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After Techstars Mobility, Drive Spotter finds its place in the self-driving revolution

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Drive Spotter co-founder Chris Augeri presents at Techstars Mobility Demo Day in Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Mike Discenza.

The transportation startup returned from Techstars Mobility with a fresh vision of their future.

In June Drive Spotter announced their acceptance into the 2016 class at Techstars Mobility in Detroit, Michigan. The announcement followed the news earlier this year that they had raised $750,000 in their seed round, led by by Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance.

Founded in 2015 by Chris Augeri and Andrew Prystai, the company graduated from the Global Insurance Accelerator in Des Moines, and they currently have offices at Gravitate in Des Moines, The AIM Exchange in Omaha, as well as team members in Austin, Texas.

The team completed the Techstars program on September 8th with a Demo Day presentation.

“Techstars was amazing,” said Augeri. “We easily met with over 400 people in a period of 12 weeks. It was so intense you almost wonder if it even happened.”

The outcomes of the Techstars experience exceeded the expectations and goals the Drive Spotter team set going into the program.

“The types of investors, the types of fleets, the types of potential partners for us definitely went past what we had expected,” said Augeri. “Even Demo Day itself went past what we expected it to become.”

How Drive Spotter has changed

Drive Spotter entered the accelerator with a platform that provides video analytics and telemetry to fleet managers to prevent accidents. One thing that the team felt confident about was their level of driver engagement.

“We thought we had nailed driver engagement, and we had everyone and their mother say, ‘Yeah, you’re better. But you’re not so different that it sways me,’” said Augeri. “We had to go back to the drawing board and define what ‘better driver engagement’ meant.”

In response, the company has significantly modified those aspects of the platform, as well as making the platform into a mobile app, allowing the company to deploy faster in a wider variety of fleets.

The other trend that Drive Spotter found was the demand for dynamic maps. The older version of the Drive Spotter platform was similar to an event recorder already in use, just smarter. Once they started sitting down with insurance companies, OEMs and existing map providers, they started seeing their company in a new light.

“We asked them, ‘What data don’t you have? What data do we have that could help you?’ And after a period of weeks there was this very clear pattern,” said Augeri. “What industry leaders were looking for was a dynamic map.”

The end game for the industry is self-driving vehicles, which puts a data collecting company like Drive Spotter in a key position.

“The way a vehicle becomes autonomous is that it becomes aware of its surroundings,” said Augeri. “The way it becomes aware of its surroundings is by having a lot of data. We are a company that’s collecting a lot of data.”

Augeri says they are in several conversations with autonomous vehicle solutions about how leverage the data from Drive Spotter.

“The world of autonomous vehicles is already upon us. To be part of that is amazing,” said Augeri. “I’d be happy to drive an autonomous car that has been trained on Drive Spotter data. I look forward to that day.”

What’s next

Shortly following their return to Omaha, Drive Spotter was announced as a finalist for the Omaha-Lincoln Rise of the Rest pitch competition on October 3rd.

While at Techstars the team was working 18 hours days, 6 days a week. According to Augeri, the team is working even harder now that they were during Techstars because of the relationships that started there.

The company’s top priorities in the coming months include moving toward a more map-centric and mobile app user interface, building their team presence in Detroit, and converting distribution partners into paid customers.

Augeri offers some advice to anyone thinking of entering an accelerator program like Techstars.

“You must be absolutely open to the idea that you are probably wrong about everything you know today,” said Augeri.

Watch Drive Spotter’s Demo Day presentation below:

Ryan Pendell is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.