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Mobility Tech Leaders: Detroit Is Open for Business

By: Megan Lasley 

As Detroit continues to reinvent itself from a traditional automotive community to a bustling hub for startups, the city that put the world on wheels is leading the way in the next technological revolution. During a Forward Detroit Investor Briefing hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber on March 28, panelists discussed how the city and region are positioning themselves to attract new companies that can bring jobs and position Michigan as the epicenter of next-generation mobility.

“Connections run strong and deep in Detroit, making the decision to start my company here was a no brainer,” said Tarun Kajeepeta, founder of Condor Detroit. “The Detroit area is an ideal location for startups due to huge market of opportunities that offer growth, strong GDP, and access to Fortune 500 companies.”

Kajeepta was joined on the panel by MICHauto Director Katelyn Davis, Devon O’Reilly, manager of entrepreneurship and Detroit Engagement for the Chamber, and Fontinalis Partners Senior Analyst Jake Simon.

More than 30 investors representing the diverse automotive industry attended the event.

Simon discussed the significant growth and buzz surrounding the Detroit area in regard to mobility.

“Detroit offers a large presence of auto, tech and mobility,” Simon said. “Companies want to start here with the foundation that already exists in the city.”

The PlanetM Landing Zone was another key area of discussion. A joint project of the Chamber and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Landing Zone was created for startups within the automotive andmobility market to collaborate.

“We strive to create natural collisions in conversation and learn from each other,” O’Reilly said. “Startups have access to key players who they can walk right over to and ask questions or gain feedback on ideas in real time, there is no other place like that.”

Davis discussed the newly launched site, Driven. The website is a one-stop shop that includes original reporting and aggregated content to highlight the region’s mobility story

“Driven completes the full story of our narrative. There are stories that no one else is telling, but they need to be heard,” Davis said. “Without being able to tell our own story, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We must be the ones telling the story of our region.”

In just three months the site already has more than 1,200 subscribers, has launched an extension of the site with a monthly podcast, and continues to engage with the community.

When it comes to leading the mobility revolution, panelists agreed that there is no stopping Detroit. However, they said, progress will only continue through a combination of collaborative leadership, training and re-training the region’s talent on new platforms, and moving beyond a “go it alone” mentality.

The panel was moderated by Justin Robinson, vice president of Business Attraction for the Chamber.