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Ford supports launch of mobility-focused startup business accelerator program in Detroit: Techstars Mobility

Ford, Magna International Inc. and Verizon Telematics, are supporting the launch of “Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit”—a startup business accelerator program sited in downtown Detroit. Together, the companies are committing $2 million in funding plus mentors and other resources to support participating startups. Several Michigan-based venture capital firms will provide guidance to participants.

The tech incubator is aiming to deliver innovative mobility and transportation solutions that help alleviate growing global challenges such as traffic congestion, parking availability and pollution. The mobility scope is “broader than automotive,” noted Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “The space really can comprise a lot of different [types] of companies.

Techstars was founded in 2006 by a group of businessmen in Boulder, Colorado. Their concept was to bring together a network of entrepreneurs and offer a three-month, boot camp-style, immersive program to help startups launch quickly and with every advantage. The company has since expanded to Boston, Seattle, New York, San Antonio, Austin, Chicago and London. Techstars provides $120,000 of seed capital in return for 7-10% equity in the startup. Less than 1% of applicants are accepted into Techstars accelerator programs, but the success rate is high, Techstars said.

Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will be led by Managing Director Ted Serbinski—a Silicon Valley transplant, entrepreneur and investor who relocated in 2011 to Detroit to join Detroit Venture Partners. Serbinski and team will accept applications for the first class of 10 startups through March 15. The program will kick off in early summer next year and conclude on Sept. 10. Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit will run for three years with a new class of 10 startups each year.

The 10 startup companies will be selected from across the globe to move to Detroit and participate in the initial program; in addition to the seed money, each will receive funding, mentorship (Bill Ford said he will be serving as one of the mentors), training and recruiting assistance.

The goal is to bring to market new technologies and approaches that incorporate mobile devices, wireless connectivity and cloud computing to make it easier for people to get around.

As society faces the increasing challenges of traffic congestion, crowded cities and poor infrastructure, we must reinvent the way we live and do business if we want to make a positive impact on future generations. We’re seeing some of the most exciting consumer products and services on the market today coming from innovative startup companies. It will be great to be part of bringing that type of new thinking to Detroit and the automotive industry.

—Bill Ford

The Detroit program stems from the vision of Bill Ford, who has been a leader in drawing global attention to the potential long-term consequences of growing gridlock around the world. He foresees a future marked by stifled economic growth, transportation challenges and compromised quality of life if these issues are left unchecked. (Earlier post.)

Fontinalis Partners, Detroit Venture Partners and Renaissance Venture Capital Fund—leading venture capital platforms in the Detroit area—are key stakeholders supporting the launch of the program and the overall Techstars ecosystem. Fontinalis invests in thought-leading companies that are transforming the Next-Generation Mobility sector around the world. Detroit Venture Partners invests in seed-stage digital technology startups in Detroit. Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, a strategic fund formed by several of Michigan’s largest corporations, will support the program through early-stage information technology investments.


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