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10 impressive startups at the Detroit Auto Show 2023

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Fleetyr was lucky to be invited to the Detroit Auto Show this year. For those not familiar, Detroit is nicknamed “Motor City” and has been a centre for American engineering and innovation, particularly in the mobility sector.

From Henry Ford (founder of the Ford Motor Company) to Barry Gordy (founder of Motown Records) and to Florence Knoll Bassett (one of the most influential furniture and interior designers ever) — it’s clear that Detroit has a rich history of producing and attracting intelligent, resourceful people. After only spending a few days in this midwestern mecca of culture and diversity, it’s easy to understand why businesses from all over the world frequently gather here to share and showcase their innovations.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to experience Detroit in all its glory thanks to the startup showcase put on by Plug and Play at the Detroit Auto Show. Not only did we get to meet true blue locals, but we also got to meet and learn from some amazing up-and-coming startups.

Unfortunately, there were over 50 startups at the Detroit Auto Show, so while I can’t feature all of them, I can show some love to a few standout startups and share a bit about them.

Magrathea Metals

Magrathea Metals

Special shoutout to Melissa Zirps, one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Thanks for trying your best to explain the complexities of metallurgy to me.

Michigan locals Magrathea Metals is radically reducing the socio-environmental impacts of making structural metal. Magrathea is making metal without mining for the era of electrification and decarbonisation. They are developing generational upgrades to magnesium production technology that radically reduces cost and environmental impact. They showed me the first production metal ingots made from seawater — yes, seawater.

Electric Outdoors

Electric Outdoors

Another Michigan local Electric Outdoors connects people with sustainable outdoor experiences by bringing people to their off-grid, portable, solar-powered outdoor camping systems.

These cabin-looking structures enable tourism providers and landowners to rapidly, affordably and sustainably serve people who want to enjoy outdoor travel using alternative electrical power sources. With the concept phase well and indeed done, the Electric Outdoors system can also charge EVs, provide water and take care of waste.

Marel Power Solutions

Marel Power Solutions are the engineers’ engineers. Power conversion is critical to electrification. Michigan-born Marel’s tech makes power converters materials-efficient, scalable, high-performing, small and lightweight, making it easy for customers to build complex systems quickly and efficiently.

For example, a Tesla car converter with Marel would be 80% lighter and smaller, with 50% fewer power semiconductors. Imagine what this does for an EV earthmover in the Pilbara (Hint, hint, mining industry).

360ofme

360ofme

Michigan-led startup 360ofme has built a trusted personal data exchange platform that allows for ethical secure sharing, learning and monetising between businesses and consumers — giving users more control of their digital footprint.

CEO Cindy Warner and her team’s drive and positivity are infectious. Not only is this a product that all manufacturers should be looking at, but the group’s energy guarantees that they will succeed.

Voltpost

Voltpost

Something I immediately noticed on this US trip was the unusual lack (to my Aussie eyes) of street lights. Just outside of main city streets, you would enter total darkness.

Enter Voltpost: essentially an EV charger in a street lamp post. The Voltpost charging system is a modular, upgradable, non-invasive platform that retrofits existing lampposts. The patent-pending system encapsulates lampposts and leverages the existing conduit. There are two charging modules in the curbside configuration and four in the parking lot configuration. This modular approach reduces operating and maintenance costs while maximising system uptime by allowing efficient replacement of faulty units.

This brilliant New York-born innovation will not only give people a place to charge their assets in real-time, but it will also create brighter and safer streets at the same time.

DIMO

Brooklyn-based DIMO are some serious change makers in the data and mobility space. They have created a user-owned connected vehicle platform. Automakers, insurance companies, governments, dealerships, and more collect vehicle data, but they intentionally limit the data drivers access. This hurts consumers over the lifecycle of their cars when they buy insurance services and even sell their cars to counterparties that have more data than they do.

DIMO is both an app that puts drivers in control and a platform for service providers to exchange data with drivers in a user-centric way. It won’t just put the driver in control but also fleet managers.

WhyGrene

Seattle natives WhyGrene are diving deeper into the next wave of energy infrastructure via their virtual power plant. WhyGrene’s platform helps solve sustainable energy’s greatest problem, balancing the power supply and demand by monitoring, optimising and monetising assets.

The Grene platform connects utilities with solar PV, thermostats, batteries, and V2X EVs using a hybrid, cloud and blockchain-based SaaS. Utilities, OEMs, and consumers save money by avoiding large energy infrastructure costs with distributed virtual power plants that provide reliable and affordable clean energy.

A really smart bunch of people, and hopefully we see them in Australia soon.

Coastr

Of course, the Detroit Auto Show also hosted some international talent, and it is no secret that this Edinburgh startup will be more successful than a deep-fried Mars bar on a cold winter’s night. Coastr is already showing significant growth and, more importantly, has a great product. With some brilliant guidance from founder and CEO Biswajit Kundu Roy, Coastr is digitising the shared mobility industry, which includes vehicle rental, flexi leasing, car subscription, and car sharing ecosystem with its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for vehicle rental and fleet management.

Coastr brings together unique tech-enabled partnerships with key players in the market and connected vehicle solutions using IoT telematics and direct integrations with vehicle manufacturers to manage retail and commercial fleets and enable contactless services.

Arxax

Italian startup Arxax is creating an intelligent network of zero and low-carbon refuelling stations strategically located across main transportation corridors, fulfilling the unique green transition requirements of heavy-duty vehicles in the transportation industry.

The network is powered by Arxax’s proprietary algorithm using Big Data at the truck and refuelling station levels to predict the fuel consumption of vehicles in the road freight sector, and that demand is directed to stations within Arxax’s network.

Currently Europe-based, it would not surprise me if we see them in the US, Australia and New Zealand in the next couple of years.

Circulor

Circulor

Circulor is past the startup phase but should definitely still be mentioned as “one to watch”. Circulor proves traceability solution connects all supply chain actors from upstream to downstream to ensure complete, real-time visibility for better supply chain performance, carbon footprint tracking, and compliance with regulatory standards.

Circulor is a certified B Corporation headquartered in the UK. Circulor’s core business is the metals and minerals used in batteries, renewable energy and construction and has a proven track record providing end-to-end and highly granular traceability as well as digital product passports to underpin responsible and sustainable value chains.

Tim Hill

As an experienced startup leader hailing from sunny Queensland, Tim is a natural problem solver and innovative thinker — yet simultaneously everyone's best mate. As the Founder and CEO of Fleetyr, Tim is on a mission to bring affordable, simplified, and integrated mobility analytics to the entire industry worldwide. Connect with Tim.