Last day to save $100 on passes to TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising

Now that we have your attention, know this: Prices go up tonight on passes to TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising. If you’re an early-stage founder (pre-seed through Series A), don’t miss this chance to save $100 on our two-day virtual event dedicated to helping you build a stronger startup. It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

It’s Now O’clock: Buy your pass here before the sale expires tonight at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

Why should you attend TC Early Stage 2021? Chloe Leaaetoa, the founder of Socicraft and an Early Stage 2020 attendee, explains:

What you learn at Early Stage is so much better than the random information you find on YouTube. You get to interact with industry experts and ask them specific questions. It’s like a mini bootcamp, and you’re going to walk away with a lot of knowledge.

What can you expect at Early Stage 2021? The first day is packed with presentations designed to help you learn (or deepen your knowledge of) essential startup skills — product fit, growth marketing, fundraising and a whole bunch more. We’ve tapped some of the best startup ecosystem experts who will not only impart their wisdom, but they’ll also take and answer your questions.

Check out the event agenda and our roster of speakers.

We’re talking an interactive experience — from which you’ll take away tips and advice that you can implement in your business now when you need it most. Case in point, again from Chloe Leaaetoa:

Sequoia Capital’s session, Start with Your Customer, looked at the benefits of storytelling and creating customer personas. I took the idea to my team, and we identified seven different user types for our product, and we’ve implemented storytelling to help onboard new customers. That one session alone has transformed my business.

Day two is all about the TC Early-Stage Pitch-Off. Tune in and watch as 10 early-stage founders bring the heat. Each team will deliver a five-minute pitch in front of TC editors, global investors, press and hundreds of attendees. After each team pitches, they’ll engage in a five-minute Q&A with our panel of top VC judges.

You’ll learn so much by watching those pitches and hearing the VC’s questions. It’s a great way to improve your own pitch deck. And if notetaking is not your forte, don’t stress. All sessions, including the pitch-off, will be available courtesy of video-on-demand.

TC Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising takes place July 8-9, but you have just hours left before the early bird flies south and the prices head north. It’s now o’clock — beat the deadline and register here before 11:59 p.m. (PT) tonight.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Early Stage 2021: Marketing & Fundraising? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

Help TechCrunch find the best growth marketers for startups

To succeed, every startup needs to find and keep more users, but our attention spans get shorter every year. Eventually, your company will hire someone who’s up to speed with the latest problems and solutions in growth.

In the meantime, TechCrunch is here to help.

We’re asking founders to share a brief recommendation for talented growth marketers who have made a difference for them. We’ll use your responses to feature the best growth experts to our audience through our articles, events, and soon, a free database list.

Whether you worked with a great individual or an agency, we want to know who helped you figure out great solutions in SEO, social media, content marketing, analytics and other growth mechanisms.

There are a million marketers out there, most of whom have never worked with serious startups before. The types of people we want to spotlight will be proven experts in using product management, engineering, data and marketing techniques specifically for ambitious companies like yours.

If you are a growth marketer, we encourage you to share this survey with your clients (but completely discourage self-recommendations).

Founders and other startup leaders, please fill out this nomination form, and be on the lookout for more from top marketers in the next few weeks (with a few more things in store). If you had filled out our email marketing survey from a few weeks ago, thank you! We’re putting your responses to work as part of this project already.

Have any questions? Email

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

Fractional CMO Versus an Internal CMO: Which One Do You Really Need?

It’s time to bring in the big dogs.

Your business has grown to the point that it’s time to consider bringing in some marketing expertise. When you first started your business, you probably thought this was an easy hire.

You find someone that’s a marketing smarty and you give them green paper in return for more green paper coming your way.

Unfortunately, hiring isn’t that simple. When it comes to hiring your Chief Marketing Officer, you have the choice between two types of hires. You can bring on a fractional Chief Marketing Officer or an internal Chief Marketing Officer. Because word count doesn’t matter, we’re going to use CMO in place of writing Chief Marketing Officer moving forward. 🙂 

A fractional CMO works part-time. They might work with just your company or have a few other marketing clients. Fractional CMOs work as contractors and freelancers who don’t go on your normal employee payroll. Together you’ll decide how many months you’ll work together and what results you expect (a.k.a when does the green paper flow in?).

An internal CMO works full-time. They’ll work exclusively with your company and their LinkedIn page will promote the work they do with you (because by now we know that employee-generated content gets conversions). Internal CMOs will get health benefits and all the other fun incentives you give to your employees. They will plan to work with you long-term (we’re talking years here) to grow your brand and create a predictable selling system.

How do you know which type of CMO to hire?

Someone get the chalkboard…it’s time for the pro/con list.

Fractional CMO versus an Internal CMO

Aside from rocks, paper, scissors, the best way to figure out what type of CMO you need is through a pro/con list. We’ll outline the pros and cons of each type of CMO so you can figure out which option works best for your business.

Before we get into that list though, we have to go over something.

Just because you hire a fractional CMO today doesn’t mean you can’t hire a full-time CMO down the line. You’re not stuck with the option you choose. Yes, we’re talking to those of you who feel analysis paralysis when making this decision.

Working with any marketers is a great idea. Alright, someone hand us the chalk.

Pros of a Fractional CMO

Fractional CMOs will work with your business for a set amount of months with a specific result in mind. This means that they won’t be as integrated as a full-time CMO would be and this comes with a lot of pros.

You can hire them for a specific campaign or channel instead of your entire marketing strategy: With a fractional CMO, you can pick and choose what strategies they work on and hire an expert at paid ads, email marketing, content marketing, etc.

You can test out working with them for a few months without having a full-time commitment: If your fractional CMO doesn’t fit your company culture or isn’t able to hit their required results in due time, your contract ends and you’ll be able to work with somebody else. 

They’re not as expensive as an internal CMO: If you want to take your business to the next level but you don’t have the budget for a full-time executive yet—hiring a fractional CMO can help you get to a point where you can afford an internal CMO. (P.S. You also have the option of hiring your fractional CMO as your internal CMO!)

Of course, there are cons to hiring a fractional CMO.

Cons of a Fractional CMO

The cons to hiring a fractional CMO all come from their temporary work with your company. Unlike an internal CMO, fractional CMOs can see their way out once their contract is up. Sometimes this is a good thing, but other times it doesn’t benefit the company.

They won’t be as available as an internal CMO: Fractional CMOs have other clients to focus on which means you’ll only have a portion of their time each week.

You’ll have to bring on another CMO after them: Training can be the hardest part of hiring new employees and with a fractional CMO, you could end up training a full-time CMO in a few months (right after training your fractional CMO) which can set your profits back.

They might not see your new marketing strategy through: Once your contract is up, a fractional CMO can choose to continue working with you or to prioritize another client. This means that you might have a marketing strategy built by them that you need to hire another marketer to help run (and chances are that marketer wants to do things their way).

Before you decide if a fractional CMO is right or wrong for your company, we have to give internal CMOs a chance or their fair share of cons.

Pros of an Internal CMO

Internal CMOs will work closely with your team and be one of the main points of contact for your employees. You’re going to need someone that fits your company culture and makes your employees feel empowered and excited to do their work—which can lead to a lot of pros in your business.

Their only focus is your company: Having a CMO that’s entirely focused on your marketing strategy is massively beneficial in creating a predictable selling system. (How much better do you work when you’re only focused on one business?)

You don’t have to train anyone for this role anytime soon: Once you’ve brought on your internal CMO, you can expect to work with them for years to come, saving you the time it takes to retrain for the same position in the future.

They can build out your entire marketing funnel: Building a marketing funnel takes time and expertise. With an internal CMO you can create a funnel with lead magnets, entry-point offers, and challenges that lead to sales.

