5 strategies to engage mobility innovation

An established trade show like TU Automotive is a perfect place for a disrupter who knows the impact startups can have on longstanding industries like automotive. Ted Serbinski is one such disrupter.

As managing director of mobility at Techstars, Serbinski curates an annual accelerator class of tech startups dedicated to moving people, goods, and services. And because he could see the enormous potential the startup market will have on the automotive and mobility industries, he left Silicon Valley and came to Detroit.

With rapidfire change in the mobility sector, Serbinski estimates that technology and services will outpace vehicle sales profits by 2030, and companies that fail to innovate are in danger of simply fading away. By 2027, 75 percent of S&P 500 companies will be removed from the index as a result, Serbinski says.

“There are literally thousands of startups attacking the mobility space, from every aspect from supply chain, to in-car [experiences], to trucking. They’re all vying to disrupt existing players. Over time as they start [to create] these niche markets, and start growing, they will be bigger and faster than existing players,” says Serbinski.

OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers alike are recognizing the value of engaging with startups, and even operating select business divisions with the flexibility and innovative spirit of a startup.

Serbinski shared a dozen tips for engagement at his TU Automotive session called “How to build a successful strategy to drive innovation with startups.” From his long list, we share his top five, which can be implemented at any organization:

Innovation needs to be a priority. Support at the C-level is critical in order for innovation to thrive in an organization.

Know your why. Know why you are doing what you are doing, and be proactive. Don’t wait for someone else to make the move. Serbinski says that the automotive market, in particular, is reactive, and the key players move when they see their competitors move. To win in the innovation, space you need to know the reason why you are making changes. Typically this relates to your customers more than your competitors.

Don’t define innovation too narrowly. Seeds of change can start anywhere from anything, and people are greater than ideas. The whole point is the quest to find a new business model, but you should be building what you want to build. Serbinski shared an example of two entrepreneurs who, in pursuit of financial gain, worked on a garage door opener--something they had little interest in creating. They started over, followed their passions, and created the BB-8 app-enabled toy. “If you define the standbox too small you will miss out on some of the best opportunities,” Serbinski says.

Innovation is not Silicon Valley. “Silicon Valley is a great place; there is a ton of innovation going on there. But it’s not the only place in the world,” Serbinski says. There are lots of opportunities everywhere else in the world. While automotive companies are opening offices in Silicon Valley, will they still be there in 30 years?

Innovation bubbles up. Innovation can come from within your company. Build a process to let it bubble up before it pops. Serbinski shared the idea of using a simple GET TO YES request action form. Allows you to avoid roadblocks and prioritization.
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