1616: Ted Serbinski

Ted Serbinski is the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility in Detroit. He subscribed to FoT in December 2014.

1) What change do you want to see in the world of mobility by the end of 2016?

The biggest change I want to see in 2016 is automotive companies embracing fast moving startup technology companies.

Automotive companies have been around for more than 100 years and created incredibly wonderful and amazing machines. They have developed deep manufacturing processes and constructed vehicles that can last for decades with routine maintenance. Quite an engineering feat indeed.

This is in huge contrast to the rise of software companies that can literally be formed overnight and have millions of users weeks just later. Code ships frequently and things break frequently. But done is better than perfect for a software company.

And what is fascinating is we’re now at the intersection of both of these paradigms: long development with a focus on reliability vs short development and a focus on quickly innovating.

The Global 100 automotive companies are now at odds with startup companies. And if they don’t quickly innovate and change their processes they will see major disruption.

We’re already seeing this with Telsa offering over-the-air updates to its cars. This a software-centric approach to a physical device.

What I want to see in 2016 is not only acknowledgement of this intersection but action to help make it happen.

That is why I’m proud to the the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility. We have partnered with 8 leading mobility companies, including Ford, Verizon, Manga, Dana, Honda, McDonald’s, Munich Re and Michelin and we’re doing just that.

I like to say we’re operating at the intersection of Detroit’s automotive dominance and it’s entrepreneurial resurgence. We’re acting as a catalyst to bring startups to the autos and vice versa.

We’re hoping to be part of the solution in helping automotive companies embrace the startup development build cycle.

2) If you had to drop everything right now and build something that had the greatest impact on mobility, what would it be?

I’m fascinated by autonomous cars and the potential change on how people get around. But importantly, the new types of business models that will emerge on top of this new system.

When I travel abroad, I’m always amazed at the train systems in other parts of the world. That is my absolute favorite way to commute. It’s predictable and fast and usually connects you from the downtown of one city to another. It’s very efficient.

The US unfortunately doesn’t have this network. And in my opinion, won’t have this type of network of trains. The plans I’ve read put this out 20–30 years.

But in the next 2–3 years autonomous cars will start hitting the road more and more.

And the US has an incredible network of highways.

What if you could merge the 2 concepts? Develop a high-speed train of autonomous vehicles (something the size of a van or even a bus) that would allow people to get from place to another. Much cheaper than an airplane ticket, with more room to relax.

I’d be looking at building this type of revolutionary transportation system building on top of existing systems like our highways and forthcoming autonomous vehicles. Yes, there are the federal regulation hurdles, but I’d rather be ahead of that curve than behind (think Uber).

Ted Serbinski Bio
Ted Serbinski is an entrepreneur and early stage investor operating at the intersection of Detroit’s automotive dominance and its entrepreneurial resurgence. He is the Managing Director of Techstars Mobility, the first US startup accelerator program focused on next-generation mobility technologies. Previously, he was a Partner and founding team member of Detroit Venture Partners, a $55M seed-stage fund that has invested in 25 companies.
Ted graduated from Cornell in 2004, with a B.S. in Computer Engineering. Ted resides in Metro Detroit with his beautiful wife and two sons. He regularly blogs on startups at tedserbinski.com and is active on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tedserbinski.

1616 is a compendium of ideas from 16 FoT subscribers about our near-term mobility future. You can read all 16 entries here; you can sign up for FoT here.