Fair is fair, so we have to cover the cons of working with an internal CMO now…

Cons of an Internal CMO

Hiring a full-time employee comes with its list of cons. Internal CMOs are great for some reason (see above) but also have their 2-star ratings…

They’re more expensive: An internal CMO is not only a full-time employee but an executive as well. This makes them more expensive than a fractional CMO brought on part-time for a few months.

You have a longer commitment to them: If you bring on an internal CMO and realize a few months in they might not be a great fit, it can be hard to let them go. You spent a lot of time and effort teaching them about your customers and products and building their version of your marketing strategy—this can sting.

They’ll work on your entire funnel: Sometimes this is a great thing, and other times it’s not necessary. If you have a great paid ads funnel running and you just need help with content marketing, you might not need a full-time marketer. A fractional CMO with expertise in content marketing could do the trick.

At the end of the day, we can’t recommend an internal CMO or a fractional CMO for your business. (We so wish we could though because we live to make your marketing life easier).

We can only lay out the pros and cons of each type of CMO and let you decide which makes the most sense for your business today.

Go get that green paper friend. 

The post Fractional CMO Versus an Internal CMO: Which One Do You Really Need? appeared first on DigitalMarketer.

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

Best Remote Access Software

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Remote access software is is extremely useful for some companies and business-critical for others.

It’s a common misconception that these products are only for help desks, but they have a wide range of use-cases. 

A customer service agent can simply log into a client’s computer and help them overcome technical questions. A sales rep can run a demo on a client’s device.

Keep reading to discover the best remote access software on the market today. I’ve also included a short buyers guide to help you select the option that will benefit your teams the most.

#1 – Zoho Assist Review — The Best for Customer Support

Zoho Assist is a web-based remote support solution for businesses. It’s the best way to provide your customers with support through on-demand remote access. 

The software also has the capability to manage unattended access sessions for in-house devices on PCs, laptops, servers, and mobile devices. 

Zoho Assist is trusted by businesses across a wide range of industries. Whether your company is large or small, this software can accommodate your needs.

Let’s take a closer look at the features, benefits, and noteworthy highlights of Zoho Assist:

On-demand remote support for troubleshooting with no prior installationIntegrated voice and video chat for enhanced customer supportUnattended remote access inside and outside your LANMass deployment options available (supports Windows and Mac)Secure file transfers with SSL 256-bit AES encryptionMultiple monitor support and automatically detect active monitorsReboot and reconnect remote desktops from anywhere with a single click

The software is great for customer support, IT help desks, and outsourced MSP support.

Plans start at $10 per month for a single technician. The unattended access solution must be purchased separately from the remote support software. This also starts at $8 per month and includes 25 unattended computers. You can try Zoho Assist for free with a 15-day trial; no credit card required. 

#2 – Parallels Access Review — The Best for Remote Desktop Access

Parallels Access is a quick, simple, and reliable way to access your computer from anywhere. It’s one of the best ways to retrieve all of your files and applications, no matter where you are in the world.

With just a few clicks, you can connect to your desktop from any mobile device or web browser.

Parallels Access is feature-rich and extremely versatile. Let’s take a closer look at why this software ranks so high on my list:

Access your computer from any web browser with no additional hardware requiredUse full-screen applicationsGain full access over PC applications, as if they were installed locallyThe software is fully optimized for screen resolution and optimal readabilityAccess files on remote computers or files stored in the cloudManage files by sorting, copying, renaming, deleting, etc.Ability to share files with friends and co-workersCopy/paste text and edit files remotely

If you’re going to install Parallels Access on your computers, then I strongly recommend getting the mobile app for your smartphone or tablet. Then your computer can essentially be in your pocket at all times.

Don’t have the smartphone with you? No problem. Just log-in securely to your Parallels Access account from any browser to gain the same access.

Plans for single users and up to five computers start at $19.99 per year. Business plans for unlimited users start at $49 per year. 

#3 – TeamViewer Review — The Best for macOS and iOS

More than 2 billion devices are connected to TeamViewer, making it one of the most popular remote access solutions in the world. This software has quickly become a top choice for remote work.

TeamViewer has a wide range of solutions. In addition to remote access, they have tools for remote support, mobile device support, remote assistance for IoT, remote monitoring and patch management, global video conferencing, and more. 

Years ago, PCs were the device of choice for business use. So when it came to supporting Macs and iOS devices, most software on the market wasn’t compatible. This was a problem for assisting clients and employees using Apple products.

But TeamViewer became a pioneer in the remote access space for Macs, iPads, and iPhones. 

Cross-platform access to iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux, and AndroidEnterprise-grade security and a VPN alternativeRemote printing capabilitiesEasy to install and set up unattended accessAdmins can use it to access remote serversMobile app available for iOS and Android devicesIn-session collaborations for co-workers and tech supportCustom modules with company logos and brandingCentralized management console and device reporting

Today, lots of other remote access tools support Apple devices. But not all of them do it as well as TeamViewer. Individuals can download it for free. Businesses can request a 14-day commercial trial before buying a license.

#4 – Remote Utilities Review — The Best for IT Teams

Remote Utilities is a bit unique compared to some of the other tools on our list. This software is built specifically for IT help desks. 

The tool gives your team total control over your IT infrastructure. 

Here’s an overview of the software’s noteworthy highlights:

Download on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and AndroidFile transfer modeTwo-factor authentication (2FA)Unattended access to remote servers and workstationsRemote access using LAN or VPNDeploy the program in an active directory networkProxy server supportYou can use a single PC on your LAN as a gateway to peers on the same networkEasy to scale as large as you need it to beNo mandatory, automatic, or unexpected upgradesCustom configurations, even for the most demanding IT requirements

Again, Remote Utilities isn’t designed for the average Joe or small business owners. This solution is for IT teams and users with more advanced needs. It’s a little bit more complex than some of the other tools on our list, but it gets the job done for technically inclined users. 

Pricing starts at $99 with up to 20 endpoints per tech. 

#5 – LogMeIn Pro Review — The Best for Anytime File and Application Access

If you’re looking for a simple way to access files and apps on your computer from anywhere, LogMeIn Pro is the clear winner. The software is easy to use, secure, and extremely reliable. 

It’s a popular choice for SMBs across all industries. 

Let’s take a closer look at the software’s features to see why it comes so highly recommended:

Simple step-by-step setup instructions for easy deploymentAccess your remote desktop as if you were in front of the screenUnlimited users and instant collaborationFree access to LastPass to store and manage all passwordsMultiple monitor display view on a 1:1 local screenRemote printing functionality1 TB of file storage to access and share from anywhereQuick access to frequently visited websites, cloud apps, and desktop appsRemote access on the go with the LogMeIn Pro mobile app

Plans for individual users start at $30 per month. This gives you access to two computers. To access up to ten computers, you’ll need a small business license, starting at $129 per month. 

What I Looked at to Find the Best Remote Access Software

Finding the right remote access software can be tough if you don’t know what to look for.

At the same time, there are a few really important factors that you can use to evaluate each option. These will eliminate options that aren’t going to work and bring the right ones into view.

Let’s walk through the core considerations that will help you find a product that meets your needs.

Compatible Devices

The first thing you need to do is figure what types of devices and operating systems you’ll be using. All of the best remote access tools should have cross-platform access.

Examples include Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome OS, Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Raspberry Pi, Windows Mobile, etc.

With that said, if you’re just using the remote access software for personal use or for a small team, you might not need a tool that’s compatible with every device under the sun—just the device’s that you’re using.

But if you need remote access software to assist clients or thousands of employees, you’ll want to have more versatility. 


When it comes to remote access, security will always be a top concern. Is it really that easy for a third party to just access your devices? What type of sensitive information will they have access to?

Software vendors understand this concern. That’s why they add security features like 256-bit encryption, one-time access codes, two-factor authentication, etc.

