Josh Hundt, Michigan Economic Development Corp. chief business development officer, and Trevor Pawl, senior vice president of business innovation, help oversee PlanetM, an initiative that aims to further the development and deployment of advanced mobility technologies in the state.
For example, the development corporation recently created the $3 million Tech Startup Stabilization Fund, administered by ID Ventures, to help stabilize early-stage tech startups in Michigan during this challenging time. The fund will provide tech companies direct investments or loans ranging from $20,000 to $200,000.
Hundt, 36, and Pawl, 38, spoke with Staff Reporter Alexa St. John about the challenges the mobility industry faces due to COVID-19. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What's your take on the challenges mobility players are facing?
A: Hundt: It's a time where we see a resiliency both from our large automakers in the state as well as the startup ecosystem. We're seeing our startups doing everything they can throughout this time to continue to innovate and be prepared for the world once we move to the recovery stage of this.
Do you see investment in new technologies and mobility services ebbing?
Hundt: Automotive companies and companies of all types will continue to need to innovate, and challenges like this usually bring out the best in innovation and ingenuity. ... We expect that to continue to happen as we move forward. I think that will be done in a combination of projects through large corporate entities in the state and the startup community continuing to evolve and continuing to innovate to grow their companies.
Pawl: I think a lot of people are concerned at the moment, rightfully so, but I think the future of AVs and EVs is still on the rise. For startups in particular, for those that were fundraising or about to close, yes, they're in trouble. For the companies that are focused on vehicle technology, there's a place to leverage what they've done, the AI they've developed, to make vehicles and public transportation safer. I think there's going to be a heavier reliance on corporate ventures.
How will consumer demand for new vehicle technologies and mobility services change post-COVID-19?
Pawl: I think scooters are going to be fine, because you're not in a confined space. Maybe there will be guidelines about wearing gloves, much like you'd wear a helmet. I worry about autonomous shuttles slightly — there's just going to have to be some new design.