Techstars Mobility Announces 2016 Class for Summer Accelerator

The Techstars Mobility accelerator, operating out of a 10,000-square-foot office in downtown Detroit, will welcome its 2016 class of startups on Monday.

Twelve teams chosen from nearly 500 applicants will spend the summer developing “transportation solutions aligned with Ford Smart Mobility, the [automaker’s] plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics,” according to a press release. Ford is the program’s primary corporate partner; other industry sponsors include Magna International, Verizon, Honda, McDonald’s, and Michelin.

“Startups are unburdened by the past and think with a cleaner sheet of paper,” said Bill Coughlin, president and CEO of Ford Global Technologies, in a prepared statement. “Great, storied companies can benefit from the exciting solutions scrappy startups offer. At the same time, Ford is interested in fostering and engaging this community so that automotive innovations can continue to grow and prosper.”

This year, Techstars Mobility received applications from every continent except Antarctica; among those accepted to the program are companies from New York, Ontario, and Chile. None are from Michigan this time around. (More on the 2016 class in a minute.) The program culminates with a demo day on Sept. 8 at the Detroit Opera House.

“Some people might look at that as a bad thing, but I think it’s actually a good thing,” said Ted Serbinski, who runs the accelerator. “It means there’s more demand for these kinds of companies than are already here. Detroit has the right ingredients for building mobility startups—it’s the right market, the right region, and the right time.”

This year, Serbinski said he saw 26 percent more applications from outside the U.S.—no surprise, given the uptick in emerging foreignz markets—and a 44 percent increase in mobility-focused technologies. Serbinski also noticed a few trends and takeaways this year: the quality of applicants went way up; participants came into the program with more traction and money raised; more are incorporating artificial intelligence and big data; and an increasing number of applicants took a “Millennial or Generation Z approach” to solving mobility challenges, Serbinski said, where the car is thought of as a vessel for sophisticated software and systems rather than just a piece of hardware ferrying people from point A to point B.

The incoming Techstars Mobility class will focus on leveraging emerging technologies—connectivity, real-time data, on-demand services, and social sharing—in several key areas of interest to Ford: consumer experience; information technology and data analytics; multimodal trip integration; flexible ownership and user models; and autonomous and safety technologies. In exchange for a 6 to 10 percent equity stake, each company will receive $120,000 in funding, along with three months of mentoring from industry experts on business development, customer acquisition, and developing relationships within the auto industry.

Techstars Mobility launched last year, and some of the 2015 alumni are already making waves. SPLT, a ride-sharing service for commuters, relocated from New York to Detroit after its stint in the accelerator and has gone on to form corporate partnerships, start pilot projects, and win a trip to Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters, where it competed against other startups from across the country at the tech giant’s annual demo day event.

Serbinski said another 2015 alum, Lunar (formerly known as Cosmos), has raised about $1 million so far from investors for its pay-as-you-go mobile phone service with no contract, monthly bill, or credit check. Details of how Lunar’s service works are sparse, but those interested can sign up on its website to learn more.

Read on for details about the latest class of Techstars Mobility startups:

Acerta: Based in Waterloo, Ontario, Acerta works in the realm of industrial Internet of Things, creating algorithms to identify anomalies in data, zero in on root causes, and proactively predict future failures.

Algocian: Toronto-based Algocian says it can make any camera smart by incorporating machine learning to deliver state-of- the-art video analytics for autonomous vehicles and security applications.

Braiq: This artificial intelligence company, spun out of Columbia University, is working to personalize self-driving cars by teaching them to better read human emotions.

—Cargo: We couldn’t find a website for the company, but a press release issued by Techstars described Cargo as “a data-driven general store for the ride-sharing economy.”

Donut Media: We’ve heard a lot about how millennials aren’t as interested in owning cars as their parents, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cultivate an appreciation for fine automobiles. Donut Media aims to create a younger generation of enthusiasts by producing and posting cool car-related videos that are sharable on Facebook, Snapchat, Instragram, and YouTube.

Drive Spotter: Headquartered in Omaha, NE, Drive Spotter uses real-time video analytics to manage fleets and increase driver safety.

GoKid: Founded by a mom who moved to the U.S. from Europe and was puzzled by the amount of time American parents spend driving kids to their many activities, GoKid’s app helps busy families coordinate and manage carpooling.

HAAS Alert: Offering the first connected siren, HAAS Alert gives motorists a warning that pops up on the car dashboard or smartphone homescreen when emergency vehicles are approaching.

HERO: The Austin, TX-based HERO’s app shows drivers a dashboard listing all nearby ride services and offers rewards to designated drivers and riders who make it home safely.

Spatial: Based in Cincinnati, Spatial is an artificial intelligence startup with an API that seeks to make it easy to integrate hyperlocal social intelligence into any mobile or online map.

Voyhoy: Voyhoy is Chilean a platform that allows users to book multimodal transportation in Latin America and Europe.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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