Always make sure that the remote access software you’re evaluating meets any industry-specific security requirements, such as HIPAA for healthcare.  

Number of Devices

Not every remote access software is built to scale. If you’re deploying it with a team of five employees, you likely won’t be using the same software as an organization that needs the software to access 500 or 5,000 devices. 

All plans will have limitations in terms of device quantities. 

You might come across certain tools with unlimited user access. But unlimited users and unlimited devices are two different things. So be prepared to purchase additional licenses if you have a larger team and need the software on lots of devices.


The term “remote access” is pretty broad. Within that category, there are lots of potential functionalities and use cases for the software. Features to keep an eye out for include:

Third-party integrations Remote printingMultiple monitor accessFile sharingLive chatScreen recordingUnattended access 

You don’t necessarily need all of these features. It’s just a matter of how you plan to use the software for your personal and business needs. There’s no reason to pay extra for plans with extensive feature lists that you’ll never actually use. 


Generally speaking, remote access software should be fairly easy to deploy. But certain solutions are a bit more complicated, especially at scale.

If you need assistance with the setup process, the software vendor should be there to make sure things go smoothly for you. When something goes wrong or if you have questions, you don’t want to be left on an island to figure it out by yourself. 

For those of you who have a dedicated IT team, they should be able to manage everything without an issue. But not every business has those in-house resources, so support from the software provider should be a top priority. 


You need to be able to depend on your remote access software. It can’t be unpredictable or require extra steps to do what you want.

Finding the right product isn’t hard if you know what you are looking for. Use my brief guide to help you find a solution in a few minutes. Here’s a recap of my recommendations:

Zoho Assist — Best for customer supportParallels Access — Best for remote desktop accessTeamViewer — Best for macOS and iOSRemote Utilities — Best for IT teamsLogMeIn Pro — Best for anytime file and application access

Zoho Assist is my number one pick overall. It’s fantastic for help desk and customer support functions, but it’s flexible enough to use for other purposes as well. Plus there’s a 15 day free trial, so you can see for yourself.

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

5 Digital Marketing Skills You Might Not Have (But Definitely Need if You’re Running Ads)

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. 

The bad news is that in order to be a master of modern marketing, specifically paid advertising, you need a specific set of marketing skills. These skills will be like a toolkit to help you survive in today’s business environment

The good news is that they’re not hard to master, and all of us marketers are trying to figure it out as well, so you’re not alone! And we’ve got some great tips for just how to get these skills nailed down.

Modern marketing is the wild west and you can become the advertising gunslinger you need to be to succeed if you embrace these 5 skills.

The 5 Skills You Need to Master

1. Copywriting

Good writing skills aren’t just for the communication majors locked up in the writers room anymore. Every single marketer needs to be able to write a good line of copy, whether they are actually writing copy every day or not. 

Why copywriting? Because marketing is inherently based around selling something. And copywriting is all about getting that click, or making that sale. While other styles of writing (like creative writing or prose writing) may be helpful, copywriting is going to push your marketing skills to the next level across the board.

But this should be general, back-to-basics, copywriting fundamentals. You don’t need to know the perfect paragraph structure for an ecommerce landing page (though if you do, good for you). All you need are the basics. 

You should be able to craft:

A compelling hookA string of benefits bulletsA persuasive paragraph descriptionA killer CTA

Once you have these nailed down, you can use them everywhere. And yes, I mean everywhere. Writing an ad? Break out your hook. Trying to increase your ad conversions? Try crafting a better CTA.

Pro Tip: Keep a copy swipe file full of great copy examples from brands you love. Did an ad you saw make you convert? Take a screenshot to remember their great writing.

Copywriting is a skill that will take you way farther than you might expect, so break out your typing fingers and get to practicing.

2. Funnel Building

The marketing funnel is the base of all marketing. No matter what you sell, you need to understand what makes an effective funnel, and how to craft one. 

Your customers are all floating around online (and offline) in a vibrant sea of content and other people’s products. So in order for you to succeed, you need to have a way to get your potential customers buying your stuff.

Not only do you need to know how to build a funnel, but you need to know how to optimize one. After all, a bad funnel is just as bad—and sometimes even worse—than no funnel at all. You should know how to diagnose a faulty funnel and then keep testing until you find the right fix.

Pro Tip: You can always A/B test different elements of your funnel if you aren’t sure what the best choice is. And make sure you are tracking performance—more on that later in the post.

But if you know the basics of Customer Value Optimization, you’re already most of the way there! 

3. Budget Management

Budget management is going to be your actual life raft if you are working in paid advertising. If you run out of money too quickly, you’ll never survive.

You’ve worked hours and hours to come up with the right offer and the right copy, and the right design. The last thing  you want to do is set the ad up to run out of money wayyy too fast. But you also don’t want to overcorrect and pull your entire budget out at once, only to have your ad be suppressed.

Learning how to properly set up an ad budget in Facebook and Google (or your ad platforms of choice) will mean that your money is going way further, and it means that every dollar spent is being used to its full potential. 

But on a larger scale, you need to know how much of your marketing budget should be spent on advertising (hint, it changes over time), so that you are actually getting new leads at the right time. 

Pro Tip: Remember that funnel building we just mentioned? That will come into play here too. You want to optimize your budget for every level of your marketing budget. It won’t just be an even split between the levels.

4. Metric Tracking and Analytics

No matter how good your marketing is, you’ll never know if you’re successful unless you are measuring your progress through tracking and metrics. This goes for running promotions, ads, new offers, and really every facet of marketing. You need to know when to hold them, and when to fold them.  

If you don’t know how your ads are performing, how are you going to know when you should increase your budget if you have no clue how the ad is performing? How will you know when to extend a sale if you have no record of it’s amazing conversions?

And the only way to do that is through knowing what your metrics are and tracking them regularly. You can do this through Google Analytics or another similar platform. The trick is to know which metrics actually move the needle for your business. Is it new leads? Maybe it’s ad click through. Whatever it is, make sure you are regularly tracking it so you are first on the scene when you see things going wrong.

Pro Tip: Make sure to set and track SMART goals, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

5. Customer Research

None of the things I just listed will matter at all if you don’t have your customer research down to a T.

Whether you are filling out your Customer Avatar Worksheet or building lookalike audiences, you need to know who your audience is so you can target them. This means you need to be really good at doing research.

You should be regularly checking out the online spaces where your customers hang out (and even offline spaces like events or conventions) so that you can keep up with what your customers want and need.

Pro Tip: Not sure what your customers like or where they spend their time online? Ask them! Send out a survey or email your best customers personally. You can offer a discount or gift in exchange for their time.

With the right information on your customers, you will be able to perfectly time your offers and create ads that they’ll have to click on. But only if it’s the right fit. So make sure you know who your customers are.

Once you have all of these skills mastered, you’ll be well on your way to some of the best marketing you’ve ever done. And, you’ll be able to navigate the flurry of changes that always seems to be going on in the marketing world.

The post 5 Digital Marketing Skills You Might Not Have (But Definitely Need if You’re Running Ads) appeared first on DigitalMarketer.

Read more:

A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

What is a Fractional CMO

Have you ever fallen prey to this line of thinking?…

Your marketing efforts are the only way your business will find new customers.


But you don’t have 40 hours a week to dedicate to it… So you need another executive at your company who focuses entirely on your marketing.

Also true.

That executive must be a full-time staff member in order for your business to succeed.


Your marketing executive does NOT need to be a full-time staff member to get the benefits of having marketing be a leadership focus.

Sometimes, the right fit for your company isn’t a traditional CMO, but a fractional CMO.

Never heard of a fractional CMO? Don’t worry. We’re going to break down what a fractional CMO is and what you might want one for your business (or even why you might want to become one yourself).

