Detroit’s Assembly Ventures Seeks Out Global Mobility Startups

Assembly Ventures in Detroit and Berlin has formed a team of automotive, finance, and technology experts to identify, support, and drive growth among global mobility startups, including Joe Hinrichs, past president of Ford Motor Co., and Dhani Jones, a strategic advisor and a former linebacker in the NFL and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
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Assembly Ventures has formed a team of experts to support global mobility startups. // Stock photo

Assembly Ventures in Detroit and Berlin has formed a team of automotive, finance, and technology experts to identify, support, and drive growth among global mobility startups, including Joe Hinrichs, past president of Ford Motor Co., and Dhani Jones, a strategic advisor and a former linebacker in the NFL and at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The venture capital fund was launched last June by Chris Thomas, a former partner at Fontinalis Partners in Detroit, along with Jessica Robinson, a mobility expert who previously worked at Ford, and Felix Scheuffelen, a transportation executive in Germany.

Rooted in the founding cities that gave birth to the automotive industry more than a century ago, Assembly Ventures is tapping into the respective legacies of both cities to chart a course in the mobility space, both for ground and aerial vehicles as well as advanced communication systems, cybersecurity platforms, and a wide array of private and connected applications.

In addition to driving mobility growth in Detroit and Berlin for passenger, cargo, and emergency vehicles, the group will compete against such mobility ecosystems as Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Shanghai, South Korea, and Israel.

According to a statement by Assembly Ventures, its “mission is to partner with, and strategically support, those at the forefront of building the next generation of mobility. We believe that the global mobility sector is on the verge of a generational transformation.

“We understand that existing transport systems no longer fully reflect the needs of passengers and are not sustainable over time. We are convinced of the enormous opportunity that exists to invest in the entrepreneurs and technologies that will move the world.

“Perhaps most importantly, we know that success in the mobility sector requires collaboration and constant dialogue between a diverse set of actors. Only by exposing our team and our portfolio companies to a plethora of relevant and expert perspectives can we maximize our impact and potential.”

The first wave of Assembly Ventures Operator Advisors includes:

Aleksandra Miziolek is an experienced executive and board member, most recently at Cooper Standard, a global automotive supplier. Prior to that, she led the automotive practice at Dykema, advising clients on M&A activities and global expansion including some of the largest deals in the history of the sector including the spin-out of Visteon. Miziolek serves on various boards, including Tenneco and the Michigan’s Citizens Research Council. She holds a JD from Wayne State University.

Brett Harwood is a technology and parking related real estate investor with a special interest in enablement of legacy systems. He is the Founder of Park Equity and the Co-Founder and Chairman of Noson. Harwood holds a JD from Temple University and a degree in government from Franklin & Marshall College, where he previously served as a trustee and benefactor.

Dhani Jones is a strategic advisor to various mobility and data analytics companies including Jet It, one of the fastest growing fractional jet aviation companies in North America. He also serves as the Chairman of Qey Capital Partners, a growth stage investor. Previously he worked as a host on a number of television shows across various networks including ESPN, Spike TV, and the Travel Channel. Jones is an 11-year NFL veteran, passionate about physical mobility, and a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Joe Hinrichs is an experienced automotive executive, first with General Motors and most recently as President of Ford Motor Company’s global automotive business. During his career at Ford he served as president of North America and South America, president of Asia Pacific and Africa, chairman and CEO of Ford China, and head of global manufacturing. Hinrichs previously served on the board of Rivian Automotive and presently serves on boards of Exide Technologies and WaveSense. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton and Harvard Business School.

Philipp von Hagen is an experienced investment and automotive executive, first with Rothschild and most recently as an Executive Board Member at Porsche SE, the majority voting shareholder in Volkswagen Group. While there, he developed a keen eye for the topics defining future mobility. Von Hagen served on the board of Inrix and PTV Group, two leading mobility data analytics companies. He is a graduate of The London School of Economics and holds a masters in economics from the University of Oxford.

Susan Heystee is an experienced mobility executive who has spent her career developing go-to-market strategies, driving growth and building global sales organizations. She is a former executive at Telogis, where she held the position of Executive VP for Global Sales. After its acquisition by Verizon, Heystee served as the senior vice president for the Global OEM business at Verizon Connect. She now serves on various boards including Ouster and revVana. Heystee holds a degree in mathematics from the University of Waterloo and is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive MBA.

Tony Posawatz is an automotive innovation leader with experience at General Motors, where he served as the Vehicle Line Director for the Chevrolet Volt, and as the CEO of Fisker Automotive. He has vast expertise in electrification, product development and innovation, strategy and business development, and manufacturing. Posawatz serves on the boards of many mobility companies including Metalsa, INRIX, Renovo, and Lucid Motors. He is a graduate of Wayne State University and holds an MBA from Dartmouth.

Wolfgang Bernhart is a senior partner at Roland Berger, where he leads the Automotive Advanced Technology Center and its efforts to shape the long-term strategy of the automotive industry as it seeks to become a part of a new mobility world that requires sustainable change. In this position he has become a trusted partner and advisor to CEOs and entrepreneurs across the global mobility ecosystem. Bernhart holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from KIT.

In addition to Assembly Ventures, Thomas and Robinson are co-founders and help oversee the Detroit Mobility Lab and the Michigan Mobility Institute.

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