

Purchase history – Build up a clearer picture on historical purchases, average order value, trends in brand loyalty, products ordered by size

Method of purchase (e.g. credit card, debit card, cheque)

Route to purchase – Were purchases made through a search engine, email newsletter, affiliate website, direct from the site or through the call center, i.e. Mixed-mode

Frequency/Recency – Frequency of purchase?

Based on this data, the next stage is to turn this data into more of a personality that your organization can relate to. For example, I’ve created 2 x personas for a fictional online retailer:

Persona A:

Steve is a 28 yr old professional, renting in London, single and with a high disposable income. He has a keen interest in football and supports a premiership football team. He likes to display his support for his football club every year, buying the clubs latest replica shirt online.

Steve is comfortable in ordering online and engaging with social media to keep up to date with the latest football news and football product launches. As the World Cup provides the chance to showcase international replica shirts, this provides Company X with the chance to engage with Steve to make an additional purchase of an international replica shirt as well as purchasing his favorite club shirt.


Persona B:

Clare is a 33 yr old professional who is in a relationship. She likes to keep up with the latest fashion trends and is comfortable in ordering at her favorite online shop. Her boyfriend is a keen football fan who likes to keep up with football fashion by purchasing the latest football replica shirts of his favorite team. Clare may engage with the hype of the World Cup and this could provide an opportunity for her to make and purchase at Company X for her boyfriend and the International team they choose to support during the tournament.


You can see more examples and guidance in the Smart Insights Persona Toolkit.

SWOT analysis

It’s worth considering creating a SWOT analysis of your organization, thinking laterally by embracing all your internal departments rather than just focusing on the digital marketing department and gathering evidence and interviews on your colleagues, suppliers, customer’s thoughts.

Not only will it provide a better picture to lay out a strategy for your organisation as a whole but it also provides you with the opportunity to interview and build relationships across the organisation.

Dave Chaffey has examples of a marketing SWOT examples in his post where he recommends the TOWs matrix method to link the SWOT forward to strategies.

Stage 2. Objectives

Stage 2 of your digital marketing planning framework should focus on the objective/s of your strategy. Stage 1 looked at the situation analysis which provided an overview for your organization, specifically: who you are, what you do, and how you interact and trade online by addressing internal and external factors impacting your business.

To help create your objectives, I recommend you use two guides to help to create both measurable and realistic goals to achieve for your digital marketing strategy, focusing on the 5 S’s and ensuring you make each objective SMART.

The 5 Ss goals refer to Sell, Serve, Speak, Save and Sizzle which were created by PR Smith and the concept first published it in various online e-learning packages and reference can also be found in the book, Emarketing Excellence. From defining your objectives relating to the 5 S’s to make it measurable, it is important to turn each objective into SMART objectives, which stands for:

Specific – Are you focusing enough on a specific issue or challenge within the organization?

Measurable – How do you plan to assess the performance? Will it be monitored through quantitative or qualitative analysis for example?

Actionable – Will it assist in improving performance if achieved?

Relevant – Is the issue to be addressed within the domain of the digital marketing team?

Time-related – Have you set a specific time period?.

There are several different SMART objectives that can be set for example, lead generation, acquisition or engagement, or retention. For example, if we revisit the fictional online retailer, we can create the following objectives that have been created to follow the SMART formula:

Objective 1. Engagement: Achieve 50% of existing customers to service their online accounts by July 2023.

Objective 2. Acquisition: Increase brand visibility from April 2023 through to July 2023. To be measured through Google analytics.

Objective 3. Engagement: Increase email frequency from one email per quarter to one email per week from May 2023 through to July 2023.

Stage 3. Strategy

Strategy means how do you plan to get there in terms of fulfilling the objectives set. The strategy section should also identify which segments of the market you aim to target with your plan.

We have already identified Company X will be focusing on its key strengths: product range, organizational structure, and global operations (as detailed in the SWOT analysis) whilst remaining realistic to its lack of financial resources in comparison to the competition.