What is a Fractional CMO

While the name might sound super technical and complicated, the idea is actually really simple.

A fractional CMO is someone who acts as the Chief Marketing Officer for your company but is hired as a contractor or consultant. 

Generally, fractional CMO’s are working with several different companies at one time, much like freelancers or consultants do. They work for you a fraction of their time (hence fractional). But don’t let that spook you. A good fractional CMO is going to give your business as much attention as it needs. 

Why Outsource Marketing?

It might feel a little weird at first to outsource an executive-level position. And in fact, there are certain positions that you should be wary of handing off. For example, you want someone deeply familiar with all the ins and outs of your business to handle the financials, so a fractional CFO is probably not the best idea for most companies. 

But marketing is different.

Why? Because the basic principles of all marketing are the same, no matter what you are selling. This is why marketing agencies can work with all different types of clients. It’s why our customers here at DigitalMarketer run the gauntlet of industries. Marketing is just marketing.

So hiring a fractional CMO is not going to lower the quality of your marketing at all. In fact, sometimes getting an outside set of eyes on your strategies can be the secret to pushing through any problems. 

The right fractional CMO is going to have been there and done that already, so they have the tools to deal with any problem.

What Does a Fractional CMO Do?

A fractional CMO will do all the same things a traditional CMO will:

Get more leadsManage digital adsCreate marketing strategyOversee marketing tech integrationsGrow email list and engagementBuild marketing reportsWork with freelancers or marketing agencyAnd more…

Primarily, a fractional CMO will help provide marketing leadership, a service that is far too often overlooked in businesses.

The reason why you need a marketing executive is to provide that leadership. You want someone who can ensure there is a singular overall direction for your company’s marketing. The fractional CMO will be that person. They will make sure there is a general marketing message and will work with the other executives in the company.

These needs will be very dependent on the size of your company, so make sure you know exactly what you need. If you are a tiny business with only a few employees, you won’t need as much help “interfacing with the other executives.” Your communication with the fractional CMO will serve just fine. But if you have a huge leadership team, this will be a really important part of their job.

Additionally, depending on how long you want to work with them, your fractional CMO can either set things up for you to run, or they can manage the processes long term.

The biggest advantage of a fractional CMO is that you don’t have to pay them for full-time CMO work, but this also means they won’t be doing full-time work, so make sure you consider whether this is the right fit for you. But this isn’t the only thing you need to consider when looking at a fractional CMO for your business.

What Does a Fractional CMO NOT Do?

But before you start going through portfolios looking for the right person, it’s important to understand what a fractional CMO does NOT do.

A fractional CMO has the same role as an executive. They should be managing your strategy as a whole and working on your marketing as a whole.

That means this person should NOT be used as a lever puller or grunt worker. If you need someone to just do all parts of your marketing, you’re better off hiring an agency

A fractional CMO probably won’t:

Write and send all emails to your listUpload blog postsSchedule social media postsRedesign button colors on landing pagesTrack detailed metrics for every marketing asset

A fractional CMO is there to care for the overall health of your business’s marketing, and their time is probably wasted by getting too deep into the weeds. Remember, you’re paying this person for the holistic expertise, not their skill at picking an Instagram caption.

Is a Fractional CMO Right for You?

The best way to know if a fractional CMO is right for you is to look at your marketing performance and to look at your team.

Do you have someone dedicated to your marketing as a whole?Are you struggling to find a direction with your marketing?Do you have a solid understanding of marketing yourself?Do you have a marketing team, but no marketing leaders?Are you struggling to coordinate with your marketing contractors or agency?

If you are facing any of the problems, a fractional CMO might just be the person you need to get your marketing back in line and grow your business.

The post What is a Fractional CMO appeared first on DigitalMarketer.

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

TikTok just gave itself permission to collect biometric data on US users, including ‘faceprints and voiceprints’

A change to TikTok’s U.S. privacy policy on Wednesday introduced a new section that says the social video app “may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information” from its users’ content. This includes things like “faceprints and voiceprints,” the policy explained. Reached for comment, TikTok could not confirm what product developments necessitated the addition of biometric data to its list of disclosures about the information it automatically collects from users, but said it would ask for consent in the case such data collection practices began.

The biometric data collection details were introduced in the newly added section, “Image and Audio Information,” found under the heading of “Information we collect automatically” in the policy.

This is the part of TikTok’s Privacy Policy that lists the types of data the app gathers from users, which was already fairly extensive.

The first part of the new section explains that TikTok may collect information about the images and audio that are in users’ content, “such as identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content.”

While that may sound creepy, other social networks do object recognition on images you upload to power accessibility features (like describing what’s in an Instagram photo, for example), as well as for ad targeting purposes. Identifying where a person and the scenery is can help with AR effects, while converting spoken words to text helps with features like TikTok’s automatic captions.

TikTok adds auto captions to make videos accessible to hard of hearing and deaf

The policy also notes this part of the data collection is for enabling “special video effects, for content moderation, for demographic classification, for content and ad recommendations, and for other non-personally-identifying operations,” it says.

The more concerning part of the new section references a plan to collect biometric data.

It states:

We may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information as defined under US laws, such as faceprints and voiceprints, from your User Content. Where required by law, we will seek any required permissions from you prior to any such collection.

The statement itself is vague, as it doesn’t specify whether it’s considering federal law, states laws, or both. It also doesn’t explain, as the other part did, why TikTok needs this data. It doesn’t define the terms “faceprints” or “voiceprints.” Nor does it explain how it would go about seeking the “required permissions” from users, or if it would look to either state or federal laws to guide that process of gaining consent.

That’s important because as it stands today, only a handful of U.S. states have biometric privacy laws, including Illinois, Washington, California, Texas and New York. If TikTok only requested consent, “where required by law,” it could mean users in other states would not have to be informed about the data collection.

Reached for comment, a TikTok spokesperson could not offer more details on the company’s plans for biometric data collection or how it may tie in to either current or future products.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to transparency, we recently updated our Privacy Policy to provide more clarity on the information we may collect,” the spokesperson said.

The company also pointed us to an article about its approach to data security, TikTok’s latest Transparency Report and the recently launched privacy and security hub, which is aimed at helping people better understand their privacy choices on the app.

Photo by NOAH SEELAM / AFP) (Photo by NOAH SEELAM/AFP via Getty Images)

The biometric disclosure comes at a time when TikTok has been working to regain the trust of some U.S. users.

Under the Trump administration, the federal government attempted to ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. entirely, calling the app a national security threat because of its ownership by a Chinese company. TikTok fought back against the ban and went on record to state it only stores TikTok U.S. user data in its U.S. data centers and in Singapore.

It said it has never shared TikTok user data with the Chinese government nor censored content, despite being owned by Beijing-based ByteDance. And it said it would never do so, if asked.

Though the TikTok ban was initially stopped in the courts, the federal government appealed the rulings. But when President Biden took office, his administration put the appeal process on hold as it reviewed the actions taken by his predecessor. And although Biden has, as of today, signed an executive order to restrict U.S. investment in Chinese firms linked to surveillance, his administration’s position on TikTok remains unclear.

TikTok launches a new information hub and Twitter account to ‘correct the record,’ it says

It is worth noting, however, that the new disclosure about biometric data collection follows a $92 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against TikTok, originally filed in May 2020, over the social media app’s violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. The consolidated suit included more than 20 separate cases filed against TikTok over the platform’s collection and sharing of the personal and biometric information without user consent. Specifically, this involved the use of facial filter technology for special effects.

In that context, TikTok’s legal team may have wanted to quickly cover themselves from future lawsuits by adding a clause that permits the app to collect personal biometric data.

The disclosure, we should also point out, has only been added to the U.S. Privacy Policy, as other markets like the EU have stricter data protection and privacy laws.

