AMA: Techstars Mobility

AMA: Techstars Mobility

AMA: Techstars Mobility

Asking for Help, We Need More Women to Help Drive the Mobility Industry Forward

Today is International Women’s Day. A celebration of the amazing women in our lives that make the world a better place (shout to my wife and my 18- month-old daughter). Today is also the recognition of the struggles and biases women face that create pain and suffering. Today is a call to action to accelerate gender parity.

I want to ask for your help. I want to welcome more women into mobility, both as founders changing the future, and as mentors, supporting the growing and changing ecosystem around automotive mobility.

As Brené Brown puts it, “Courage is contagious. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little better and the world a little braver.”

The automotive industry has a stigma of being a guy’s thing. Guys are into cars and women are not. Guys are more engineering focused and women are not.

This is all a stereotype. A bias. A woefully wrong one. For example, look at Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, both a car enthusiast and an engineer, who is taking charge to lead GM through the automotive industry change to the mobility industry. Kate Schox put together a list of emerging females investing in the future of transportation that make up this future mobility industry.

We need more of the this. We need the courage to take a hard look at the gaps in diversity and work together to improve it.

Building a mobility innovation community welcoming women

The future of automotive and transportation is mobility. Mobility is the fusion of manufactured steel with software and services. It’s the automotive industry adding a layer of software and services to enable new ways to get around, like a car that drives itself or transportation on demand.

As the industry changes, so will the workforce and skills needed to survive and win in this new environment. And you know what, diversity of ideas and people will be a key component in this new era.

Today, women makeup half the workforce in the U.S., and only represent 25% of the workforce in the automotive/mobility industry. When you look at women in automotive executive positions, that number drops to 17%. Yet, just as automobile ownership declines, autonomous vehicles take over and shared mobility services grow, so will women become prominent in an industry once dominated by men. Source: Catalyst

At Techstars Mobility, we’re on a mission to connect the automotive industry to emerging startups around the world. We’ve built a network of over 143 organizations spanning OEMs, suppliers, service companies, venture capital funds, and more.

We have invested in 33 startups from 6 different countries. We have over 300+ mentors supporting entrepreneurs that go through our program.

When I analyzed our breakdown of women-led startups and female mentors, I almost fell out of my seat. While we make a conscious effort to be more inclusive, our numbers are still barely above the automotive industry average:

  • 19% of our mentors are women
  • 18% of our startups have women co-founders

So this blog post is my call for help to improve significantly this percentage.

Techstars Mobility is looking to engage with more women in the mobility and automotive industry. We are looking to invest in more female-led startups. We are looking for women to be involved as mentors. If you know of anyone or are interested yourself, please send them my way.

Investing in amazing women changing the future of transportation

Through Techstars Mobility, I’ve had the pleasure to invest and support some amazing women changing the future of transportation. I’d like to invest in even more. Here’s what they shared with ways to improve the gender gap in the automotive mobility industry.

Anya started SPLT which Bosch acquired

SPLT founder and CEO, Anya Babbitt, shares her thoughts about why she started her company and what we can do to make the industry more welcoming to women.

Bosch recently acquired SPLT, check out the backstory in this post.

Why did you decide to start a company in the automotive mobility space?

It all started with a personal mobility challenge. Several years ago I was working in Los Angeles on a project and traveling from the hotel and the work site every day taking the hotel shuttle. One day it was completely booked, and I was stuck without a ride to a meeting halfway across town. Luckily two other guests were going in the same direction and we shared the ride in their car. That led to sharing the ride, splitting the cost, plus a networking opportunity. I returned home to New York where organic sharing of taxi rides became an emergent phenomenon as more and more people took to sharing transportation during peak hours. I soon realized there needed to be an app for this, where people working together or living near one another could share the ride and connect.

What do you think we can do to make the industry more welcoming to female founders and innovators shaping the future of transportation?

The future of transportation is happening now and there are already more women in the field than ever. The end goal is to improve the lives of all people through innovations in transportation. As women have attained higher academic achievement over the past few decades, the demand for more convenience, accessibility, and assistance will continue to grow. We still bear the greatest burden in child-rearing and taking care of our elderly parents, work that many female-led transportation startups are addressing in this space. Saving time, saving the environment, they all converge when convenience is as important as conservation. The culture and conversations are already changing.

