Nuro's head of partnerships breaks down how the self-driving startup is helping transform the world of delivery
- Self-driving company Nuro has delivery
partnershipswith Domino's, FedEx, and others.
- Heading up partnerships for the startup is Cosimo Leipold.
- Here's how Leipold decides on how to partner with, and what's in store for Nuro's future.
Founded in 2016 by two former members of Google's self-driving car project, Nuro is developing a
As Nuro's head of partnerships, Cosimo Leipold has been at the head of many of these projects since joining the team five years ago. In an interview with Insider, he discussed the company's evolving business strategy, how he selects partners, and how to get consumers comfortable with getting their goods from a robot.
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How has your role evolved?
Originally the role was very much focused on core company strategy — raising rounds, figuring out who we want to be. As we started conversations with partners, it became increasingly clear that we really needed to have a partnership function.
The focus then became, how do we leverage partnerships and their expertise to help us build the right thing the right way? If we build the wrong vehicle and we have to change it down the line, it's not company ending, but it is probably a $100 million mistake. So it would be worth not getting that wrong.
What attracts you to a partner company, and opportunities won't you consider?
Moving goods on an airport runway — it's not really what we were built to do. Or doing middle mile logistics, bringing large packages and parcels between two warehouses. They are good businesses in their own right. But they're not core to what we're trying to really do.
In the long run, I think we see those as good opportunities that we shouldn't necessarily cede to others in the market, but we've tried to stay as true to the vision of look, if you can basically build a business and a model where the cost of delivery becomes effectively zero for a consumer, then you've really radically changed how people are going to shop and interact with brands that they love and know already.
What have you learned over the past year?
For the vast majority of customers that we handle, it really is fine to come outside and get goods. I have been shocked, maybe because I'm an extrovert, by just how much people are thrilled with the fact that they don't have to interact with humans. Coming out in their pajamas is a thing, and people like that. They want to be able to do that and feel safe. And a robot provides that level of safety that perhaps people don't feel otherwise.
Is navigating those consumer behavior changes and preferences a challenge?
I think we're still at the forefront of consumer preferences and change. What we have seen with partners so far is a pretty dramatic growth in the number of deliveries that we've been doing within a zip code. We've seen about 300% growth from when we started. Some of that is driven by COVID no doubt.
What we have seen less of is the true shift in consumer patterns and behaviors. We're still a little bit ahead of the curve on that one. As net cost starts to come down for delivery, people are going to start ordering smaller baskets. It's going to get more just-in-time. Part of that is working with our partners to frankly, introduce new products and services that they don't currently have.
What's the next wave of thinking for you?
We want to make this available to as many people as possible and scale the service as broadly as possible. I think everybody says, I want to do good for the broader world, et cetera. But I think we genuinely believe in it.
It doesn't make sense to me that only the wealthy should benefit from things like Instacart and from other services like that. We really should enable this for the broader communities as a whole. I don't think that is performative platitudes on our part. I think it's really us genuinely believing that there is an opportunity to make an impact. That's the thing that I really hope will come next.
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