What if picking out a refrigerator and having it delivered the same afternoon was as easy as using Uber or Lyft to catch a ride? That's the idea behind the service provided by Michigan Mobility and Logistics
, which is based at the SPARK East
business incubator in downtown Ypsilanti.
"Say it's Black Friday, and you've bought a 70-inch TV. Now how are you going to get it home?" says MML co-founder Sheri Washington. "If you hit our app, and there's a driver in that shopping area, it'll take 15 minutes to get to you, confirm the order, load it, and off they go to deliver it to your door."
MML is just the latest success story out of SPARK's Ypsi location. Other Ypsilanti-based startups are innovating in a number of fields, from software design to electric vehicles. We caught up with three of them to find out what's in their future.
Meeting demand for faster product delivery
Washington says that MML's model "marries the technology and transportation industries." Amazon's same-day delivery and the COVID-19 pandemic's effects on traditional supply chain and delivery methods inspired her and her co-founder, Dorian Bow, to start their business in October 2021. She says they saw a "glaring need" related to logistics and supply chain management.
"The pandemic was probably the biggest trigger. It has forever changed how we're doing business," Washington says.
MML has already secured contracts or run pilot projects with a number of Michigan retailers, including Penske, Value City Furniture, and Home Depot. Washington is currently overseeing an expansion to other areas. She says MML currently has 17 "hubs" in 15 states.
Washington says her original goal, though, was to help her own community.
Michigan Mobility and Logistics co-founder Sheri Washington.
"We talked about how we could recruit and monetize assets in our own community using crowd-sourcing," she says. "There are people who have Sprinter vans and box trucks, and they're looking for work. I can combine that with what we're doing and create a unique network."
"We were born right here in the town we live in and service," she adds. "But now we're in 15 states and nobody saw it coming. It was all inspired by real people who want to make a difference, to network and gain new skills and work tech jobs."
She says helping communities and individuals is her main motivator.
"It's not about our tech, and never mind that a woman designed it, and it's not about how fancy something is," Washington says. "If it doesn't help people, it doesn't make sense to me."
Meaner and greener dirt bikes
Manufacturing kits that allow consumers to convert their gas-engine dirt bikes to electric power isn't just about being "green," says David Kloiber, co-founder of Wired Off-Road
"One of the big benefits of going electric is a performance increase tailored to off-road vehicles," Kloiber says. "There's no maintenance, and no noise."
He says most dirt bike aficionados don't mind the noise. But owners can also ride a quieter dirt bike earlier in the mornings and later in the evenings without disturbing the neighbors, Kloiber adds.
Kloiber says the current electric dirt bike options on the market aren't ideal. A new high-end electric motorcycle costs $10,000-$15,000, much more than a typical dirt bike. Cheaper imports tend to be low in quality, Kloiber says.
Wired Off-Road co-founder David Kloiber.
Wired Off-Road offers "a much more affordable solution," Kloiber says. Additionally, if a gas-powered dirt bike owner already tinkers with their bike, they should be skilled enough to use the conversion kit.
"Because you're converting an existing dirt bike and re-using a lot of the original motorcycle, that offsets the cost to the customer," Kloiber says. "Basically, if you already own one of the supported dirt bikes, you can purchase a kit for $3,000 and you can be riding around on a high-performance vehicle comparable to brand-new, brand-name vehicles for a lot less money."
He says a consumer can also find a cheap used dirt bike, even one with a burned-out motor, to convert for even less money. The used bike doesn't need to be in good condition since the conversion process involves removing the engine and replacing it with a battery and new motor.
Two different battery options are available. The smaller one gives about 25 miles of charge, while the larger gives the rider about 40 miles.
"That's adequate for most people. It's a good afternoon of riding," Kloiber says.
Wired Off-Road's David Kloiber and Vincent Pernicano.
Kloiber and his partner Vincent Pernicano got serious about their conversion kits in February of this year, and are now taking pre-orders for their first kits, which they expect to ship next February.
Today, only kits specific to the Kawasaki KX85 model of dirt bike are available, but Kloiber says the company plans to support more models soon.
Kloiber says that some dirt bike lovers have been skeptical of Wired Off-Road's product, but they were convinced after taking a demo ride. Anyone who would like to arrange a test drive can do so by emailing email@example.com
Combatting identity fraud with Seeme
Kirk Turrentine and Tyran Chandler, founders of Detroit Design & Technology
(DDTEC), met while they were students at the University of Michigan and found they were "working on similar endeavors," Turrentine says.
Nearly two years later, they're working from SPARK East, have been accepted into the University of Michigan's Desai Accelerator
program, and plan to launch their new identity assurance software, Seeme
Chandler notes that traditional loss prevention measures, like a landlord running a credit check on a prospective tenant, don't necessarily catch identity fraud.
Detroit Design & Technology co-founder Tyran Chandler.
"If a person has assumed someone else's identity, nine out of 10 don't have a criminal background and have good credit," he says. "They won't be able to detect that this individual isn't who he says he is."
Turrentine says that their software aims to help companies combat identity fraud and cybercrime in a unique new way.
"One thing we're trying to make a distinction about is that current solutions rely on verification of information rather than verification of identity," Turrentine says. The Seeme app asks a user to upload three different tiers of documentation, creating a "unique identity wallet" associated with the user.
Turrentine says he's been to SPARK's main office in Ann Arbor, but he and Chandler have enjoyed working in downtown Ypsilanti.
Detroit Design & Technology co-founder Kirk Turrentine.
"I prefer being at SPARK East every day, all day. There's a quieter, homegrown vibe going on down there," Turrentine says.
Chandler says SPARK staff, and the entrepreneur-in-residence made available to them through SPARK programming, have been "extremely supportive."
"There's great energy there. If they don't know something, they'll reach out to their network and try to help us," Chandler says. "Ypsilanti has a lot of potential to be tapped."
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos by Doug Coombe.