Following a career in advertising and auto-related marketing, Jeffrey Van Dongen started the venture capital and consulting firm motormindz in 2014 .
The firm leverages a stable of automotive industry veterans to solve technology problems for clients. The unique approach stems from motormindz’s early days, when Van Dongen called upon an old friend and mentor, ex-Chrysler executive Ray Fisher, for his expertise on a project.
Within a few months, Fisher became a managing partner with the Troy, Mich., startup.
Once he was on board, the rest of the team fell into place.
“Ray helped recruit (General Motors veteran) Don Johnson and John Felice (Ford’s former U.S. sales and marketing chief),” Van Dongen said. “John Felice helped recruit Jim O’Sullivan (former head of Mazda North American Operations) and the list goes on and on.”
Motormindz now boasts 62 experts from the industry. Van Dongen has discovered that old rivalries die hard among his team.
“I say they were once competitors, but they still are in reality,” he said. “The loyalty each have to their former employers is inspiring.”
The industry vets help analyze a large number of technologies and products from a variety of sectors that can help dealers and automakers. Motormindz then supports the companies and ideas that pass muster with either capital, consulting or by forming connections with OEMs and retailers.
Van Dongen said the year ahead involves examining more than 400 ideas to “find the needles in all those haystacks.”
Four years into the business, he says he doesn’t have much time for his hobbies, but he always has a car project in the works.
Starting in 2002, he built Mazda RX-7 and RX-8 tuners, then progressed to racing schools with his Lotus Exige. A recent project involved modifying a Corvette Z06 to 800-plus hp.
-- Jackie Charniga