Industry experts emphasize talent needs and changing perceptions of automotive on “Autoline”

If you’re a mobility startup, you need to be in Detroit. That was the overarching consensus from an “Autoline” Supplier Symposium panel hosted by John McElroy at the 2018 North American International Auto Show on the show floor surrounded by newly unveiled vehicles Tuesday. McElroy discussed the transformational mobility ecosystem and importance of AutoMobili-D with Glenn Stevens, vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber and executive director of MICHauto; Chris Thomas, founding partner of Fontinalis Partners; and Alisyn Malek, chief operations officer for May Mobility.

Having the talent to compete in the race for connected technology is a key challenge industry leaders in Michigan face.

“Culture is how to attract talent. We are working really hard on the perception of the industry,” Stevens ensured.

Four years ago, MICHauto commissioned a survey of 900 students and adult influencers on their perceptions of the automotive industry and perceptions were not great. In December 2017, MICHauto released a second Automobility Career Perception Survey that showed an improvement in perceptions.

Stevens said this time around the survey included autonomous vehicles and mobility and moved the needle on automotive, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Malek echoed that sentiment and explained that her company has had no problem attracting talent to Ann Arbor because people know that is where the connections and opportunities exist.

“One of the exciting things we are working on is building our brand and name, but in Michigan with the work that MICHauto is doing, people are becoming more aware of the tech startups and the new job opportunities,” Malek explained.

Thomas agreed, crediting Techstars Mobility and the work Managing Director Ted Serbinski is doing in Detroit.

“We are seeing more funders stand up and want to be part of this,” he explained.

Thomas was one of the first venture capitalists in Detroit to invest in the mobility ecosystem and continues to spread the message that mobility is happening now and Detroit needs to continue to attract tech startups to stay ahead.

McElroy ended the panel on a positive note encouraging all three to keep moving the needle in this space.

Automotive and Startup Leaders: ‘Be Firm and Flexible’ with Partnerships

Listen and truly understand the needs of your corporate partner. Be willing to change and adapt. Accept help, corporate partners must be involved in product development.

These were just a few of the tips provided by the automotive and startup collaboration panel on the Automobili-D stage at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on Wednesday. Panelists included Motus’ Jim Disanto, Spatial’s Lyden Foust, PolySync’s Josh Hartung, Michelin’s Patrick Kirby, and General Motors’ Alisyn Malek. The panel was moderated by Techstars’ Laura Kennedy.

Together the automotive leaders and startups shared their personal experience, tricks of the trade and advice on achieving success.

“Remember that it’s not only about you trying to sell a product. You have to share ideas, back and forth with each other and truly be open to changing,” Disanto said.

“It’s very important to know the language. With an understanding of the corporate partner’s culture and environment, the process will be that much smoother,” Malek said.

The overall theme of the panel was for future startup founders to stay dedicated and committed to their product.

“There is no guaranteed formula, it’s truly a journey. My best advice is to be like bamboo – stay firm, but flexible,” Foust said.