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Transportation today already looks vastly different than it did 100 years ago, but Dataspeed, Inc. is pushing the needle further, building the future of mobility from right here in Michigan.
Founded in Troy in 2008, Dataspeed began as a mobility-based robotics company, developing technology that allows a robot to independently travel and navigate a series of terrains and situations. However, it was not long before Dataspeed’s founders faced the age-old challenge realized by early-stage startups: access to capital.
Enter the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
In 2015, Dataspeed became a client of the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator, one of the MEDC’s SmartZones that offers comprehensive development and support services to startup and emerging businesses by fostering an entrepreneurial environment. Thanks to the services offered by the MEDC’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation team at the SmartZone — including access to funding from the Business Accelerator Fund and assisted customer and product discovery — Dataspeed was able to propel its product development for early stage prototypes within a series of product lines, such as IMU/GPS navigation units and multi-sensor fusion controllers.
“From knowing whether your product tests well among likely customers, to accessing the dollars needed to make it a success, starting a business is not for the faint of heart, but we knew that staying in Michigan would bring us the opportunities and resources we needed to bring our company to life in a way that Silicon Valley couldn’t,” said Paul Fleck, founder and CEO of Dataspeed.
Not only did the company stay in Michigan and go on to graduate from the SmartZone, but in 2016 it transitioned its mobility-based robotics technology into the automotive industry. Dataspeed set out to develop highly technical and specialized drive-by-wire systems to make fully autonomous vehicles a reality and improve road safety by removing the human factor in reckless driving.
As the company prepared to shift its strategic focus toward mobility solutions, it once again turned to the MEDC, this time utilizing Michigan’s new mobility initiative, PlanetM, to access additional funding, allowing it to create connections in the market and identify pilot opportunities.
Through a PlanetM Mobility Grant, Dataspeed was able to grow into the market of mobility-as-a-service and create new partnerships with key industry players. Since then, Dataspeed announced a series of strategic partnerships, including with the leading intelligence platform for running new mobility services, Ridecell Inc. These partnerships are an example of the opportunities Dataspeed has discovered thanks to the support and resources offered by the MEDC’s programs.
“Without the expertise, guidance and support from the MEDC every step of the way, the story of Dataspeed would certainly look much different,” Fleck said. “Michigan is famous for being the global capital of mobility, and at Dataspeed, we are committed to helping the state lead the way into the next generation of transportation technology.”
Since 2016, Dataspeed has expanded from a single vehicle platform to seven platforms, and thanks to funding from the MI-STEP program through the MEDC’s International Trade initiative, Dataspeed has had the opportunity to travel internationally to industry conferences and expositions to market its products throughout Europe.
Today, the company has outfitted nearly 500 vehicles with its specialized by-wire kit, from SUVs and sedans to pick-up trucks and mini vans. And as the 35-person team expands into a new space in Rochester Hills, Dataspeed continues working with PlanetM, now focusing on building university partnerships to create a stronger talent pipeline through autonomous vehicle programs. Regardless of what the future of mobility looks like, Dataspeed knows that Michigan remains its home for opportunity thanks in part to the support offered by the MEDC.
To learn more about the people and places driving the future of mobility in Michigan, go to planetm.com, and find information about the MEDC’s work to foster Michigan’s entrepreneurial environment at michiganbusiness.com/entrepreneurship. To learn more information about the programs and services offered through the MEDC, including those provided through the International Trade team, go to michiganbusiness.org.