Diane started SEEVA and raised $2.1M in venture funding

SEEVA founder and CEO, Diane Lansinger, shares her thoughts about why she started her company and what we can do to make the industry more welcoming to women.

Why did you decide to start a company in the automotive mobility space?

When I realized my kids would be getting their driver’s licenses at about the same L5 semi-trucks would be hitting the road, I was all in.

What do you think we can do to make the industry more welcoming to female founders and innovators shaping the future of transportation?

I’d love to start a monthly roundtable with female mobility founders and/or C-suite startup leaders where we meet, share experiences and peer-mentor each other. I know a simple format I’ve experienced in other “she-EO” startup groups that works well even with dispersed groups. Happy to share and can moderate for the first few months (having a moderator is good, in my experience, just to keep focus). This isn’t a social group format, though we do get to know each other better and build our networks in the process. Who’s in? Note: I’m happy to connect you to Diane if you’d like to be part of this group.

Lisa supports founders building the future of transportation

Techstars Mobility Director, Lisa Seymour, shares her thoughts about why she started her company and what we can do to make the industry more welcoming to women.

Why did you decide to start a company in the automotive mobility space?

I didn’t start a company in the mobility space, but I did spin up the Techstars Mobility program with Ted because I wanted to help entrepreneurs build their businesses in Detroit. With all of the automotive and mobility expertise, we have in Southeast Michigan starting a program for mobility entrepreneurs seemed like the perfect fit.

What do you think we can do to make the industry more welcoming to female founders and innovators shaping the future of transportation?

We have an amazing network of founders and mentors in the mobility program though most are men. That being said — be our allies! Help women in the industry strengthen their voice and be more visible. Diversity makes us all better.

Are you a founder that wants to grow your network, secure capital for your startup, and scale your business? Do you want to grow as a leader and be more successful? Subscribed to Ted’s blog and apply for the 2018 Techstars Mobility program (be sure to select Mobility 2018 as your first choice in the application).

AMA: Techstars Mobility

Global Applications for the Techstars Worldwide Network are Now Open!

There’s an often-repeated stat that 90 percent of startups fail. Not sure the source is, but no doubt that it scares entrepreneurs. At Techstars, we see the reverse in our accelerator portfolio – 90 percent of our startups are active or have successfully exited. Which statistic reflects your business? If you’re ready to succeed, take the next step and apply now to the Techstars worldwide network with more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders.

At Techstars, we are on a mission to help entrepreneurs succeed. Our mentorship-driven accelerator programs invest in founders to help them do more faster. Over the past 10 years we have helped over 1,274 companies grow and raise over $4.4 billion in funding, with a market cap of $11.4 billion. Now, we are excited to start the search for the next wave of companies to join our worldwide network!

We are reaching new regions and verticals around the world with our newest mentorship-driven accelerator programs. Applications are opening for five new programs:

Take the next step in your journey and apply to join the Techstars worldwide network with more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders.

This is more than a three month program, the Techstars worldwide network is for life. Listen to stories about our founders from Techstars alumni companies like SendGrid, ClassPass, and DigitalOcean.

Application deadline is April 8, 2018 for most programs. We will be announcing details for information sessions and online events where you can connect with Techstars founders and team, as well as mentors who have the experience and proven track record to help you succeed. Be on the lookout for more details soon!

When you apply, you can choose from any of the following locations and verticals:

For tips and resources on the application process, check out our Application Toolkit.

AMA: Techstars Mobility

19 Techstars Alumni Expoing at the North American International Auto Show

Techstars Mobility has partnered with the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) for the second year in a row to bring over 50 global startups to Detroit in January 2018 to showcase their innovative mobility technologies as part of AutoMobili-D, a dedicated startup expo. This partnership is part of Techstars Mobility’s ongoing mission to connect the automotive and startup worlds by breaking down silos and forming partnerships.

Due to the success of last year’s AutoMobili-D expo, and Detroit’s continuous transformation, we were able to increase the amount of startups in attendance.

Last year, we had startups travel to Detroit for this event from across North America, as well as Dubai, London and Portugal. This year we will have an even greater international presence, with startups coming from 11 different countries. Out of the 57 participating startups, 19 are Techstars alumni.