It is recommended Company X develop a site geared for the World Cup which will provide a dedicated section used to service the customer base and to meet and service the objectives set for the strategy. The site will act as a key differentiator from the competition and a reason to visit and carry out a transaction. The strategy will be to outflank competitors to grab market share for world cup online traffic.

To summarise the Objectives set, specific questions have also been raised below to be considered within the strategy:

1. Acquisition

2. Engagement

Achieve 50% of existing customers to service their online accounts by July 2023. Understand our existing customer database and how they interact with the website.

3. Engagement

Increase email frequency from one email per quarter to one email per week from May 2023 through to July 2023. How is the company currently communicating with its existing customer database? Which of our competitors have implemented communication with their customers?

We’ve got marketing tools and templates designed to get you set up using the RACE Framework to plan, manage, and optimize your marketing, and drive the results you need.

All our marketing solutions are integrated across the RACE Framework, so you can be confident that your customer touchpoints are aligned and working efficiently to fill your marketing funnel.

RACE Ahead Of Inflation

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Stage 4. Tactics

Tactics cover the specific tools of the digital mix that you plan to use to realize the objectives of your digital marketing plan. The strategy section should also identify which segments of the market you aim to target with your plan.

We have already identified Company X will be focusing on its key strengths: product range, organizational structure, and global operations (as detailed in the SWOT analysis) whilst remaining realistic to its lack of financial resources in comparison to the competition.

It is recommended Company X develop a microsite geared for the World Cup which will provide a dedicated section used to service the customer base and to meet and service the objectives set for the strategy. Competitor research was completed in stage 1, situation analysis, and a microsite will act as a key differentiator from the competition and provide the foundation to meeting the objectives of the strategy.

Marketing mix to focus on your objectives

To help achieve the objectives above, use the 7PS of the Marketing Mix to focus on the key attributes to be considered by Company X to meet your objectives. The marketing mix also provides a checklist of key areas to focus on:

Product – Company X enjoys global accreditation with the leading sports manufacturers. It, therefore, needs to ensure sufficient stock levels have been secured for each team playing at the World Cup finals.

Price – Review the pricing of World Cup products and to ensure it is consistent with online competitors.

Place – Operating as an online retailer, this provides the main hub for all stock movements utilizing courier companies to increase efficiency in delivering stock to the customer in the quickest time possible.

Promotion – Can utilize many of its online marketing tools available to utilize its effectiveness in promoting the product range to create a unique selling point (USP):

Email marketing: Through past purchase history, set up targeted emails to send to existing customers based on the team they support. Drive team-specific promotions within each email e.g. Buy One Get One Free products, unique discounts on product lines. Also push refer a friend emails with incentive e.g. Send this email to five of your friends and if they register you get a 15% discount off your next order.

Online voucher codes: Set up voucher codes that offer a 10% discount which is time specific to provide reporting (e.g. does the voucher include an expiry date).

Social Media: Utilise the company accounts to engage with other football news accounts and provide information on the latest World Cup products and promotions.

People – Utilise the customer service team to engage with customers should it be needed to provide support for customers who would like to answer questions on delivery of their order, tracking their order. Introduce Live Chat to allow existing and new customers to engage with staff.

Process – The customer would be directed to the website through a referral or recommendation. Locate the product of interest and add to the shopping basket. Register your details online and add your credit card details to complete the purchase. The customer will then receive an automated email response to confirm their registration along with an email to confirm the order. A separate email will be sent to notify the customer when the order has been despatched.

Partnerships – List important strategic relationships with other companies that operate in non-competing sectors that have become an important selling point to differentiate itself from other online competitors.

Marketing tactics

When completing your strategy, you would be going into a lot more detail for each tactic along with specific KPIs for each tactic

Tactic 1: SEO

From the competitor analysis, one of the key weaknesses of Company X over its competitors was a lack of financial muscle. However, SEO does provide the company with a platform to compete head-on, specifically, Search Engine Optimisation.

