May 13, 2016

Baby You Can Drive My Car

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I’m gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I love you

“Drive My Car” by The Beatles

Yesterday Jim Scheinman and Sara Thomas of Maven Ventures were visiting us in #startupcincy. You may have seen the great news that one of the portfolio companies, Cruise, was just acquired by GM for over $1 billion. It actually closed yesterday while they were in town. We learned great insights about how the company and investors thought about the coming self-driving car revolution. And then I also see Fred Wilson’s post today on the subject.

Driverless cares are likely to be a reality sooner than you think. But what was the insight that Maven and Cruise had that led to this successful investment? It turns out that it all starts with understanding the consumer.

Some people think that Cincinnati is the mecca for consumer marketing. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s best best place in the world for consumer insights. We have 50,000+ professionals who are trained experts in understanding consumer behavior. University of Cincinnati’s DAAP design school is consistently ranked one of the top schools in the country.

Producers of driverless cars will need to acquire a whole need skill set of talent. Employees at Cruise were not from the auto industry. Often, startups are most disruptive when they come from outside the industry, bringing fresh new perspectives. Disruption starts by understanding the consumer and how their lives might be different with revolutionary new capabilities.

  • This is a keen insight Tim — it’d be an great project for someone to build on this, and catalog the evidence — list of all the consumer-insights companies in town (big and small), and perhaps highlight some individuals willing to mentor/advise potential consumer insights-related entrepreneurs. Every week I serendipitously discover more companies in this space (this week I learned about Quotient Technology’s significant presence in Cincinnati).