Techstars Mobility Event: Detroit’s Momentum Clear as Startups Shine

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#StartupDetroit is meant to be a place where entrepreneurs, investors, and support providers can feel welcome and find an entrée into local networks. The website includes a directory, Slack community, events calendar, and GitHub repository.

Hartung said that he found that “deep tech” isn’t necessarily the local competency, nor does it need to be in the autonomous era. “Nobody in Silicon Valley knows how to make products where people’s lives are in their hands, but there are lots of engineers in Detroit who do,” he noted.

“Around here, people know how to do hardware-meets-software,” Gunderson agreed.

“You don’t have anything like the work ethic here in Silicon Valley,” Nakhuda said, describing it as more “get stuff done” than echo chamber.

Mendelson asked the group what they would change about Detroit to help their businesses.

Hartung advised locals to avoid creating new laws or rules too soon, saying they should just “bask in the glory of startups” instead. Gunderson said public transit needed improvement, leading the crowd to erupt in applause. Keen said Detroit needed to “get out of its own way—there’s a huge opportunity here to become the center of testing and deployment for mobility tech.”


Meet the 2017 Techstars Mobility Class

The 11 companies in the Techstars Mobility 2017 cohort were impressive. Carma, a company offering all-inclusive, month-to-month car subscriptions, seemed so full of potential that I texted my husband about it mid-pitch, which might have been a personal demo day first.

Without further ado, here are descriptions of the companies:

Axle (New York City): Formerly called Busbot, Axle offers door-to-door transportation combining existing on-demand car services with the company’s own on-demand bus service.

Carma (Washington, DC): Carma is a month-to-month vehicle subscription service with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance included in the fee.

Cycuro (Tel Aviv, Israel): Cycuro is a cloud-based data validation platform built specifically for mobility services.

Damon X Labs (Vancouver, BC): Damon’s sensor-driven platform makes motorcycling safer through collision avoidance systems that alert riders to threats they can’t see. The company has pilots planned with motorcycle fleets such as the California Highway Patrol, and announced a partnership with Brandmotion.

Derq (Dubai, UAE): An MIT spin-off, Derq works to predict and prevent collisions using artificial intelligence and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technologies.

EcoG (Munich, Germany): Founded by Jeorg Heuer, who used to work in connected mobility for Siemens, EcoG has created an “Internet of Things operating system for electric vehicle charging” that can be integrated into local businesses. For example, a coffee shop could offer EV charging, encouraging the customer to buy a beverage and pastry while they wait—now the coffee shop has made $11 on a power transfer that probably cost less than a dollar. Heuer said EcoG has $500,000 worth of pilot projects lined up in the immediate future.

Fathom (Grand Rapids, MI): The lone Michigan-based company in the class, Fathom has developed an underwater drone capable of streaming video images back to a smart phone in real time for use in diving and other underwater adventures.

Gridwise (Pittsburgh): Gridwise has created a peer-to-peer “driver intelligence platform” for rideshare drivers to help improve performance, efficiency, and profitability.

Seeva (Seattle): Founded by a father and daughter, Seeva is a patented system to clean an autonomous vehicle’s sensors, cameras, radar, and windshield without the driver needing to pull off the road.

Vartega (Golden, CO): Vartega makes patent-pending, lower-cost recycled carbon fiber for use in vehicle lightweighting, 3D printing, and more.

Wheeli (New York, NY): Back in the olden, pre-Internet days, college students used index cards pinned to giant bulletin boards in the student center to request people to carpool with on trips back home. Today, there’s Wheeli, a carpooling app for college students that its founder Jean-Paul Adechi calls both “new age hitchhiking” and “Airbnb for empty car seats.”

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