Bosch’s Acquisition of SPLT is Big Win for Detroit Mobility Startups

SPLT, the Detroit-based ridesharing startup and Techstars Mobility alum, announced today that it has been acquired by automotive supplier Bosch, which has its U.S. headquarters in metro Detroit. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Anya Babbitt, SPLT co-founder and CEO, describes the acquisition as “a most fortunate outcome.”

SPLT was established in 2014 to allow people traveling to the same destinations to connect and share rides. After the company’s 2015 stint in the Techstars accelerator, it honed in on a business-to-business strategy, providing carpooling services to corporations, municipalities, and universities.

SPLT’s algorithm matches people who share the same route to school or work, and then computes the fastest way to get there. Babbitt says SPLT currently has roughly 140,000 users and 20 corporate customers in the United States, Mexico, and Germany.

After completing the Techstars program, SPLT embarked on an award tour of sorts, scoring early pilot projects with DTE Energy and Lyft. The company also beat out other Detroit startups to win a spot at Google Demo Day in the spring of 2016, and it won the $500,000 grand prize at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in the fall of 2016.

It was at Google Demo Day that SPLT’s deal with Bosch first began to come together, Babbitt says. A Bosch executive had been dispatched to Mountain View by the company president to find a carpooling solution for its employees in Mexico City, the most congested place on the planet.

“He came up to us and expressed the need for our platform in Mexico because of all the different issues with safety, security, and congestion,” she adds.

By the end of 2016, SPLT had established an office in Guadalajara after inking an employee carpooling deal with Bosch. SPLT then spent the next year-plus deploying its service across Mexico, an arrangement that eventually culminated in the acquisition deal.

“We’d been working with Bosch for so long as a customer, it’s great to see them on the buy side,” Babbitt says, adding that SPLT will now be a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of Bosch. The supplier, which has 400,000 employees worldwide, was initially interested primarily in hiring SPLT to be its in-house carpooling provider, but Babbitt says Bosch’s interest goes beyond its own employees. “We have the same shared vision for transportation, and they were seeing the same potential for global reach and scale with other organizations.”

To see Bosch go from an early SPLT adopter to investor and partner in selling the company’s platform across the globe has been an exhilarating ride for Babbitt.

“In my opinion, Bosch is the most innovative among the Tier 1 suppliers because they have a cross-vertical, industry-transforming approach,” she says. And, she points out, because Bosch is privately owned, it’s not subject to the same investor pressure that publicly traded companies experience. “Bosch has a little more flexibility to take calculated, conservative risks, and this acquisition further indicates that Bosch isn’t just a hardware company—they truly have a vision to invest in mobility platforms.”

Babbitt says SPLT’s entire 25-person team will be retained as part of the acquisition, and it will continue to operate offices in Detroit, Chicago, England, Germany, and Mexico. Early on, SPLT relocated from New York to the Motor City—a decision that turned out to be fruitful.

“The root of the product and team took shape in Detroit, and it became a great proving ground for us,” Babbitt says. “I’m excited to see 2018 and beyond.”

SPLT is also building “a large team” in Los Angeles, and it has one employee in San Francisco; Babbitt expects the California and international offices to grow in the near future.

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

Trending on Xconomy