Building Ventures for the New Mobility Ecosystem

Global macro trends such as digitalization, globalization, climate change and urbanization are driving the need to rethink mobility and transportation. Incumbents are facing the largest disruption since the invention of the assembly line by Henry Ford in 1913. Four disruptive trends – connected, autonomous, shared and electric mobility – which are mutually reinforcing will lead to the transformation of existing value chains and the emergence of entirely new ecosystems and related business models.

The digital transformation of mobility and transportation will not only impact automotive OEMs and tier suppliers. It will have profound implications for banking and insurance, telecommunications, energy companies and utilities, mobility services providers and even media and advertising companies. The Internet of Things (IoT) is at the core of this transformation.

Over the last 5 years, mobility and transportation has moved from a boring to arguably the most exciting space to invest in. The opportunity has attracted a range of powerful tech players as well as a flurry of new startups that seek to capitalize on the tectonic shifts under way. The size of the prize is large. The digital transformation of the industry will create winners and losers as existing business models become obsolete and profit pools shift. The industry has attracted billions in venture funding and has seen a range of exits in the hundreds of millions (i.e. Otto, NuTonomy etc), and even multi-billion dollar ranges (i.e. Mobileye, Waze, etc).

To catch up with tech players, incumbents such as automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and tier suppliers have acquired or invested in startups to get access to connected mobility (Continental acquired Argus, Samsung acquired Harman, etc), autonomous driving (i.e. NuTonomy), shared (GM invested in Lyft) and electric mobility (i.e. Ford and Amazon invested in Rivian).

The incumbents have been working on new innovation concepts, but they remain challenged by industry siloed thinking, lack of software talent and a myopic view of what’s next. Furthermore, incumbents are now stretched for in house resources aiming to make the shift from internal combustion engines to electric mobility, develop new shared mobility concepts and advance the state of automated driving.

We believe there are huge untapped opportunities in mobility and transportation centered around IoT and the convergence of mobility and transportation, energy, telecommunications, insurance and IIOT into what we refer to as a human-centric System-of-Systems. We know there are vast untapped opportunities for innovations that embrace the emerging new ecosystem of mobility.

With the New Mobility studio we create a vertical studio focused on building IoT companies for the emerging ecosystem of mobility. Our studio brings together experts with a shared vision and the cross-domain technical expertise to build new businesses for the future of mobility and transportation.

Our team brings together me, as Managing Director, a Chief Product Officer and a VP of Engineering who will play a key role in vetting and sponsoring startups in this studio. The balance of our team will be a combination of engineers with expertise around the converged technology stack across IoT, edge computing, artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies. The team will both generate innovative ideas from within, as well as draw in a myriad of new entrepreneurs, testing, vetting, and ultimately ushering ideas from the inception phase through commercialization.

The studio model emerged several years ago but is gaining momentum. In the past 20 years, the concept of “startup incubators”, which are generally co-working spaces where startups will share resources and, in most instances, have limited access to an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for mentors, has given way to “startup accelerators” like TechStars and Y-Combinator. The goal of accelerators is to increase the speed by which startups get to market, and help the entrepreneurs develop stronger “pitch plans” and drive higher valuations.

Most accelerators operating in cohorts will put a small amount of equity ($25k -$75k) into the accelerator projects. While this model has proven to be largely successful, a new model (venture studios) is emerging, designed to move the entrepreneur to market even faster while dramatically de-risking the project.

The Venture Studio model creates a team ranging from the executives, through to the developers and engineers, and is comprised of seasoned entrepreneurs who collectively bring their experience to helping new entrepreneurs get to market faster. They have “been there and done that” and help make decisions quicker while avoiding many of the strategic mistakes and especially execution risks that account for why so many startups fail.

Rocket Wagon Venture Studios combines the venture studio model with the imperatives associated with the progression to the cyber-physical world. This starts with a keen focus and understanding of the Internet of Things. But while there are common and interrelated considerations that are critical for truly understanding IoT, the actual implementation of most IoT systems are domain specific in nature.

Therefore, Rocket Wagon Venture Studios approaches the model by creating a parent company, setting IoT architectural standards, and providing all the shared functions, services, and systems across a series of vertically aligned IoT venture studios. The teams in the venture studios are not only experienced entrepreneurs but also possess domain-specific IoT experience.

We believe the combination of entrepreneurial experience, IoT experience, and domain-specific market understanding is a powerful rendering of the venture studio model.

Our overall model calls for six venture studios to be operational by mid-2020, with IIoT, Construction and Food and Beverage slated to be added, although there may well be others.

Each venture studio is funded by corporations seeking line of sight into innovation. This does not suggest that the more typical approach of a corporate venture arm investing in mid to late Series B companies will not and should not continue. But as most annual reports and earnings announcements will echo, the pace of technological change is increasing, and the imperative to innovate is clear.

The New Mobility vertical studio creates line of sight into ecosystem-centric innovations and creates optionality in view of an uncertain future.

Wish to learn more? Feel free to reach out to me at or 312 659 9674 as we drive mobility forward.