To understand what a positive impact SEO would offer in terms of increasing brand visibility for this target market, a keyword analysis should be performed, specifically on the Google UK market since ~90% of all searches in many markets are conducted through Google

As with SEO, the keyword research will provide a foundation on what keywords to target with a budget. Much of the competition does not operate a PPC campaign, therefore this is an area to capitalize on, by building traffic to the World Cup site as well as increasing brand visibility.

As with SEO, there will be an ongoing refinement of keywords to target as well as budget to allocate per keyword. Due to stock fluctuations, keyword budgets will need to be paused or activated based on stock volumes and demand for the product.

Tactic 3: Affiliate Marketing

A cost-effective vehicle in driving brand visibility for Company X is the launch of a program. Building your affiliate marketing network is a central component to ensure you’re maximizing opportunities in generating incremental revenue streams through a network of publishers that are active within your program either through lead generation, display, search, or voucher codes.

Tactic 4: Email Marketing

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Stage 5. Action

Stage 5 of your digital marketing planning framework is focused on how to bring your plan to life, to make actionable measures.

The action section covers what needs to be achieved for each of the tactics listed in the previous section of the SOSTAC® plan to realize the objectives of your digital marketing plan.

Case Study to show the tactics used

Continuing with the theme of the football World Cup, we have identified Company X will be focusing on its key strengths: product range, organizational structure, and global operations (as detailed in the SWOT analysis) whilst remaining realistic to its lack of financial resources in comparison to the competition.

For this case study, the following tactics were listed and below each tactic, actions have been included to ensure each has been considered before launch. This is not an exhaustive list but provides an outline to what should be considered:

Tactic 1: SEO

Keyword analysis – What keywords are we targeting?

On-page optimization – Of the targeted keywords, we need to optimize the website pages of the microsite to ensure the best rankings within Google.

Content – Identifying and reaching out to industry-leading bloggers, forums and websites prepared to create guest content and build a relationship to propel your brand’s proposition around the World Cup.

Link building – Bring together a targeted group of websites to target with similar keywords and are seen as high authority sites.

Keyword analysis – What keywords are we targeting?

Budget – What budget has been ring-fenced for PPC?

Landing pages – Do the keywords we are targeting direct customers to the correct webpage.

Product Availability – Are we communicating with our buyers to ensure we are bidding on keywords associated with products available to purchase?

Tactic 3: Affiliate Networks

Affiliate Program – What is the competition doing? e.g. commission tiers, online marketing tools made available to publishers, volume of affiliates.

Business Development – Have we built up a working relationship with the affiliate program and will they assist in identifying and recruiting key affiliates to the program.

Tactic 4: Email Marketing

Strategy and tactics for today’s marketers

Stage 6. Control

The final stage is to lay out how you plan to monitor and measure your performance based on the objectives set at stage 2. The tactics have been considered and your control section is providing you with a series of dashboards tailored for each tactic.

Look to set the KPIs per tactic that tie back into the objectives set and set up a weekly/monthly set of monitoring dashboards to ensure you are on track to meet the objectives set.

Here is where the RACE Framework really comes into its own, since we recommend KPIs at each stage of the customer journey.

Naturally, the way you measure your reach activities will be different to conversion. Planning your marketing activities through RACE allows you to anticipate and fill your marketing funnel, or make the necessary changes needed in order to achieve your business goals.

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It’s important to also communicate your concerns with the wider team to ensure there is buy-in to the company plan. The more data you have to back up your strategy the better. That’s why we recommend our RACE benchmarking resources to inform your objectives and control.

For further information on PR Smith SOSTAC® planning guide, I recommend you purchase the book, The SOSTAC® Guide To Writing Your Perfect Digital Marketing Plan or Smart Insights Expert members can access it as part of their resources.