The new section was part of a broader update to TikTok’s Privacy Policy, which included other changes both large and small, ranging from corrections of earlier typos to revamped or even entirely new sections. Most of these tweaks and changes could be easily explained, though — like new sections that clearly referenced TikTok’s e-commerce ambitions or adjustments aimed at addressing the implications of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency on targeted advertising.

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature has arrived — here’s what you need to know

In the grand scheme of things, TikTok still has plenty of data on its users, their content and their devices, even without biometric data.

For example, TikTok policy already stated it automatically collects information about users’ devices, including location data based on your SIM card and IP addresses and GPS, your use of TikTok itself and all the content you create or upload, the data you send in messages on its app, metadata from the content you upload, cookies, the app and file names on your device, battery state and even your keystroke patterns and rhythms, among other things.

This is in addition to the “Information you choose to provide,” which comes from when you register, contact TikTok or upload content. In that case, TikTok collects your registration info (username, age, language, etc.), profile info (name, photo, social media accounts), all your user-generated content on the platform, your phone and social network contacts, payment information, plus the text, images and video found in the device’s clipboard. (TikTok, as you may recall, got busted by Apple’s iOS 14 feature that alerted users to the fact that TikTok and other apps were accessing iOS clipboard content. Now, the policy says TikTok “may collect” clipboard data “with your permission.”)

Building customer-first relationships in a privacy-first world is critical

The content of the Privacy Policy itself wasn’t of immediate concern to some TikTok users. Instead, it was the buggy rollout.

Some users reported seeing a pop-up message alerting them to the Privacy Policy update, but the page was not available when they tried to read it. Others complained of seeing the pop-up repeatedly. This issue doesn’t appear to be universal. In tests, we did not have an issue with the pop-up ourselves.

Hey @tiktok_us if you’re going to FORCE users to sign a new privacy policy I think you should make it available to read.

— Matthew Eric (@matthewericdoes) June 2, 2021

Yes Tiktok, you changed your privacy policy, you only need to tell me once

— Dieghoe (@diegheaux) June 2, 2021

if i open up tiktok one more time and see that notification that they’ve updated their privacy policy i might just-

— alli 🌞 (@allimaemangsat) June 3, 2021

Additional reporting by Zack Whittaker

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

Twitter to begin pilot testing Fleet ads starting today

Ads are coming to Twitter’s version of Stories, known as Fleets. The company announced today it will began pilot testing Fleet ads in the U.S., which will bring full-screen, vertical format ads to Twitter for the first time, allowing it to better compete with the vertical ads offered across social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, among others.

The new Fleet ads will appear in between Fleets from people you follow and will support both images and video in 9:16 format. The video ads support up to 30-seconds of content, and brands can also include a “swipe up” call-to-action within their ads.

For video, this is shorter than what Instagram offers (up to 120 seconds) or TikTok (up to 60 seconds), but is in line with best practices which stress that shorter ads can be better.

Twitter didn’t say how often you’ll see a Fleet ad as you swipe, saying only that it will “innovate, test and continue to adapt” in this area, as it learns how people engage.

Advertisers, meanwhile, will receive standard Twitter ad metrics for their Fleet ads, including impressions, profile visits, clicks, website visits, and more. And for video ads, Twitter will report video views, 6s video views, starts, completes, quartile reporting and other metrics.

Image Credits: Twitter

The company is launching the pilot program in the U.S. with just 10 advertisers, including those in tech, retail, dining and CPG verticals.

Twitter says the pilot will help the company to understand how well these types of ads perform on Twitter, which will inform the company not only how to better optimize Fleet ads going forward, but also other areas where it may launch full-screen ads further down the road. In addition, it wants to learn how people feel about and engage with full-screen ads, as the test continues.

Twitter had first begun experimenting with Fleets in spring 2020 as a way to offer a Stories-like product experience where users could post ephemeral content. At the time, the company hoped Fleets would encourage more hesitant users to share content to the platform, as Fleets disappeared after 24 hours, reducing the pressure to perform that comes with posting directly. They also don’t circulate Twitter like retweets and quote tweets do, nor do they show up in Search or Moments.

Image Credits: Twitter

The feature rolled out to global users in November 2020. They were initially criticized by some who felt that Fleets were yet another example of how all social apps were starting to look the same. Nevertheless, Fleets have now become a core part of the Twitter experience.

Today, people use Fleets to point to other tweets they’ve posted, or to share personal updates, photos, and commentary. However, unlike Stories on other platforms, like Snapchat or Instagram, Fleets still offer a fairly bare bones experience in terms of creator tools. You can change the background color, add stickers and text, but that’s about it.

Twitter declined to say how many or what percentage of Twitter’s active user base has now adopted Fleets, noting instead that 73% of those who post Fleets say they also browse what others are sharing. The company says it plans to roll out new updates and features to Fleets in the future, as it continues to invest in the product.

Fleet ads will launch today in the U.S. across both iOS and Android.

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

4 proven approaches to CX strategy that make customers feel loved

Rebecca Liu-Doyle

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Rebecca Liu-Doyle is principal at Insight Partners, a global private equity and venture capital firm. Her focus areas include high-growth software, marketplaces, and consumer internet.

Customers have been “experiencing” business since the ancient Romans browsed the Forum for produce, pottery and leather goods. But digitization has radically recalibrated the buyer-seller dynamic, fueling the rise of one of the most talked-about industry acronyms: CX (customer experience).

Part paradigm, part category and part multibillion-dollar market, CX is a broad term used across a myriad of contexts. But great CX boils down to delighting every customer on an emotional level, anytime and anywhere a business interaction takes place.

Great CX boils down to delighting every customer on an emotional level, anytime and anywhere a business interaction takes place.

Optimizing CX requires a sophisticated tool stack. Customer behavior should be tracked, their needs must be understood, and opportunities to engage proactively must be identified. Wall Street, for one, is taking note: Qualtrics, the creator of “XM” (experience management) as a category, was spun-out from SAP and IPO’d in January, and Sprinklr, a social media listening solution that has expanded into a “Digital CXM” platform, recently filed to go public.

Thinking critically about customer experience is hardly a new concept, but a few factors are spurring an inflection point in investment by enterprises and VCs.

Firstly, brands are now expected to create a consistent, cohesive experience across multiple channels, both online and offline, with an ever-increasing focus on the former. Customer experience and the digital customer experience are rapidly becoming synonymous.

The sheer volume of customer data has also reached new heights. As a McKinsey report put it, “Today, companies can regularly, lawfully, and seamlessly collect smartphone and interaction data from across their customer, financial, and operations systems, yielding deep insights about their customers … These companies can better understand their interactions with customers and even preempt problems in customer journeys. Their customers are reaping benefits: Think quick compensation for a flight delay, or outreach from an insurance company when a patient is having trouble resolving a problem.”

Moreover, the app economy continues to raise the bar on user experience, and end users have less patience than ever before. Each time Netflix displays just the right movie, Instagram recommends just the right shoes, or TikTok plays just the right dog video, people are being trained to demand just a bit more magic.

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A quick note about the reviews I do on this site. The product vendors may give me access to their products for free in order for me to do my review, alternatively, I may have bought the product myself. However I make no promises to vendors regarding what I write in my review. Should you click a link that takes you to a sales page for a paid product for sale this link will be an affiliate link and I will be paid a percentage of the sales price should you decide to invest in it.

The Station: Rivian rolls towards an IPO and Quantumscape makes a big battery hire

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hello and welcome back to The Station, a weekly newsletter dedicated to all the ways people and packages move (today and in the future) from Point A to Point B.

