Founder and Managing Director, Fontinalis Partners, Detroit
Portfolio: 11 companies // Employees: 10
In 2009, Chris Thomas saw a future in sustaining next-generation mobility companies and recruited some of the biggest names in corporate America — Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.; Ralph Booth, CEO of Booth America Co.; Mark Schulz, former president of Ford’s international operations; and Chris Cheever, principal of Launch Capital, a venture capital firm. According to projections, by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s 9 billion people will be living in urban areas. Thomas says one drawback is if emergency vehicles can’t reach the scene of an accident due to high traffic volumes, chaos could ensue. “It’s a very real problem that we and others are working on,” says Thomas, who served as an emergency operations specialist with the U.S. Army. “The data shows 30 percent of congestion is caused by people looking for a parking spot, so if we can solve that, it really helps you better manage everything else in urban transportation infrastructure.” Among Fontinalis’ portfolio companies is Park Me, which provides parking data to a host of navigation providers and mobile platforms; Parkmobile, a supplier of mobile parking payment systems; and Zagster, a bike-sharing service that offers rental solutions to a variety of commercial businesses and consumers. “Between the five partners, we have a deep understanding and appreciation of digital technology and how it can best be deployed to improve people’s daily lives,” says Thomas, who also serves as vice chairman of the nonprofit Read To a Child, which pairs business executives with students in two public schools in Detroit. “We work with our portfolio companies to provide better functionality, better service, and better performance.
The end goal is to deliver huge efficiencies.” — R.J. King