SOSTAC® Note from PR Smith:

Top Cloud Computing Startups To Watc

As businesses move at an unprecedented rate to the cloud, cloud computing entrepreneurs have leaped into one of the hottest marketplaces in recent memory. As businesses migrate to the cloud and prepare for upcoming digital transformation and modernization programs, cloud startups can address client needs for integration capabilities, flexible work processes, and composable architecture. As businesses and startups release new technologies, such as distributed cloud solutions, the ongoing disruption of the IT industries by cloud computing won’t slow down any time soon.

Top 7 Cloud Computing Startups Amperity

Amperity is a corporate data platform that transforms fragmented consumer data into revolutionary cloud client experiences. The firm said that by utilizing AI to provide thorough and useful insights, its enterprise Customer Data Platform has completely changed how businesses identify, comprehend, and communicate with their consumers. Amperity just released the Amperity Profile Accelerator to assist organizations in achieving record outcomes by creating marketing cloud activations from a more comprehensive and user-friendly dataset. The business also recently established a strategic partnership with AWS to enable digital transformations for businesses wanting to implement first-party data strategies, allowing Amperity to supply cloud-based solutions focusing on the customer’s needs and AI-driven insight.


The first object storage platform in the world, according to Filebase, is supported by several decentralized storage networks. Filebase, one of the smaller firms on CRN’s list, specializes in layer-2 decentralized storage and hopes to establish itself as a major force in straightforward data onboarding to Web 3. The cloud company offers access to geo-redundant object storage constructed on top of decentralized networks, enabling businesses and developers to use Web3’s potential. Clients may securely, redundantly, and quickly store data over several decentralized storage networks using the object storage technology from Filebase. The setups of backup clients, CLI tools, content delivery networks, file management systems, and NAS devices are among the common use cases.


With cloud-native machine learning (ML) tools, iterative enables data teams to construct models more quickly and communicate more effectively. To organize and operationalize ML models, datasets, and experiments, Iterative creates popular open-source tools like DVC and CML, as well as enterprise applications like Studio. The business provides cloud provider integrations for AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Model reproducibility, governance, and automation are all delivered by the startup’s developer-first approach to MLOps across the ML lifecycle-all of which are tightly interwoven with software development workflows. Investment companies True Ventures, Afore Capital, and 468 Capital support the business.

Kong Inc.

Kong developed software and managed services that use intelligent automation to integrate APIs and microservices natively across and across clouds, Kubernetes, data centers, and more. Popular products from the firm include Kong’s API Gateway, a Kuma-based enterprise service mesh, and the Konnect Cloud platform for end-to-end communication. Kong’s service connection platform, based on an open-source core, gives businesses the ability to safely and dependably manage the whole lifecycle of APIs and services for cutting-edge architectures like microservices, serverless, and service mesh. Kong promises to quicken innovation cycles, boost productivity, and seamlessly connect historical and contemporary systems and applications by giving developer teams architectural freedom. The startup is now growing its operations across Europe and the United Kingdom. provides API infrastructure from the edge to the service mesh, assisting businesses in implementing secure cloud-native solutions. The APIs of the application networking startup power microservices and cloud-native technologies, laying the groundwork for developers, partners, and clients to swiftly and efficiently connect with application services. To manage and federate security and traffic control, as well as connect the integration points to track the application network, chúng tôi offers developer and operations tools. To offer a full application-networking solution for businesses’ cloud-native digital transformation activities, the firm disclosed the integration of the Cilium open-source container network technology into its Gloo Mesh platform in May 2023.


Tetrate is a service mesh company that aims to assist customers in managing the complexities of the infrastructure for hybrid cloud applications. The company’s main Tetrate Service Bridge solution offers an edge-to-workload application connection platform to help businesses move from conventional monoliths to the cloud with business continuity, agility, and security. Customers receive traffic management, runtime security, and consistent, baked-in observability in every environment. A fully managed Istio-based service mesh architecture called the Tetrate Cloud also offers security, connectivity, and high availability through a single pane of glass.