This year’s showcase will also represent a wider-range of technologies, including:

  • Autonomous
  • Connected Car
  • Electrification
  • Fleet Management
  • Hardware / Sensors
  • Logistics
  • Manufacturing
  • Mapping / Journey Planning / Multi-Modal
  • Personal Mobility / Last Mile Vehicles
  • Security
  • Services / On-demand / Ride Sharing
  • Smart City and Infrastructure

Applications for Techstars Mobility 2018 program will be opening January 8th. Startups can apply here.

Here is a list of the Techstars companies that will be attending:

Program Momentum Continues with Largest Single-Day Event Focused on Mobility Startups in the World

I finished my third Techstars Mobility Accelerator program this month. It was an incredible experience, and I’m grateful to Lisa Seymour, my colleague and partner in running this program, for the terrific associates and volunteers that joined us this year, and of course, the incredible founders that came from all around the world to Detroit for 13 weeks.

Since June 2015, we’ve been super busy. We’ve invested in 33 startups from six different countries — only two came from Michigan. Of these startups, 21 have founders with diverse backgrounds. As a portfolio, they have gone on to raise $45M and are valued at $200M, with one exit (Hagerty acquired Classics&Exotics from our 2015 program). I expect these numbers to go up quite a bit as we head into 2018.

On Oct 18, 2017, our third program wrapped up with a multi-event demo day. Over the course of the day, we hosted over 1200+ individuals from 113+ different automotive OEMs, suppliers, transportation companies, and leading mobility venture capital funds. Our 2017 Techstars Mobility demo day was the largest single-day event focused on mobility startups in the world. This was also the third year we’ve had over 1000+ individuals at our demo day, continuing its recognition as the largest single-day startup event in Michigan.

Watch the full recording of the 2017 Techstars Mobility Demo Day

Featured media outlets covering our demo day include Xconomy, Benzinga, dBusiness, and Autoblog.

The Most International Class to go through the Mobility Program

  • Axle Travel (New York City) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Axle Travel is the next evolution in ground-based, long-distance travel. We offer door-to-door transportation by combining on-demand ride-sharing services with our own pop-up intercity bus service.
  • Carma (Washington D.C.)— Watch their demo day pitch here
    Carma offers month-to-month subscriptions to your own car with insurance, maintenance and road assistance included. Like WeWork, for cars.
  • cycuro (Tel Aviv, Israel) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    cycuro is the world’s first data validation platform built specifically for mobility. We deliver data integrity to mobility operators and services providers via a cloud SaaS.
  • Damon X Labs (Vancouver, Canada) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Using AI and edge computing, Damon’s sensor-driven platform unlocks the full potential of collision avoidance systems, making motorcycling safer by alerting riders to threats they can’t see.
  • Derq (Dubai, UAE) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Derq is an MIT spin-off developing AI-based V2X software applications for connected and autonomous vehicles to eliminate road accidents and save lives.
  • EcoG (Munich, Germany) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    EcoG is the monetization engine of sustainable electric vehicle charging.
  • Fathom (Grand Rapids, MI) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Fathom is modernizing and simplifying the recreational rental industry starting with its flagship product, the Fathom One, an underwater drone built for adventure.
  • Gridwise (Pittsburgh, PA) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Gridwise is a mobile platform for rideshare drivers which increases their earnings 39% by leveraging data analytics and community to help them better understand when and where to drive.
  • SEEVA (Seattle, WA) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    SEEVA Technologies designs visibility systems for mobility. Our technologies quickly clean windshields, cameras, LIDAR and other sensors to help vehicles see.
  • Vartega (Golden, CO) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Vartega creates low-cost recycled carbon fiber for vehicle lightweighting to enable mobility solutions such as battery technology, connectivity, and autonomy.
  • Wheeli (New York City) — Watch their demo day pitch here
    Wheeli is the carpooling app for college students — the Airbnb for the empty car seats on the road.

Forcing Serendipity by Connecting Amazing People Together

During the 2017 Techstars Mobility Accelerator program, over 2,500 meetings were scheduled between the 11 startups and hundreds of mentors representing OEMs, suppliers, transportation companies, and leading mobility venture capital funds.

I like to call this “forced serendipity” — when you pair up a bunch of amazingly smart people, the collisions of ideas and momentum of network lead to incredible results.