For my American readers, you might be traveling — perhaps for the first time in more than a year — because of the Memorial Day holiday. While Memorial Day is meant to honor members of the U.S. military who died while serving, the three-day weekend has become the unofficial kick off to summer. This year, those traveling by car, truck or SUV will be met by the most expensive Memorial Day weekend gas prices since 2014, according to AAA. The organization also estimates that 37 million Americans will travel by plane and automobile over the holiday — a 60% increase over the same period last year.

Be safe out on these busy roads, frens.

One story to highlight: Mark Harris dug into the contracts for the Las Vegas Loop System. He found that restrictions put in place by Nevada regulators are making it difficult for The Boring Company to meet contractual targets for its LVCC Loop, Elon Musk’s first underground transportation system. Shortly after publication, Steve Hill, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), tweeted that a Loop test this week, with a few hundred participants, had demonstrated its planned 4,400 passenger per hour capacity, which could release $13 million in construction funds currently being held back. While this bodes well for TBC, the story lays out a number of other issues that could pose a challenge for the company. We will continue to dig into this story of tunnels and transport.

Now a request, dear reader. We’re a bit more than a week away from TC Sessions: Mobility 2021, a one-day virtual event scheduled for June 9 that is bringing together some of the best and brightest minds in transportation, including Mate Rimac of Rimac Automobili, Pam Fletcher of vp of global innovation at GM, Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang, Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt, investor and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, whose special purpose acquisition company just merged with Joby, and investors Clara Brenner of Urban Innovation Fund, Quin Garcia of Autotech Ventures and Rachel Holt of Construct Capital.

I’d love for you to join, and you can do that by clicking here and buying a ticket, which will also give you a months-free subscription to Extra Crunch and access to all the videos of the conference. But, if you can’t come, please reach out anyway and let me know if you have any questions or topics that you want addressed. I will be interviewing many of the folks coming to our virtual stage.

We just announced three more participants from automakers Hyundai, Ford and Toyota who will talk about their respective companies’ increasing interest and investment in robotics. Our three guests are: Max Bajracharya, formerly from Alphabet’s X and now vp of robotics at Toyota Research Institute, Ernestine Fu, director at Hyundai Motor Group who heads development at the new  New Horizons Studio and Mario Santillo, a technical expert at Ford who has been charged with helping lead the company’s efforts at a recently announced $75 million research facility at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Email me at to share thoughts, criticisms, offer up opinions or tips. You can also send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.


Micromobility rivals Bird and Lime have come out with news this week that they’re both marketing as sustainability initiatives. Let’s start with Bird.

Bird has unveiled its next-generation scooter, the Bird Three, that it will unveil in New York and Berlin this summer. It’s got a longer-range battery with 1kWh capacity and an improved diagnostic monitoring system to keep the battery lasting as long as possible. Bird says its better, smarter battery means it’s ultimately a more sustainable scooter because it has a longer life and needs to be charged a lot less.

Ideally, a better battery and better software will also help produce a longer-lasting vehicle so that Bird can cut down on depreciation and maintenance costs, which have really not helped the company in its push for profitability. Last week, Bird announced a SPAC merger with Switchback II. The regulatory filings that accompanied the announcement demonstrate just how difficult it is to turn a profit given the unit economics of shared scooters.

Lime is similarly positioning its updated subscription service, Lime Prime, as a sustainable initiative. With each new Prime member sign up, Lime promises to plant a tree through One Tree Planted. But more importantly, the subscription service helps the regular Lime rider perhaps save a bit of money. Members have access to waived unlock fees on any vehicle, and in markets with no start fees, the benefit will be 25% off the ride price. Additionally, riders can get free 30 minute reservations on any vehicle.

Two-wheel swag news

Zaiser Motors announced the launch of its Wefunder campaign to raise funds for development and production of its Electrocycle. It’s a good-lookin’ vehicle, charcoal-black with a design that breaks away from a super traditional gasoline-era style and looks more like something a small Batman might ride. All of the components are designed to be recyclable within the first 10 years of production, the company says. The Electrocycle has 300 miles of range, swappable batteries and is less than $25,000.

Meanwhile in scooter world, the Scotsman, a Silicon Valley-based electric scooter brand, has unveiled a scooter that’s 3D printed entirely in carbon fiber composite. And I don’t just mean some parts are composite. The whole frame, the handlebars, the stem and the baseboard are all made of this strong, sustainable, lightweight material. It also means the scooters are highly customizable, each frame printed depending on the owner’s height, weight, arm and leg lengths and riding position. At a starting price of $2,999, it’s not cheap, but that might be a signal from the industry that scooters are increasingly become viable transport options and not just toys. You can pre-order here.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

The march of IPOs appears to picking up pace. For instance, Full Truck Alliance, the Chinese digital freight platform known as Manbang Group, filed for an IPO. The filing didn’t specify the exact amount it was aiming to raise. Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported that the company wants to raise up to $1.5 billion, which would give it a valuation of $20 billion.

Full Truck Alliance’s S-1 provides a number of interesting details, including the how much money can be captured by effectively connecting truckers with shippers. The company reported that about 20% of all China’s heavy-duty and medium-duty truckers fulfilled shipping orders on our platform in 2020. (More than 2.8 million truckers fulfilled shipping orders on its platform last year.) Full Truck Alliance said last year it facilitated 71.7 million fulfilled orders with a gross transaction value of RMB173.8 billion (US$26.6 billion).  The first quarter number show it is growing. In the first quarter, the company had  22.1 million fulfilled orders, a 170.2% increase from the same period.

Full Truck Alliance raised $3.6 billion in private funding, most recently last fall at an $11.7 billion valuation, from firms like SoftBank Vision Fund (22.2% pre-IPO stake), Sequoia Capital China (7.2%), Permira, Tencent, Hillhouse Capital, GGV Capital, Lightspeed China Partners and Baillie Gifford.

The IPO about six months since the company raised $1.7 billion in a funding round that included backing from SoftBank Vision Fund, Sequoia Capital China, Permira, Fidelity, Hillhouse Capital, GGV Capital, Lightspeed China Partners, Tencent and Jack Ma’s YF Capital. A look at the S-1 shows that the principal shareholders are Softbank with a 22.2% stake, followed by 8.9% held by Full Load Logistics, a limited liability company owned by Full Truck Alliance CEO Hui Zhang. Sequoia has a 7.2% stake and Master Quality Group Limited, another organization controlled by Zhang, hold 6.6% of shares.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

E2open Parent Holdings Inc. said it will acquire logistics execution platform BluJay Solution, Freightwaves reported. The deal could be valued at $1.7 billion, consisting of $760 million in cash and 72.4 million shares.

First Move Capital, the Boulder-based venture firm that has invested in used car marketplaces Frontier Auto Group and Vroom as well as mobility-as-a-service startup Via, has closed a new $150 million fund that will focus on the automotive and transportation sectors. Proceeds from the round will be exclusively allocated to new investments; seven have already been made, including into autonomous vehicle startup Gatik, cloud-based automotive retail platform Tekion and e-commerce startup Revolution Parts.

Hydra Energy received CAD$15 million ($12 million) from Just Business to expand beyond pilots and deliver hydrogen-powered trucking, the company announced. This funding is to support the further development of Hydra’s initial waste hydrogen capture plant in British Columbia, its fueling infrastructure and conversion kits. The Canadian company has raised CAD $22 million (USD $17.2 million) to date. One other update worth sharing, Hydra’s flagship hydrogen-as-a-service project, is scheduled to break ground later this year.

Miles, the German car-sharing service has received investment from Delivery Hero CFO Emmanuel Thomassin, HelloFresh CFO Christian Gärtner, Chargepoint CFO Rex Jackson as well as Norwegian top manager Stine Rolstad Brenna. Thomassin has joined the company’s advisory board. The company disclosed to TechCrunch that it generated 20 million euros ($24.39 million) of revenue in 2020, quadruple the amount from the previous year. The results helped the company achieve profitability in October 2020. Miles is now focused on expansion. In the first four months in 2021, the company launched electric vehicles and expanded its car fleet to Munich. Miles intends to grow beyond Germany and is currently examining the best markets to launch in.