Wasabi Technologies

To make cloud data storage more accessible, safe, and straightforward, Wasabi Technologies entered the cloud market in 2023. Wasabi currently provides services to clients in more than 100 nations and stores data ranging from backups, disaster recovery, and ransomware recovery to video surveillance, sports data, media assets, and entertainment files. According to the cloud storage firm, it allows businesses to store and quickly access a limitless amount of data for a cost that is 1/5th that of the competitors without using complicated tiers or unpredictably high exit costs. Wasabi was founded by the co-founders of Carbonite and forerunners of cloud storage, David Friend and Jeff Flowers, and has raised close to $275 million in total financing. This month, the business opened a new storage area in Singapore as part of its ongoing expansion in the Asia-Pacific market.


By utilizing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to mention a few, cloud entrepreneurs are introducing a host of solutions intended to assist consumers in shifting to the cloud in an easier, more cost-effective, and less difficult method. These cloud companies are using the more than $1.3 trillion in business IT expenditure at stake from the move to the cloud, which, according to Gartner, will increase to $1.8 trillion in 2025.

12 Reasons To Bring An Ipad To Your Business Presentation

Apple’s products are used by millions of businessmen around the world, and although many people consider them to be overpriced, we won’t be lying if we say that every Apple device is definitely worth its price tag! However, do you think that having an iPad can help you perform better at your business meetings? Here are the top reasons you should have an iPad for your next business meeting:

1. Improve Your Presentations and Meetings

Getting late to a meeting? No problem! Carrying an iPad around with you means that you can easily make video conference calls and communicate with your colleagues, bosses, and employees while on the road. If you didn’t have enough time to prepare a good presentation, then the great Keynote app for iOS will allow you to quickly create one and instantly project it on a big screen.

2. Access to Hundreds of Business-related Apps

Some people believe that apps for smartphones and tablets are a way to waste some time and relieve stress. However, there are also many appsthat can serve a more sophisticated purpose. The business-friendly apps available for the iPad will give you the ability to constantly track stock price changes, receive real-time news and updates, as well as stay up to date with the latest changes in your business’ sector.

3. The Ability to Work & Travel

Still haven’t prepared those important documents? By bringing along an iPad you can work while traveling, so you’ll have even more time to apply the finishing touches to your presentations, documents, and other work-related stuff. The portable, powerful, and user-friendly iPad will give you the performance and battery life you need to get the job done in time. If you are not having an iPad & trying to get one within limited budget at your doorstep then you can go for iPad rental services available online to rent an iPad anytime you need to add extra performance to your next presentation.

4. Great Support by Apple

Apple recently announced the special “Joint Venture” program whose goal is to help small business owners learn how to use the iPad’s full capabilities. Thanks to this tutoring program, you and your employees will be taught how to set up your tablet and work with it. Naturally, you can also rely on Apple’s support team to assist you if you ever run into any troubles with your tablet.

5. Unlimited Information

The iPad has all the information you need to get familiar with the most recent news, or to keep track of everything that happens in the business meeting. You can access the web to see the latest news, browse quotes, use the sound recorder to record the most important parts of the meeting, and even take notes via the handy apps available for this exact purpose.

6. An Inexpensive Cash Register

If you regularly deal with credit card transactions, then the iPad will make your life a lot easier! Thanks to the Square app you can quickly keep track of the latest purchases, generate digital receipts, manage your inventory, track statistics and much more! This is definitely a must-have iPad app for every small business owner with an iPad.

7. A Portable & Flexible Sales Brochure

Why carry a fat stack of paper, when you can save all your important information in a digital format? Instead of bringing all these documents to your meeting, just bring your thin iPad and use it to quickly show off all of your latest ideas, regardless if we are talking about promotional materials, documents, contracts or other work-related files.

8. Use the Files on Your Computer

It’s pretty common for businessmen to forget some important file saved on their home or office computer. Thankfully, you can count on the iPad to help you avoid these disturbing situations. Just make sure to backup all your work files to a cloud-storage service, and you’ll be able to easily access them through your iPad.

