Techstars is an established accelerator network with incubators around the world, and Detroit is a new addition. The projects center around mobility in some form, be it improving vehicles, moving goods, or working cars into the sharing economy in new ways. In return for a percentage stake in each company, Techstars provides mentorship, access to experts, seed money, and a collaborative environment.
One startup we're particularly excited about is Motoroso. This site is like Pinterest for the car-obsessed, with boards replaced by garages that can contain photos and links to other projects. The site lets you follow brands – Chevy, Porsche, Ducati, and others already have profiles – as well as other users. For the Autoblog editors, Motoroso provides a new way to share stories, photos, and video, as well as a way to discover new products and interesting DIY projects. Take a look at the Autoblog profile and wander around the site to check things out.
Another one of the startups, Classics & Exotics, is helping owners of interesting cars and would-be drivers connect in an Airbnb-style distributed rental program. Think of it as an auction catalog you can drive. Renters can specify the price, mileage, minimum driver age, and availability. Similar to Airbnb, Classics & Exotics provides each vehicle owner with $1 million in liability and damage protection. The company also vets renters for added peace of mind. Sounds like fun, and a cheap way to avoid a costly Craigslist or eBay mistake.
Along similar shared-economy lines comes SPLT, a ride-sharing platform that finds people going where you're going and lets you hop in a car and split the costs. It's aimed at commuters but also has great applications for those looking for occasional one-way rides somewhere. SPLT notes that the system is a good way to meet new people – hopefully, good new people. Depending on how well SPLT keeps sketchy rides and riders out of the system, this could be a solid alternative to services like Uber and Lyft.
This Techstars Mobility class has backing from corporate sponsors, including Ford, Honda, Magna, Dana, Verizon Telematics (Verizon has an offer pending to buy AOL, our parent company), and McDonald's. The freshman class will present to potential investors at a demo day in September. Two more classes of 10 companies are planned through 2017. You can read the Ford press release below for the full list of 2015 Techstars Mobility participants.
Ford-Backed Techstars Mobility, Driven by Detroit, Announces 10 Startups Receiving Funding, Support
• Ford-backed Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, today announces 10 startup winners receiving funding and business plan support to further develop innovative technologies and apps; winners are moving to new office in downtown Detroit to incubate their ideas through fall
• Startup ideas target future mobility solutions ranging from new lithium ion battery technology to a ride-sharing app to a Web browser that requires no data connection
• The 10 startup winners were selected from hundreds of submissions from 42 countries representing six continents
Ford-backed Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, today announces 10 startup companies it will support through September with funding and business development training as they bring to life future mobility and transportation solutions.
"Techstars Mobility pays forward the startup legacy of Ford Motor Company by supporting these smart and ambitious inventors, developers and thinkers who are creating innovative solutions to a wide range of future mobility challenges," said Bill Ford, executive chairman, Ford Motor Company.
Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, is a startup mentorship-driven accelerator program that aims to foster innovative transportation solutions that help alleviate growing global challenges such as traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and emissions.
The 10 winning entrepreneurs move to new offices in downtown Detroit starting next week through early September. Each startup company receives up to $120,000 in funding, plus three months of intensive training in business development, customer acquisition and recruitment, as well as guidance from top business mentors, advisors and investors in mobility.
They present final proposals to investors and industry leaders on Demo Day, Sept. 10.
The 2015 class for Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, include:
• Ansik, which makes an app to improve the process of automotive service – making it efficient and affordable for everyone
• CDL Warrior, a communication and productivity platform for the trucking industry that connects truck drivers to their supply chain partners and improves efficiency, visibility and compliance
• Classics & Exotics, which brings the sharing economy into the car enthusiast's garage, allowing classic and exotic car enthusiasts to offset their ownership costs by renting their cars to prescreened, highly qualified candidates
• Cosmos Browser, a mobile Web browser that delivers the Internet via SMS without requiring data or Wi-Fi
• Elegus Technologies, which is a lithium-ion battery separator made from Kevlar that can enable longer-lasting batteries
• Gear Brake, a universal, easy-to-install brake light module that can detect when a vehicle is slowing and automatically illuminate the brake lights, reducing the risk of a rear-end collision
• Motoroso, which combines content, community and commerce for automotive enthusiasts to help them discover, connect and buy everything that powers their lifestyle
• My Dealer Service, which empowers automotive service departments with digital connectivity and workflow management – elevating efficiency and creating an unprecedented customer experience
• SPLT, a social ride-sharing app designed to connect people with similar routes, share the fare, save money, reduce traffic and emissions and change the way people meet and move in cities around the world
• WISE Systems, which provides real-time routing and analytics software to help on-demand delivery companies
Launched in December of 2014, Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, received hundreds of applicants representing 42 countries and six continents. The 10 chosen startup companies are led by a diverse group of entrepreneurs between ages 18 and 43, with backgrounds in engineering, science and computers. The group includes graduates from Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among other leading universities.
Next year and in 2017, two more classes of 10 startup companies will be selected to come to Detroit and develop additional solutions for future mobility challenges.
In addition to Ford, Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit, is backed by Magna International, Verizon Telematics, Dana Holding Corporation, Honda R&D Americas and McDonald's.
This is just one way Ford is driving innovation. This year, the company also announced Ford Smart Mobility, which is its plan to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data.
As part of this effort, Ford is conducting more than 25 mobility experiments around the world to test breakthrough transportation ideas to create better customer experiences, more flexible user-ship models and social collaboration that can reward customers.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Michigan, manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 194,000 employees and 66 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit http://corporate.ford.com.
About Techstars Mobility
Techstars is a global ecosystem that empowers entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market wherever they choose to build their business. With 18 mentorship-driven accelerator programs worldwide, Techstars exists to support the world's most promising entrepreneurs throughout their lifelong journey. Techstars provides access to over 5,000 founders, mentors, investors, and corporate partners, allowing entrepreneurs to accelerate the pace of innovation and do more faster. Techstars makes entrepreneurship more accessible by providing access to capital, guidance, marketing, business development, customer acquisition, and recruitment. For more information, visit www.techstars.com.