MotoRefi raised another $45 million in a round led by Goldman Sachs just five months after investors poured $10 million into the fintech startup to help turbocharge its auto refinancing business. While the company didn’t give me specifics on its revenue — CEO Kevin Bennett cited a 7x growth year-over-year but didn’t provide the baseline — it did disclose it’s on track to issue $1 billion in loans by the end of the year. That’s a fivefold increase from the same period last year.

Smart Eye, the publicly traded Swedish company that supplies driver monitoring systems for a dozen automakers, acquired emotion-detection software startup Affectiva for $73.5 million in a cash-and-stock deal. The startup, which says it developed software that can detect and understand human emotion, spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009. Since then, it has landed a number of development and proof of concept deals as well as raised capital, but it never quite reached the mass-scale production contracts.

That’s where Smart Eye comes in. Smart Eye, which has won 84 production contracts with 13 OEMs, including BMW and GM, is keen to combine with its own AI-based eye-tracking technology. The companies’ founders see an opportunity to expand beyond driver monitoring systems — tech that is often used in conjunction with advanced driver assistance systems to track and measure awareness — and into the rest of the vehicle. Together, the technology could help them break into the emerging “interior sensing” market, which can be used to monitor the entire cabin of a vehicle and deliver services in response to the occupant’s emotional state.

Tritium, a Brisbane-based developer and producer of direct current fast EV chargers, announced a merger agreement with a special purpose acquisition company Decarbonization Plus Acquisition Corp. II. The deal is expected to value the company at $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to generate gross proceeds of up to $403 million. Tritium will be listed under the ticker “DCFC.”

This particular SPAC deal is unusual in that it does not include private investment in public equity, or PIPE — a fundraising round that typically occurs at the time of the merger and injects more capital into the company. Tritium CEO Jane Hunter told us that the company didn’t need a PIPE because DCRN is a more than $400 million SPAC and its shareholder group agreed to a minimum cash closing of just $200 million, which significantly reduces redemption risk. “Also, our revenue has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 56% since 2016 as we expand our presence in major markets where we have a significant market share, such as the U.S. and Europe,” Hunter said. “This revenue growth helps to reduce our reliance upon new funds to implement our growth strategy.”

Wejo, the connected vehicle data startup backed by GM and Palantir, plans to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company Virtuoso Acquisition Corp. The agreement, announced in a regulator filing, will give the combined company an enterprise valuation of $800 million, which includes debt. There were earlier reports that the SPAC deal was imminent. The filing confirms the news and provides more detail.

The deal raises $330 million in proceeds for Wejo, including a $230 million cash contribution from Virtuoso and a $100 million in private investment in public equity, or PIPE. Previous strategic investors Palantir and GM anchored the transaction, according to Wejo. The company did not disclose the amounts of those investments. Current shareholders will retain 64% ownership of the company, according to its investor deck.

Policy corner


Senate Republicans released their response to Joe Biden’s sweeping $2 trillion investment plan, which would earmark $174 billion for electric vehicle investments. Their proposal would shrink it down to $928 billion. And that $174B for EVs? That would be reduced to just $4 billion, under the GOP plan.

It seems that the main point of contention between the President and his GOP colleagues is the definition of the word ‘infrastructure.’ Republicans are sticking to a more traditional definition, so their counterproposal still contains plenty of money for things like roads, the water system, bridges and broadband.

Biden’s plan aimed to provide consumer tax incentives and incentives for EV chargers, incentives to boost domestic manufacturing and enough funds to install at least 500,000 public charging stations across the country by 2030. A memo obtained by The Hill suggests Biden intends to hold firm to his proposal, so expect further negotiations in the coming weeks.

The Senate Finance Committee on May 26 marked up the Clean Energy for America Act, an important step before it hits the Senate floor for a vote. Among other things, the bill would remove 200,000 unit cap on tax credits for consumers buying EVs — that means the tax credit could be used toward buying a Tesla, a manufacturer that hasn’t been eligible for the credit because they’ve sold over 200,000 cars in the United States.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) added an amendment to the bill that would create an additional $2,500 consumer credit for vehicles assembled in the U.S. and another $2,500 for vehicles assembled in a unionized facility. If it passes, the additions would bring the maximum consumer tax credit for EVs to $12,500 — no small sum! The credits would expire in 2025. “Electric vehicles are part of our transportation future,” Sen. Stabenow said. “The question is not when they will be built, it’s where they will be built: in Asia or America?”

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm sold her holdings in electric bus manufacturer Proterra after Republicans criticized her for a potential conflict of interest. The GOP’s complaint arose after Biden made a virtual visit to a Proterra factory in April. The sale provided Granholm with a net gain of $1.6 million, DOE told reporters.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear and see things, but we’re not selfish. Let me share.

This week, “a little bird” is all about big employment moves and departures and how one hire is connected to a potentially massive IPO.

Let’s kick things off with Celina Mikolajczak, the now former vice president of battery technology at Panasonic Energy of North America. You might recall that Mikolajczak recently took a board seat at solid state battery company QuantumScape. Welp, she is now taking a job at the company as vice president of manufacturing engineering, beginning in July. She has resigned from the board in connection with accepting the offer. In her new role, Ms. Mikolajczak will lead the transition of the Company’s tools and manufacturing processes from research and development to production, QuantumScape said in a regularly filing.

Mikolajczak has a long history researching and developing better lithium-ion batteries. Her technical consulting practice at Exponent focused on lithium-ion cell and battery safety and quality. She then took a senior management position at Tesla that was focused on cell quality and materials engineering. During her time at Tesla, Mikolajczak developed the battery cells and packs for Tesla’s Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Roadster Refresh.

After leaving Tesla, Mikolajczak went on to serve as director of engineering focused on battery development for rideshare vehicles at Uber Technologies. And in 2019, she joined Panasonic Energy of North America, where she is vice president of battery technology. While at Panasonic, Mikolajczak led a team of more than 200 engineers and other technical staff to improve lithium-ion cell manufacturing and to bring the latest cell technologies to mass production for Tesla at the Gigafactory facility in Sparks, Nevada.

Speaking of Tesla … it looks like Scott Sims, director of engineering, left the company this month. His title doesn’t quite capture his role. Sims was the person leading the design and engineering for vehicle user interfaces, streaming, video games and mobile applications. Importantly, he was responsible for cloud computing as it related to the Tesla mobile app, a critical tool for any owner.

Finally, the big news on Friday (via Bloomberg) is that Rivian has selected underwriters for an initial public offering. The company could seek an eye-popping value of $70 billion. I have confirmed some (but not all) of Bloomberg’s reporting. Obviously big news that I’ll be watching and digging into. I had heard rumbling about a potential Rivian IPO, but Bloomberg put together the critical deets.

To me, the biggest indication that Rivian was getting ready to make a move was Ger Dwyer taking the vp of business finance position at the company, which he posted about on LinkedIn. You might recall, that I scooped the news a couple of weeks ago that Dwyer was leaving his post as CFO at Waymo. I noted at the time that Dwyer’s departure comes at a time when the demand for CFOs has rocketed alongside the continuous string of public offerings, including those done via mergers with special purpose acquisition companies.

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Notable reads and other tidbits

Loads and loads of news. Let’s get to it.

