The Detroit region's growing mobility startup ecosystem

Detroit is becoming a hotspot for mobility and connected vehicle startups offering everything from artificial intelligence for autonomous vehicles to a car subscription service.

It’s no secret that Michigan already is the global epicenter of the automotive industry — 16 original equipment manufacturers have headquarters or a presence here, along with more than 90 of the top 100 North American automotive suppliers and some 2,200 facilities that conduct automotive research, design, engineering, testing and validation.

With additional fuel added by incubators, venture capitalists and other business services, startups from far and wide are coming to the region as it revolutionizes mobility.

They’re drawn by resources like Techstars Mobility, which offers a 90-day acceleration program that includes funding, office space, and a host of business resources to tech firms and advanced materials businesses focused on mobility and transportation. Since 2015, Techstars Mobility has invested in 33 startups that are now valued at $200 million.

Some Techstars alumni have decided to stay in Detroit and set up shop at the recently opened PlanetM Landing Zone. The Detroit Regional Chamber in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. launched the space in October 2017 to provide a physical entry point for mobility entrepreneurs that want to do business with Michigan’s automotive OEM and Tier 1 companies. Located inside WeWork Detroit, the PlanetM Landing Zone offers subsidized co-working space,  Introductions and events to connect startups with automotive firms and a range of professional services. So far the program has three industry partners and 11 startups, with more on the way.

Michigan’s startup ecosystem also is boosted by 22 venture capital firms and eight angel groups that invest in mobility businesses. Just in the last few months, VC firm Fontinalis Partners has sold portfolio companies to Ford, BMW and Delphi Automotive.

Last month, the North American International Auto Show highlighted the burgeoning mobility sector through an expanded AutoMobili-D expo, where companies like SEEVA Technologies showcased innovations for cleaning vehicle windshields, cameras and sensors.

Through feature spotlights on Driven, we will tell the stories of these startups that have launched in Michigan, expanded or moved their operations here, or value their temporary pilgrimage to the Motor City.
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