The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is not just about bumpers and hoods, it’s about innovation that extends well beyond the vehicle to connected, autonomous, electrified systems, cybersecurity, and smart cities and infrastructure. This was all on display at AutoMobili-D, four full days of programming in a 150,000 square-foot space at Cobo Center during NAIAS Preview Week Jan. 14 to 17.
“There are really exciting things happening around AutoMobili-D in 2019,” says Amanda Roraff, operations manager with PlanetM, the Michigan mobility ecosystem connector, and arm of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). “It’s so great to see the startup ecosystem taking hold and growing here in Detroit.”
This year, 65 global startups
exhibited their innovations, up from about 50 at the 2018 event. Suppliers, OEMs, government agencies, and educational shared the latest innovations, policies, and educational offerings surrounding mobility.
“AutoMobili-D featured more than 25 hours of content, with more than 100 speakers at two stages, a large main stage that overlooks the Detroit River, and another inside the hall as well,” says Roraff.Sunjay Dodani from IntelliTire pitches during the PlanetM Pitch Competition. Photo by Claire Charlton.
Among the many 2019 AutoMobili-D events were PlanetM-driven competitions and match meetings, both of which came back for the second year to offer exciting opportunities for startups and large corporations that participated.
Planet M mobility competitions and awards
Tuesday’s PlanetM programming featured a startup pitch competition. Powered by Detroit-based startup accelerator Techstars Mobility
, and this was an opportunity for startups exhibiting at AutoMobili-D to pitch their products to a panel of front-row judges, who asked questions and provided feedback.
Five finalist startup companies pitched in the Mobility Applications category, six in the Mobility Technologies category, and six in the Mobility Services category. Each talked for up to three minutes and answered questions for one minute.
The PlanetM Startup of the Year award went to Wise Systems
, a startup that offers autonomous dispatch and routing software designed for fleet vehicles and delivery organizations. Winners for the three categories were: Xapix
for Mobility Application, Alchemy Nano
for Mobility Technology, and IntelliTire
for Mobility Services.Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II presents the 2019 PlanetM Techstars Startup of the Year Award to Chazz Sims, CEO and co-founder of Wise Systems.
On hand to present awards and to judge in the startup categories was Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “This is the leadership we want to really show how success is possible when it is supported by the entire community,” said Gilchrist as he recognized the startup.
The PlanetM Awards immediately followed the pitch competition. These awards were product-based, and open to any startup exhibiting at AutoMobili-D, but also to larger corporations as well. Companies self-nominated, to five different categories, and their products were judged by a 20-judge panel curated from private companies and public sector entities.
The PlanetM Awards 2019 category winners were WaveSense
for Autonomous Driving,: Haas Alert
in Connected Car, Detroit Flying Cars
in eMobility, DeepHow
in Mobiity Services, and Derq
for Smart Cities.
PlanetM Awards Best in Show was WaveSense
, which has innovated radar technology that creates subterranean mapping to help autonomous vehicles navigate regardless of poor weather conditions or lack of road lane markings.
In addition to a unique statement trophy, and a digital stamp to share on websites and other media, winners get recognition from mobility industry leaders. “They win bragging rights about the fact that they championed a highly competitive field. That’s great to be able to say,” says Roraff.
“Some of the larger events like CES have been doing awards for some time, so it’s great to see Detroit on the map with regard to AutoMobili-D and recognition of the talent that is showcased here,” says Roraff.
PlanetM match meetings connect startups with a variety of stakeholders
Wednesday’s AutoMobili-D programming got to the heart of the work that PlanetM does throughout the year in Michigan. In addition to activating technologies and coordinating mobility assets, PlanetM fosters company connections, introducing startups with investors, suppliers, OEMs, and other stakeholders for sit-down meetings.
“It’s like speed dating for B2B,” says Roraff, who shares that 260 20-minute meetings were scheduled between 36 corporate partners and 100 startups.
The 260 number is actually lower than last year’s number, but a double verification process put into place this year ensured the quality of the connections, says Roraff.
“Those who have signed in are very serious about these meetings,” she says. Since January 2018, PlanetM has facilitated 1,800 one-on-one connections in the Michigan mobility ecosystem.
One of those meetings was between Techstars Mobility graduate and PlanetM Landing Zone member Pit Stop
, a Toronto-based prognostic maintenance platform startup, and global automotive supplier Continental.
“Pit Stop secured a large contract with Continental, which demonstrates the value of the meetings to lead to true partnerships and business opportunities on both sides,” says Roraff.
Expect PlanetM Match Meetings to continue and strengthen as Detroit gears up for the 2020 NAIAS, reimagined for its move from January to June.
“We plan for an even bigger presence in 2020,” Roraff says.
Photos courtesy of PlanetM, except where indicated.