9. Enjoy an External Monitor

Your display area isn’t enough to meet your needs? With a little bit of creativity you can quickly turn your iPad into an additional monitor for your computer. Just download the DisplayLink App and set it up according to your preferences. Now all you need to do is find a neat way to position your iPad, so that it will be in a convenient spot.

10. Check Your Business Conversations

Meaningless if we are talking about e-mails, Skype conversations or other types of instant messaging, we won’t be exaggerating if we say that the iPad is the most useful device when it comes to online communication. Thanks to the wide range of apps available for the device you can quickly contact colleagues, associates and employees from absolutely anywhere.

11. Track & Fix Your Schedule

If you often happen to forget a meeting, then the iPad can definitely help you a lot! There are many time management applications available for iOS, so you’ll be able to quickly download, plan your schedule ahead and receive notifications for every important event that is planned for the day. The best part is that most apps allow you to sync your schedule between several devices, so you’ll always be able to see when & where your next appointment is taking place.

12. Social Media Management

Big enterprises hire entire teams to manage social media pages, but small business owners don’t have the funding needed to hire so many specialists. This means that usually their employees are the ones responsible for the company’s social media profiles and promotions. This is where the iPad can be very helpful – by having an iPad you’ll be able to quickly access all of your business’ social media profiles, post updates, announce promotions, special offers, new products and more.

5 Enterprise Startups To Watch In 2023

Enterprise might just be the most exciting area in tech today. While enterprise isn’t always as flashy as consumer-facing services, enterprise startups have the potential to not only reach profitability more quickly, but to also create groundbreaking solutions on a large scale.

A good enterprise startup has the potential to transform how an entire industry does business — and, in turn, change how consumers interact with these industries.

Here are a few of my favorite enterprise startups you should be watching and why I think they’re excellent examples of what enterprise startups can achieve.

1. ChowNow

What it is: It’s a CRM solution that gives restaurants the power to accept online orders via mobile and desktop.

Why it stands out: Businesses don’t have the time to try out products that don’t have a clear impact on the bottom line. But by providing a new way for restaurants to accept orders and increase revenue, ChowNow shows its value from day one.

It doesn’t just deliver custom apps and the capability to accept orders through Facebook; ChowNow also makes sure integrating with current POS systems is hassle-free by giving restaurants a separate tablet that’s not linked to the current POS system. This way, restaurants can be up and running with ChowNow in a matter of days.

2. DataRPM

What it is: It’s a natural-language search provider for large databases. It works as an instant business analytics platform for both internal and external customers.

Why it stands out: DataRPM provides powerful technology that’s also easy to use. While most companies strive for the holy grail of data analysis, few are able to pull it off. DataRPM doesn’t require knowledge of SQL or other databases, so even non-technical employees can access the data they need.

3. CirroSecure 

What it is: It’s a cloud security platform focused specifically on monitoring cloud applications.

Why it stands out: CirroSecure is focusing on a sector that is still in its infancy but growing at a remarkable rate. By recognizing businesses’ need to monitor and manage the security of cloud applications, both internally and externally, CirroSecure has been able to get ahead of the competition to serve a ravenous customer base.

4. Skubana

What it is: It’s an all-in-one, channel-agnostic enterprise planning solution for e-commerce companies.

Why it stands out: Skubana is a product based on firsthand experience with other ERP solutions. Chad Rubin, founder and CEO of Skubana, took the knowledge he gained from running other e-commerce companies and created a product that solved the exact pain points he and other e-commerce retailers faced.

By truly understanding its target audience, Skubana created a product that makes itself essential to e-commerce workflows — not just convenient.


What it is: It’s a cloud-based management solution for the hotel industry.

Why it stands out: Before it began, KEYPR identified two major barriers to getting hotels to implement its system: high upfront costs and conflicts with existing systems. To combat these problems, KEYPR created an end-to-end solution that could take over every step of the process and offered hotels the hardware for free. Choosing to make the money back over time through subscription costs is a brilliant model that has made KEYPR more attractive than its competitors from the start.

