by James A. Martin

Traction Watch: 5 connected car startups to watch

Aug 12, 2015
AnalyticsCar TechGadgets

It’s pedal-to-the-metal time for connected cars. The market is expanding at a five-year compound annual growth rate of 45 percent, 10 times more than the overall car market, according to Business Insider. Take a look at these 5 connected car startups showing tremendous growth opportunity. rn

5 connected car startups to watch

Revenues for connected car services (for driver assistance and autonomous driving applications) will likely jump from 5 percent in 2014 to 11 percent by 2020, says SNS Research.

There are roadblocks ahead, of course. Remember carjacking? Today, the fear is more about car hacking. A July Kelley Blue Book survey found that nearly 80 percent of respondents believe vehicle hacking will become a frequent problem within three years.

Because many aren’t likely to buy a new car because it’s “connected,” the following startups are showing traction by transforming standard vehicles into connected cars.

Editor’s note: Traction Watch is a new column focused obsessively on growth, and is a companion to the DEMO Traction conference series, which brings together high-growth startups with high-potential customers. The next DEMO Traction will take place in Boston on September 16, 2015. Growth companies can apply to present, or those similarly obsessed can register here to attend.

DEMO Traction will be in Boston on September 16, 2015. For more information and to register click here


1. automatic app

San Francisco-based Automatic (founded in 2011) has raised $32 million to date, putting it ahead of some other connected car startups. Automatic developed its Connected Car Adapter ($100) that plugs into a vehicle’s diagnostics port (standard in cars built since 1996). The adapter sends alerts and information about a car’s performance to drivers via Bluetooth and Automatic’s mobile apps for Android and iOS (including Apple Watch). Automatic recently announced an app store for other developers to offer apps that work with Automatic’s adapter; developers currently include Jawbone, IFTTT, Expensify, and RescueTime. Automatic has forged some cool partnerships, too. The Nest Thermostat, working with Automatic, can automatically raise or lower the temperature as your car nears your home.


Navdyis a San Francisco startup that makes a “heads-up” projector, which displays high-resolution images (such as maps and notifications) onto a transparent screen on your dashboard, just above the steering wheel. Dubbed by some as “Google Glass for your car” and founded in 2013, Navdy closed a $20 million funding round in April 2015 on top of $6.5 million in August 2014. Though the product won’t be available until later this year, pre-orders have topped $6 million. Navdy CEO/co-founder Doug Simpson has said Navdy will update the technology in cars that lack Bluetooth or other hands-free technologies without requiring complex or expensive installations. The company has had more than 650 retailers and distributors show interest in selling the product, Simpson told TechCrunch.


3. zubie

Zubie was spun out of Best Buy in 2012. To date, the Charleston, S.C.-based startup has received about $19.9 million in funding, including an $8 million round led by Nokia Growth Partners’ Connected Car Fund. Similar to Automatic, Zubie developed a $100 gadget that plugs into a vehicle’s diagnostics port. Zubie wirelessly transmits location tracking data, maintenance diagnostics, and suggestions for safer/better driving to its Android and iOS app. The company introduced an open API for developers to build on top of its platform. Partners include service appointment booking platform Openbay; roadside assistance provider; and Progressive Insurance, which offers a safe driving discount based on data Zubie collects. Zubie is also courting business and enterprise users (such as auto dealers).


4. vinli

Another contender for your car’s diagnostics port is Vinli. Based in Dallas, Vinli is a relative newcomer to the connected car adapter/smart car services market; it was founded in 2014. Vinli has received $6.5 million in Series A funding, with Samsung Global Innovation Center leading the round with participation from, among others, the Westly Group, an early Tesla investor. An Indiegogo campaign has raised more than $218K on a $75K goal. Vinli’s platform is open, with about 1,000 developers said to be building apps for the system, according to TechCrunch. Vinli will offer Internet access via T-Mobile 4G LTE (data plan required) as well as other connected car perks when its device ships in September; retail price will be $149.  


5. dash iphone app

Founded in 2012 in New York, Dash developed Chassis, a connected car platform that gives app developers access to fuel consumption and other data that a Bluetooth in-car dongle collects. (Dash sells a variety of devices that connect to vehicle diagnostic ports.) The platform competes to some degree with those from Vinli, Zubie and Automatic. Dash also makes an Android and iOS app that delivers real-time data, diagnostics, and driving/money-saving suggestions. The Chassis platform has hundreds of developers and currently integrates with Ford and GM in-car live assistance services. According to CrunchBase, Dash’s initial funding wasn’t disclosed, and the company received an additional $1 million in late 2013.