DETROIT — As Sunjay Dodani prepared to decamp from Silicon Valley for three months and place his startup into a business incubator here, his team of advisers urged him to reconsider.
They thought his fledgling company, which makes sensors that gather detailed information on tire health, would be better served maturing in a Bay Area culture tailor-made for small startups.
"But there was something in my gut," said Dodani, CEO of IntelliTire. "It's a risk leaving the Silicon Valley innovation bubble for the Midwest, but this is a relationship industry, and mobility in its own way is very much about building relationships."
Mobility encompasses much more than the auto industry, but Dodani said the crossroads of those relationships still run through Detroit. So IntelliTire forged ahead with its participation in the Techstars Mobility Accelerator here, along with 10 other startups making up the organization's fourth class of nascent businesses.
Founders of the companies spent the past three months polishing business plans and establishing partnerships with industry heavyweights such as Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. and Bosch while working in the city. Last week, they graduated from the business incubator, pitching their businesses to a crowd of about 1,000 industry professionals during an event at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
"I skip the traditional auto shows now in place of this event," said Reilly Brennan, general partner at Trucks Venture Capital in San Francisco. "The value for me as an investor isn't just the companies on stage but the ecosystem around entrepreneurship, which includes other VCs, prospective founders and also a handful of big OEM customers."