Global Transportation Conference to Shine Spotlight on Startups

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The 21st Annual World Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems, held in the Americas once every three years, is headed for the first time to Detroit, with a major focus on startup innovation.

The conference, to be held Sept. 7-11 at Cobo Center, will host ITS America’s inaugural entrepreneurial village, where about 20 startup companies will promote their ideas and inventions to some 10,000 attendees. Keynote speakers include Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn.

“Often, the people who are making the most change in the transportation industry are those with some coding background, a cellphone, and a computer,” says Sabrina Sussman, vice president for membership and development at ITS America.

“Unfortunately, those companies don’t have the traditional marketing and development budgets that you would normally find on an exhibit floor. But (we) think that everyone who’s helping to change our industry should have an equal opportunity to showcase it, and Detroit is the place to do it.”

The exhibitor village is one of a two-part program called “Transportation for Tomorrow: Inventors & Investors,” which includes the organization’s second investor matching event. Detroit-based Fontinalis Partners and Anaheim, Calif.-based Econolite Group will meet with at least seven startups to provide feedback and possible funding.

“What makes this special from other shark-tank-like opportunities is that it’s closed,” Sussman says. “It’s a private event that really is focused on helping to make the connections between the entrepreneur and the investor.”

Sussman says she became involved with ITS America after working for the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she saw “there were brilliant ideas that were coming from unexpected places.” Today, she counts RideScout, based outside of Austin, Atlanta-based Parkmobile, and Washington, D.C.-based Transit Labs as some of the startups that are “the crux of the revolution happening in our space with the collision of transportation and technology.”

“It’s not an accident that we’re having this conversation about the importance of emerging technology through startups in the transportation field in a city like Detroit,” Sussman says. “Detroit transformed the way Americans moved years ago, and that’s happening again.”

For more information about the ITS World Conference, click here.

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