Business, News, Technology

Silicon Valley check your mirrors: Detroit (mind) muscle is hitting the accelerator

Josh Linker at Xconomy

Up To App Mobile ScreenshotThere has been a seismic shift in how people use technology in the last few years. Especially with the coming of ever-more-powerful smart devices, people are texting, tweeting, statusing, shopping, remote-controlling, watching, planning, locating and every other –ing activity with their mobile devices you can imagine.

So we cover Detroit, why are we writing about this? Because when it comes to mobile tech, Detroit (mind) muscle is hitting the accelerator to make moves in the technology space.

From cars to loans to pizzas, apps are making a difference for businesses and putting thousands of engineers to work here in Metro Detroit. How are they making that impact? Here’s just one example. Ann Arbor-based Domino’s Pizza is on track to move $150 million of pizza (that’s a lot of dough! Couldn’t resist) through an app created by Detroit-based Detroit Labs.

That company, currently located in the M@dison building has been on a hiring spree doubling their employees and soon to move out of the M@dison to their own space. It’s also recently added another feather in its cap for its “Chevy Game Time” app, which won two creative media awards the other day from MediaPost.

Before I go on, let me tell you the impetus for this post. Xconomy, a national network of publications based in Boston, brought together a plethora of speakers from different backgrounds for an event called “Motor City Mobile Madness.” They all hit the stage in the conference room on the top floor of the Compuware headquarters highlighting their projects, mobile applications and know-how.

You had the folks who you may expect to talk tech in Detroit, like Josh Linkner who has backed his big talk with action by pouring millions into the scene, kick off the day. But later on, you had a futurist from Ford, a litany of app creators from the venture-funded to the self-funded (some of which we’ve wrote about) and a lot of on the ground, blunt insight.

Only the very beginning of that knowledge included, “don’t make your website into an app,” said Tricia Cervenan from Quicken Loans. As a user, amen. She also said don’t get fancy with your application name – think search first.

“It’s almost critical to spend money” to market your app, says Sagar Parvataneni, of ePrize. He says there are hits without it, but they are few and far between.

The road ahead

Josh Linker at XconomyLet us be under no illusion. We still have a lot of work to do in the space.  However, Josh Linkner made an interesting point. Car manufacturing wasn’t invented here. The first US car manufacturer was Duryea in Massachusetts. But it was Henry Ford that really perfected it and took it to another level. Linkner posited that Detroit could do the same with mobile tech.

Another thing was clear. The side conversation buzz was the demand for people in this space. There is simply not enough talent to fill the positions right now. So if you’re a geek or a nerd or just have a passion for all things mobile, this might just be the time to sharpen your saw and try to make the best apps on earth.

And even better … you won’t have to leave Detroit to do it.

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