More electric and hybrid vehicles may be rolling off assembly lines, but all cars are shifting further into digital territory, sharing data with drivers and their mobile devices. Atlanta automotive software startup RaceIQ Engineering wants to do business at that industry intersection, and that strategy helped it roar past 14 other companies to win the top prize at Tuesday night’s Biz Launch 2016 event.
RaceIQ, founded by Georgia Tech graduate James Jones, gets $50,000, a marketing video from the Metro Atlanta Chamber and prime pitching position at November’s Venture Atlanta 2016.
“It’s overwhelming,” a happy Jones told Hypepotamus after taking the obligatory photos holding an oversized $50,000 check. “We’ve worked really hard over the past 12 months in this space to get to the point where we could have this kind of impact in the community.”
Biz Launch, co-sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia, Venture Atlanta and the Metro Atlanta Chamber, spotlights promising local early-stage companies by giving them a chance to pitch before judges. The top four finalists will share marketing, legal and other professional services valued at more than $350,000.
The other Biz Launch ’16 finalists sharing the services suite with RaceIQ:
- DecisionIQ, a data analytics company focusing on the Internet of Things;
- Fittery, an e-commerce company providing custom-made men’s clothes;
- FraudScope, which targets healthcare-related fraud claims.
Jones said the cash prize and services will help RaceIQ lock down its intellectual property and marketing initiatives while also continuing with development “so we have a little more flexibility as to how we go to market.”
RaceIQ Engineering, with 10 employees in its Midtown offices, offers software products that provide diagnostics, and boost performance and fuel/power efficiency for electric/hybrid vehicles. Given the rising numbers of Leafs, Volts, Teslas and Priuses on the roads, that would probably be enough to get the automotive industry’s attention. But RaceIQ also focuses on locking down the data streams that are now flying back and forth between users and their vehicles, and envisions a day when even more aspects of our work and leisure lives follow us into our cars.
“The ecosystem around the vehicle is changing, and it’s changing dramatically,” said Jones, who is also RaceIQ’s president. “It’s a Pandora’s box that’s been opened and it’s not going to close, but our safety is still a primary concern as we start to see more information carried with us and becoming available in our vehicles. So when you think about that, privacy becomes a big play. Our phones are connected to our cars, to our credit cards, our personal information. Every time you step in and out of your car, your data needs to be secured, so it’s going to become important to do so over the next five to 10 years.”
RaceIQ is bootstrapped its funding, but has sought out key partnerships including a vital one with Panasonic Automotive, “who’s been a huge help in this effort with us, helping us understand how we work with a vehicle’s internal communication network.”
Jones credited that partnership and others like the one RaceIQ has with Atlanta security firm NexDefense with helping his company break away from the pack of 14 other Biz Launch finalists. “We haven’t tried to tackle this on our own. Our focus is not so much trying to solve the problem ourselves. It’s pulling the right partnerships together, different people in the industry who can help tackle this.” As befitting someone who used to work for Allscripts, Jones pointed to examples in healthcare, where the advent of electronic records has forced industry officials to study encrypted networks and team up with security providers.
Jones also thanks Atlanta’s tech startup community for providing events like Biz Launch, especially the company founders that have staged successful exits and are now giving back to other early stage companies.
“I think the people who have built this ecosystem, some of the people who were successful five, eight, 10 years ago, have done a great job. It would have been hard to find a forum like this in Atlanta 10 years ago. There are a lot of smart technology folks here in Atlanta, and a lot of very valuable IP here. To see this ecosystem grow is outstanding, and it’s going to help a company like us, a small startup with big aspirations, reach our goals. So we’ll be here in Atlanta for a long time.”
[image sources: TAG and RaceIQ]