Source:Crains Detroit Business
January 14, 2015 - Media and auto executives have been fixated on the products from some of the world’s best-known companies during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week. But Wednesday morning, attention turned to up-and-coming businesses during Ignition 2015, a startup-oriented event hosted by Crain’s and NAIAS.
As part of Ignition, Ann Arbor-based TowerSec Inc. was crowned the hottest startup at the Detroit auto show by the event attendees.
TowerSec was one of five startups to present during the event, in addition to Plymouth-based Beet LLC, Ann Arbor-based Inmatech, Detroit-based Inventev and Vancouver-based Mojio.
The five companies were chosen to take part in the event after being vetted by local venture capital and economic development executives.
Read about a discussion of automotive startups at the Ignition event.
Companies were given six minutes to present to the audience, then were asked follow-up questions by Chris Thomas, founder and partner with Detroit-based venture capital firm Fontinalis Partners LLC and Dave Drach, a vice president with Boulder-based Techstars, which is opening a Detroit accelerator later this year.
Matt Burns, senior editor with the digital media outlet TechCrunch, was the moderator of that portion of the event.
The winning company, TowerSec, is an automotive cybersecurity company that aims to make the future of autonomous vehicles safer. Bruce Coventry, chairman of TowerSec, said hackers, nation states and curious but capable 10th-graders pose a threat to the future of automotive cybersecurity.
“Taking an unsecured device and plugging it into an OBD (onboard diagnostics) is like swapping bodily fluids in an Ebola ward,” Coventry said. “Today you’ll see great autonomous vehicles, but to be viable they must be secure.”
Coventry went into detail about the potential risks of unsecured connected vehicles, stating the company’s technology will protect a driver’s safety, personal data and protect the vehicles functionality. One such example was the ability for hackers to cyberattack a vehicle’s airbag system.
“As excited as we are about the Internet of things, we have to be very careful about taking devices and installing them in a vehicle,” Coventry said.
For winning the startup contest, Coventry received a Shinola watch.
The focus for all the pitches was technology and how each company is impacting mobility.
Beet pitched its EKG-like technology, Envision, which measures the health of a factory. David Wang, CEO of Beet, said that factories can become ill just like humans. Their technology can be implemented to any factory in two days to help diagnose the problems. Wang’s angle is to harness the data collected in a manufacturing system to improve the product.
Mojio pitched its connected-car technology, which lets drivers send a car’s data from its onboard diagnostics port (typically located under the steering wheel) to Mojio’s cloud service, allowing developers to create native apps for cars. Jay Giraud, CEO of Mojio, explained that the company’s patent-pending developer tools are pushing the company forward. Mojio works with 150 app developers.
Inventev pitched its Energy SWAT Truck, a merger between a vehicle and generator. David Stenson, founder and CEO of Inventev, compared generators of the past to digital cameras — they’re becoming more uncommon. In addition to generating power, the Energy SWAT technology allows a vehicle to be powered without idling and move electrically at higher speeds.
Inmatech pitched its supercapacitor, developed out of the University of Michigan, which would extend the life of a car battery by 10 years, according to Les Alexander, COO of Inmatech.