Ultimately that is the secret to why this program works so well. Through these encounters, founders received a lot of different viewpoints. Data gathered from these meetings is distilled down into wisdom that the founders use to grow their business, and the results always amaze me.

Thank you to all the great mentors that have supported the last three programs. And an extra special thank you to these 32 mentors as rated “most helpful” by the founders that have gone through Techstars Mobility.

What’s Next?

With our third program behind us, we aren’t slowing down.

We’ve partnered with the 2018 North American International Show (aka the Detroit Auto Show) again this year to bring over 50 mobility startups from around the world to Detroit.

During the week of January 14th, we’ll be unveiling our 2018 program with our supporting corporate partners and application link for startups to apply.

Look for more updates as we get closer to 2018.

If you’d like to talk with any of these mobility startups, let me know I’d be happy to connect you. Shoot me a note here.

Originally published at

Hagerty Acquires Techstars Mobility Graduate Classics&Exotics

I’m excited to announce that Hagerty has acquired Classics&Exotics. Classics&Exotics went through the 2015 Techstars Mobility Accelerator program. Hagerty is the world’s largest network for people who love cars and collectible vehicles. Peter Zawadzki’s vision to build the best peer-to-peer online marketplace for classic cars takes another huge step forward.

Hagerty is relaunching Classics&Exotics as DriveShare by Hagerty and is available nationwide today. If you’ve ever wanted to drive a 1966 Ford Mustang GT or a 1984 Ferrari 308 but couldn’t afford one, now is your chance.

The Opportunity in Classic Cars

When most people think about “mobility startups” they think about self-driving cars, LIDAR sensors, and ridesharing services like Uber. The focus is on disruption and the inevitable decline of automotive vehicles in the future. Who needs to drive if the car can drive itself?

I believe the future of automotive mobility includes both cars that can drive themselves and cars that people still drive and want to drive.

That last point is part of my thesis on the future of transportation and how the automotive shift to mobility is much more than self-driving cars. Startups like Classics&Exotics, now DriveShare by Hagerty, are part of this future where people still want to drive cars themselves.

To understand the future, we need to understand the past. Over a 100 years ago, when Ford introduced the Model T, the demise of horses seemed imminent. Today’s Equestrian industry is a $39 billion industry (twice the size of golf, which is only $18 billion). Cars are ubiquitous today, but horses are still a booming industry in America.

In the future, your car could drive you to work. But on the weekends, you could drive a car that brings you joy, an experience powered by Hagerty’s DriveShare. And where would you drive that car? Highways are too regulated and could be off limits due to future government rules around self-driving vehicles. But north of downtown Detroit, you could drive your car on the M1 Concourse, a private garage, and track, for automotive enthusiasts. My guess is we’ll see a lot more of these pop up around the world in the coming decade, as we saw private horse farms and eventing areas.

New experiences will drive the future of automotive mobility. Trading boring commutes for productive time. Being able to drive cars that were once out of reach.

It’s wonderful to see Hagerty betting on this future experience.

How Techstars Mobility helped Peter, founder of Classics&Exotics

On April 22, 2015, at 2p ET, I called Peter Zawadzki to let him know that Classics&Exotics was accepted into the 2015 Techstars Mobility class. Going into the call, I had a gut feeling this was going to be a great opportunity. Peter was almost in tears—tears of joy, having applied in Jan 2015 and waiting four months for the final notice of acceptance. It was a surreal moment for us both and one I still remember vividly.

In 2015, Techstars Mobility had eight corporate partners, including Magna and Munich Re. During the 2015 Woodward Dream Cruise, Magna helped Peter with free space along Woodward to showcase a classic Ferrari and vintage Cobra.

A second partner, Munich Re, soon became a key contact, underwriting the insurance policy for Classics&Exotics to rent vehicles on their platform.

The hundreds of mentors for Techstars Mobility provided Peter and his team with tons of guidance, including one essential introduction: McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty, headquartered in Traverse City, located four hours north of Detroit.

It’s amazing to see what Peter built with Classics&Exotics. I’m humbled that Techstars Mobility could play a role in helping him turn that idea into a great success story. Peter is #TechstarsforLife and is sharing his story and insight through #GiveFirst as a mentor for the 2017 Techstars Mobility Accelerator class.

Originally published on