Autonomous vehicles

Aurora published a blog post that gives a few new details on its testing and self-driving trucks strategy in Texas. The autonomous vehicle company said its first commercial pilots will move goods on several “middle-mile” routes in Texas. A safety driver will be behind the wheel of these self-driving trucks, which will drive autonomously between hubs. The terminal or hub system is one that other AV companies have adopted — at least for now. The idea is that loads can be consolidated, which would theoretically make operations more efficient. Aurora did add, that “for shippers and carriers with existing hubs and large volumes of freight, we expect to ultimately drive the complete route with no need for an intermediate consolidation point.”

One other item that jumped out to me: the company is expanding into a second office in Texas, suggesting that they’re scaling up, at least in terms of people.

Germany’s lower house of parliament adopted legislation that will allow driverless vehicles on public roads by 2022, laying out a path for companies to deploy robotaxis and delivery services in the country at scale. While autonomous testing is currently permitted in Germany, this would allow operations of driverless vehicles without a human safety operator behind the wheel. The bill still needs to pass through the upper chamber of parliament, or the Bundesrat. Included in the bill are possible initial applications for self-driving cars on German roads, such as public passenger transport, business and supply trips, logistics, company shuttles that handle employee traffic and trips between medical centers and retirement homes.

PAVE, which stands for Partners for Autonomous Vehicle Education, piloted a workshop with local governments earlier this month throughout Ohio. The educational workshop, which was done in partnership with Drive Ohio, wasn’t open to the public. But my Autonocast podcast co-host Ed Niedermeyer, who also happens to be director of communications for PAVE, gave me the inside scoop on what went down.

PAVE says it doesn’t do any kind of policy advocacy; instead the aim is to arm public policymakers with the facts they need to make good policy. This pilot helped PAVE lay a foundation for a curriculum that can be used elsewhere; that might seem trivial, but the complexity of issues around AVs makes these workshops with elected officials potentially powerful tool.

Ed told me that one of the main challenges was educating on potentially controversial topics, like policy and regulation, “where we have to get facts across without imparting biases.” He noted that the organization’s public sector and academic advisory councils were both helpful as neutral authorities. Finally, he said that one of the most practical education PAVE did was around the best practices that its members and advisors have developed in early AV deployments.

Kodiak Robotics, the U.S.-based self-driving truck startup, is partnering with South Korean conglomerate SK Inc. to explore the possibility of deploying its autonomous vehicle technology in Asia. While Kodiak co-founder and CEO Don Burnette couched the initial agreement as a first step toward a commercial enterprise in Asia, the reach of SK shouldn’t be discounted. SK Inc., a holding company of SK Group, has more than 120 operating companies, including ones connected to the logistics industry.

The ultimate aim of the partnership is to sell and distribute Kodiak’s self-driving technology in the region. Kodiak will examine how it can use SK’s products, components and technology for its autonomous system, including artificial intelligence microprocessors and advanced emergency braking systems. Both companies have also agreed to work together to provide fleet management services for customers in Asia.

Electric vehicles

Ford Motor, fresh off its splashy F-150 Lightning electric truck reveal, announced it is pushing its investment in EVs up to $30 billion by 2025, up from a previous spend of $22 billion by 2023. The company announced the fresh cashflow into its EV and battery development strategy, dubbed Ford+, during its investor day.

The company said it expects 40% of its global vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030. Ford sold 6,614 Mustang Mach-Es in the U.S. in Q1, and since it unveiled its F-150 Lightning last week, the company says it has already amassed 70,000 customer reservations.

Hyundai held the North American reveal of the upcoming all-electric Ioniq 5 crossover. One new detail that I found interesting: Hyundai developed an in-car payment system that will debut in the Ioniq 5. The feature will offer drivers the ability to find and pay for EV charging, food and parking. When the vehicle comes to North America in fall 2021, the payments system will launch with Dominoes, ParkWhiz and Chargehub.

Lordstown Motors’ cash-rich SPAC dreams have turned out to be nothin’ more than wishes, as Alex Wilhelm and Aria Alamalhodaei reported. The upshot: a disappointing first-quarter earnings that was a pile-up of red-ink-stained negativity. The lowlights include higher-than-expected forecasted expenses, a need to raise more capital and lower-than-anticipated production of its Endurance vehicle this year — from around 2,200 vehicles to just 1,000. In short, the company is set to consume more cash than the street expected and is further from mass production of its first vehicle than promised.

Lucid Motors revealed the in-cabin tech of its upcoming electric luxury Air sedan. I spoke to Derek Jenkins, who heads up design at Lucid, and he provided a detailed tour of all the tech in the vehicle. It goes far beyond the curved 34-inch display and second touchscreen, which received much of the attention. The user experience, particularly the underlying software, matters in all cars. But it can be the death of an electric vehicle model if not done properly.

It appears Lucid is on the right track. I won’t really know until I’m able to test the Air. Let’s hope that is soon.

Rivian has delayed deliveries of the R1T Launch Edition, the limited edition release of its first series of “electric adventure vehicles,” by a month. Customers who preordered can now expect to start receiving their pickup trucks in July instead of June, with Launch Edition deliveries to be completed by spring 2022. The one-month delay was due to a combination of small issues, including delays on shipping containers, the ongoing chip shortage as well as ensuring the servicing piece is properly set up. It’s worth noting that Rivian told me that it has been largely unaffected by the chip shortage compared to the rest of the industry because its products don’t require as many as other vehicles on the market today.

Tesla had a number of news items this week, so I’ll just point to the most notable ones. Tesla has established a data center in China to carry out the “localization of data storage,” with plans to add more data facilities in the future, the company announced through its account on microblogging platform Weibo. All data generated by Tesla vehicles sold in mainland China will be kept domestically. The move was in response to new requirements drafted by the Chinese government to regulate how cameras- and sensors-enabled carmakers collect and utilize data. One of the requirements states that “personal or important data should be stored within the [Chinese] territory.”

Finally, two safety-related pieces of Tesla news that seem in opposition to each other.

First, Tesla started delivering Model 3 and Model Y vehicles without radar, fulfilling a vision of CEO Elon Musk to only use cameras combined with machine learning to support its advanced driver assistance system and other active safety features. The decision has prompted blowback though from the National Traffic Highway and Safety Administration, Consumer Reports and IIHS over safety concerns.

Meanwhile, Tesla finally — and after loud and frequent urging from industry and safety advocates, activated the in-cabin camera in new Model Y and Model 3 vehicles. The camera will be used as a driver monitoring system. Tesla has been criticized for not activating the driver monitoring system within its vehicles even as evidence mounted that owners were misusing the system. Owners have posted dozens of videos on YouTube and TikTok abusing its advanced driver assistance system known as Autopilot — some of whom have filmed themselves sitting in the backseat as the vehicle drives along the highway.

Other nugs (no not that kind)

Apex.AI hired Paul Balciunas as its CFO. Balciunas was the former CFO of Canoo. He also was an executive at Deutsche Bank, where he acted as a lead underwriter of the initial public offering for Tesla in 2010, and has since focused on auto tech and new mobility players.

Blyncsy, a Utah-based startup movement and data intelligence company launched an AI-powered technology called Payver, that will use crowdsourced video data to give transport agencies up-to-date information on which roads require maintenance and improvements. Blyncsy is offering this service to governments at a reduced cost and with no long-term commitment. Utah’s DOT will be the first to pilot the program beginning June 1, deploying Payver in the Salt Lake County region, which covers more than 350 road miles. Blyncsy will be announcing other pilots in different states over the next few weeks.

Scale AI hired Mark Valentine to head up its federal-focused division. Valentine comes with experience and connections. He was  a commander in the U.S. Air Force, senior military advisor to FEMA and most recently, GM of national security for Microsoft. He will lead Scale’s government partnership efforts.

Scale has also hired Michael Kratsios, the former CTO of the White House, as managing director and head of strategy. The company said he is focused on accelerating the development of AI across industries. Michael joined at the end of Q1.

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