The enterprise world is full of possibility for entrepreneurs who understand their target audience and can create a solution that demonstrates ROI from day one. While not every startup will succeed in this sector, those who provide a clear value proposition have the potential to revolutionize an entire industry and change the way we do business.

The Top Funded Artificial Intelligence Startups Of 2023

The startup space leveraging  

CrowdStrike a Sunnyvale, California-based cybersecurity firm was founded in 2011 by the top executives of McAfee. CrowdStrike sells endpoint security software, protecting laptops, computers, servers, other devices from hacker threats serving customers in more than 170 countries. In June 2023, CrowdStrike raised $200 million in a fresh funding by private investors taking its valuation exceed $3 billion. CrowdStrike held the national spotlight in the 2023 U.S. presidential election season when it analysed the monumental hack of the Democratic National Committee. CrowdStrike was the first company to publicly blame Russian agents for the data breach in the 2023 U.S. presidential election season.  

Founded in 2007 by the father and son duo of David Hindawi and Orion Hindawi, Tanium is a privately held endpoint security and systems management company operating from Emeryville, California. The company provides organizations a single point of control and visibility to manage and secure technology systems at an unprecedented scale. Tanium’s platform helps technology powering businesses adapt to disruption in vogue. Tanium’s customers include many of the world’s largest organizations like the United States Military and top banking giants who rely on the solutions offered for business resilience. The startup raised an additional $200 million in its latest funding round led by investment firm Wellington Management in October 2023 currently valuing the startup at $6.5 billion.  

UiPath, a global software company offering a platform for Robotic Process Automation was founded in 2005 by the Romanian entrepreneurs, Marius Tirca and Daniel Dines. The startup started its operations from Bucharest, Romania and has an extended presence in London, Bengaluru, New York, Tokyo and Singapore. UiPath, raised $153 million in Series B funding and eclipses $1.1 billion valuation at present. The startup validates RPA as a strategic imperative for the path to AI and digital transformation. The funding was led by the previous investor Accel, with new investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and CapitalG contributing to the company. Additionally, UiPath seed investors Credo Ventures, Seedcamp and Earlybird’s Digital East Fund, also participated in the funding round.  

Founded in 2012, Cylance Inc. is an American software startup founded by former McAfee Global CTO Stuart McClure and Chief Scientist Ryan Permeh. Cylance is a game changer startup in cybersecurity developing antivirus programs and computer software that prevent viruses and malware. Based in Irvine, California, its flagship product, CylancePROTECT®, is the world’s first next-generation antivirus built on machine learning and artificial intelligence. Cylance® Inc., closed a $120 million funding round led by funds managed by Blackstone Tactical Opportunities and including other investors in June 2023.  

6. AutoLab AI

Founded in early 2023, with an aim to become the future of autonomous manufacturing, AutoLab AI founded by former Autodesk Inc. employees covers categories like robots and software as a service. In May 2023, the Palo Alto-based startup AutoLab AI raised $113.4 million of a planned $200 million in funding.  

C3 IoT is the world’s leading AI and IoT software provider for digital transformation delivering a platform as a service (PaaS) for the rapid design, deployment and development, of large-scale predictive analytics, big data, IoT applications and AI for any value chain. Additionally, the startup provides a family of configurable and extensible SaaS products developed with and operating on its PaaS, including fraud detection, predictive maintenance, sensor network health, energy management, supply chain optimization and customer engagement. In January 2023, C3 IoT raised a $100 million round of funding from its existing investors including TPG Growth, Sutter Hill, Breyer Capital, and its founder and CEO Tom Siebel which brings the total funding raised to nearly $243 million.  

Nuro is an American robotics self-driving delivery startup based in Mountain View, California, founded in 2023 by a pair of Google veterans Jiajun Zhu and Dave Ferguson. Nuro in partnership with Kroger, powers autonomous vehicles on the road to deliver groceries in Scottsdale, Arizona priced at a flat delivery fee of $5.95. In January, Nuro raised $92 million in Series A funding rounds led by Chinese venture firm Banyan Capital and Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners  

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