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

Eleven startups that spent the summer working in the Techstars Mobility accelerator program took to the stage to pitch their technologies to a packed house of investors, entrepreneurs, media, and other stakeholders at the Detroit Film Theatre Wednesday. According to Techstars, this demo day event is the world’s largest of its kind.

Each company was introduced by a prominent collaborator, mentor, or investor, and the pitches that followed were short and sweet. This year’s Techstars Mobility cohort was loaded with interesting companies, some of whom have already raised money or struck partnership deals.

After the pitching concluded, Foundry Group co-founder and metro Detroit native Jason Mendelson led a brief but enlightening panel discussion on why new transplants decided to locate in Detroit. Several established tech companies also made announcements about new or expanding local ventures, and a new initiative meant to unify the city’s startup ecosystem, called #StartupDetroit, was announced. There was a lot going on; read on for details.

 

Techstars Mobility Stats

Since its inception in 2015, the Techstars Mobility accelerator—which is focused on companies working on technologies related to the movement of people and things, many of which have an automated or self-driving component—has invested in 33 startups, which have gone on to raise $45 million and have a total combined valuation of $200 million, the accelerator said.

Two program graduates, SPLT and Lunar, have permanently relocated to Detroit from New York; six others have opened offices in Detroit; and a total of 27 jobs have been created via Techstars Mobility portfolio companies. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that, of the 33 companies that have gone through the accelerator, 21 have diverse founders—people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Techstars Mobility was expected to announce details about its new office—the program is currently housed at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions football team—but that announcement has been postponed for a few months, said managing director Ted Serbinski.

 

SpotHero: How Parking Fits into Mobility

Chicago-based SpotHero, an app that allows people to find and book parking, has opened a Detroit office. Earlier this week, we called Elan Mosbacher, the company’s vice president of strategy and partnerships, to discuss the move.

SpotHero, which launched in 2011, went through the Techstars Chicago program in 2012. Since then, Mosbacher said the 200-person company has grown into “the nation’s leading parking reservation service.” He expects SpotHero’s growth to continue, and he views parking as a key part of our autonomous future.

“Now, Tier 1 suppliers and [automakers] are thinking about autonomous vehicles and asking, ‘What services can I offer?’ This year, we’ve started to engage more heavily with automakers about taking our platform and plugging it in [to their systems],” Mosbacher said. “Detroit is the headquarters of the North American mobility space, and parking is becoming a very popular topic in the transportation world.”

SpotHero’s Detroit office will concentrate on HeroConnect, its “end-to-end parking mobility platform” that can be integrated into other companies’ apps or in-dash systems, as well as strategic partnerships within the auto industry.

In the future, Mosbacher believes parking garages will serve as hubs where … Next Page »

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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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