AutoVenture Forum to Play Matchmaker Between Promising Tech Companies and Big Automakers, Suppliers

7/6/10

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to the auto industry,” Bodde says. He wants to bring companies that are “deal ready.” By that he means that they’ve already gotten some money from the likes of an angel investor or a state economic development agency. That way, there’s enough structure and substance to the outfit that it’s ready for an R&D agreement, a license, or a larger investment opportunity.

The germ of the idea came about two years ago, when Bodde and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to design and validate a system for connecting entrepreneurs to the automotive sector. The DOE, he says, wants to create a faster, cheaper innovation cycle to get fuel-economy and alternative fuel technologies into the marketplace sooner.

Bodde has served on a review panel for the FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies program, another DOE initiative aimed at partnering with industry for energy-efficient and environmentally friendly transportation.

That program introduced Bodde to the idea, but he says he wants to “take that one step further” and connect entrepreneurs more directly to these efforts.

Bodde envisions a forum every six months or so, each one focusing on a different aspect of automotive technologies. The first one will focus on vehicle connectivity, which includes infotainment, sensors, and navigation.

Each company will give a 10- or 15-minute presentation, Bodde says, followed by a question-and-answer period, and that’s all for the formal part. Then, they’ll have rooms set up where meetings can take place, proprietary information can be exchanged and, Bodde hopes, deals signed with major automakers and suppliers.

“The idea,” Bodde says, “is to get the introductions to lead to deals.”

Bodde hopes that it’s a win-win for small companies and for the large automakers and suppliers.

“We’d love to have a bunch of Michigan companies because I know that’s very rich territory,” Bodde says, adding that a forum like this sure beats cold calls, since the big guys actually want to hear from you. “I just think it’s a peach of an opportunity that we can offer, actually on both sides of the deal—on the industry side and on the entrepreneur side.”

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