Transportation and mobility technology are good examples of the hidden talents of the Kansas City tech community, Darcy Howe said
“We have many more mobility companies in Kansas City than you might think, which is a pleasure,” said Howe, KCRise Fund managing director, moderating Wednesday’s Techweek panel.
Discussing cars, trucks, roadways and the future of mobility, Techweek gathered Kansas City tech leaders for a panel discussion at Pure Pursuit Event Space. The conversation included Super Dispatch CEO Bek Abdullayev, Integrated Roadways CEO Tim Sylvester, BacklotCars CEO Justin Davis and Prestio CEO Glen Dakan.
The speakers shared their experience founding a transportation startup in Kansas City, as well a glimpse of what they see down the road.
The future of mobility
Mobility has become a hot topic during the past few years, Bek Abdullayev said.
“It’s a topic that’s been interestingly sneaking up on people a lot faster than we had anticipated as a society,” Abdullayev said. “In the long run, mobility is going to have a deeper impact socially and economically than we think. … It’s going to touch every single aspect of our lives.”
As society grows and shifts into that future vision, every aspect of transportation must be digitized, he said. Super Dispatch does one piece, automating vehicle shipping and eventually other modes of freight.
Abdullayev is one of the many that believes that the future of transportation technology might eventually disrupt car ownership. Yet in the near future, the founders of Prestio and BacklotCars don’t see car ownership going anywhere.
Both Prestio and BacklotCars aim to simplify the purchasing of vehicles via online platforms. Dakan, Prestio CEO, said he is confident in car ownership for the time being.
“We’re already seeing a lot of car sharing startups and they’ve not yet displaced personal vehicle ownerships,” Dakan said. “They’ve been around for five years. If the idea was so great that we would have wanted to give up our cars, we already would have.”
The verdict is still out on whether car ownership will stand the test of time, Davis said, yet it likely will remain in Kansas City longer than in other markets.
“I think the Midwest cities, where city centers are sprawled and the time spent in vehicles is a lot longer, car ownership is going to stay,” Dakan said. “But what’s also interesting is with autonomous cars, you can begin to think of car ownership as an asset you can put to work. When you’re at work, you can put your car on a ride sharing platform to make money. No doubt, that is definitely in the future.”
As this shift in mobility occurs, Abdullayev mentions that it calls into question the way cities are built, specifically related to roads, parking lots and garages.
Sylvester, Integrated Roadways founder, said that the future of transportation goes much beyond mobility devices.
“Did anybody use a road today?” Sylvester asked the crowd. “Usually when people talk about the future of mobility, we talk about devices — but what about the future of mobility networks?”
Integrated Roadways does just that, creating “smart roads” with embedded wifi sensors and technology, to enable next generation transportation. Smart roads will pave the way for autonomous vehicles and other futuristic transportation devices, Sylvester said.
“Mobility networks have not been a topic of attention, even though it’s fundamental to our daily life,” he said. “If we stop thinking about the road as just a road and start thinking about it as a corridor for sensors, data and connectivity then the future of advanced mobility solutions and utilities can go a lot deeper.”
Advice to entrepreneurs
Disrupting an industry as familiar as roads and vehicles is a heavy feat, requiring hard work and entrepreneurial skill.
“Don’t let anything stop you from starting,” Davis said. “Ideas happen when you collaborate with people. … Don’t be afraid if you have an awesome idea that somebody is going to take it or steal it. An idea is not worth a lot, execution is everything.”
Sylvester echoed this advice.
“Being shy about telling people what you do and why is about the worst thing an entrepreneur who wants to be successful can do,” he said. “ Nobody will ever steal your idea. It’s just not going to happen. … Take advantage of the people out there who want to help you to be successful.”
Both Daken and Abdullayev reiterated the importance of collaboration for entrepreneurial success in Kansas City.
“Through collaboration, collisions and events, good things are happening in Kansas City,” Abdullayev said. “I’d love to see more of that.”