These Are the 50 Best Places in America for Starting a Business

December 17, 2018

By: Michelle Cheng

Inc. Magazine

Whether you’re an entrepreneur plotting to launch a startup or a CEO strategizing where to put another office, knowing where the next hot city is would be a game changer. Should you expand to Raleigh? Would you attract better talent in Austin or Atlanta? With the new Surge Cities Index, Inc. and innovation policy company Startup Genome crunched the data to score and rank the top 50 metro areas in the U.S. on seven key indicators–from early-stage funding metrics to job creation. Finally, here’s the smartest way to answer the age-old question: Where should you go next?

No. 45 – DETROIT

With the highest density of engineers in the country, Detroit is reinventing itself by leading the next mobility boom.

Autonomous-car hardware. Sensors. Lidar. Chances are, if there’s something that has to do with mobility, a startup in Detroit has touched it. Motor City is knee-deep into its transportation reinvention: May Mobility, a spinout from the University of Michigan, builds autonomous shuttles and operates a route in downtown Detroit. Roush Industries built 150 of the self-driving cars for Waymo. Last year, PlanetM Landing Zone launched to connect mobility startups like Lyft and Mapbox with Detroit’s traditional automotive industry. And accelerator Techstars Mobility, founded in 2014, has deployed $67.4 million in venture funding, with two exits under its belt, including the sale of ridesharing startup SPLT to Bosch this year. With Michigan’s having the highest density of engineers in the country–and the highest concentration of those employed in Detroit’s Wayne County–it’s no wonder the majority of VC money getting poured into the city ends up in mobility and IT.

–Michelle Cheng

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Experts Examine the Formation of the Autonomous Drive Industry

By: Kelly Weatherwax

Throughout the North American International Auto Show Industry Preview Days, conversations around autonomous vehicles flooded the halls. Everyone wants expert insight on when these vehicles will become consumer products, what infrastructure and legislation will be needed to move automated vehicles forward, and most of all – where will all the talent come from?

May Mobility CEO Ed Olson sat down in AutoMobili-D with a panel of experts from companies working on the future of automotive in one way or another, for more insight into how this autonomous drive industry will culminate.

So when will this technology take over the roads like the iPod took over the music industry? Samit Ghosh, President and CEO of P3 said by 2021 he believes most OEMs in the western world will have fully autonomous driving deployment, but there is still a lot more R&D and testing to be done to allow that to happen.

“Germany and the U.S. are leading on autonomous vehicle development. By2021 China will catch up. They’re lagging on key complexity, because of high congestion,” Ghosh explained. “Currently the U.S. is at the forefront with legislation like what Gov. Snyder signed. Other countries like China will be more restrictive and fall behind.”

Talent is top of mind

With innovation happening so rapidly, challenges arise that need to be addressed and the one that is top of mind for everyone is talent.

Udacity, an online education platform that offers AI courses with a focus on autonomous vehicle education, is one way people can get the skills they need for the growing industry demands.

“More than 10,000 students have enrolled in the ‘Intro to Self-Driving Cars’ course and go off to get jobs in Detroit, Silicon Valley and Germany,” explained David Silver, an engineer for the nanodegree program at Udacity. “At the end of the nine-week course the students take the code they worked on and test it on the road on an autonomous vehicle where they see real-time how the code interacts with lane and path finding, and adhering to traffic laws.”

Recognizing that P3 has a global talent pool, Gosh said the company is always looking for creative ways to recruit because attracting talent is a challenge with everyone fighting for the same finite resource.

“When it comes to project work, we are inclined to look at the U.S. market and look through certain visa regulations set up through NAFTA,” he explained.

Cybersecurity on the frontlines is key to success

Many have questioned if OEMs have learned from past mistakes.

“Are we handling security better with autonomous vehicles today than we did with the connected car where cybersecurity was an afterthought?” asked Geoffrey Wood, director of automotive cybersecurity for Harman. “Investing in security research to do R&D for technology to be implemented on the frontlines of this is going to be key to the success of autonomous vehicles.”

Ride-sharing alone is expected to pose a large vulnerability – when you get into the vehicle the car is going to know you in some way and the rider before or after you may have access to that data.

“Being able to pull data off vehicles and continually monitor the system – we need to get to that point infrastructure-wise,” Wood explained.

Investing in the proper research and engaging legislators early to understand the technology they are legalizing will be checkpoints in the process that will delay autonomous cars for years to come if missed.

Robust, safe infrastructure will be an expensive challenge

The way roads are designed, from signage to parking, will need to be different for autonomous vehicles to dominate the road, but who is going to fund new infrastructure?

“You can start charging a tax for driving, a curbside tax for shared vehicles, or a tax system to charge against vehicle owners that need that infrastructure in place,” said David Ben, chief technology officer for PPG.

Olson added that building maps, understanding traffic flow, building the shortest loop that makes sense, are all things May Mobility is currently working on.

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.