Planet M launches mobility industry hub inside WeWork

By Annalise Frank, Crain's Detroit Business

Startups that want to dive into Detroit's mobility industry can rent dedicated, subsidized space at WeWork's Merchant's Row location in downtown Detroit.

The Planet M Landing Zone, a 65-desk space funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Detroit Regional Chamber, offers a selection of startups and larger companies all of WeWork's services along with resources tailored to the automated, shared and electric vehicle sectors.

The niche co-working space officially opens Thursday. It started testing operations in July, said Trevor Pawl, group vice president for Planet M, which started out last year as an MEDC campaign to boost Michigan's standing as a mobility hub. It is now transitioning into a business development program with a mobility focus, Pawl said.

Long- or short-term users of the new space can rent desks or individual offices. They'll also get access to networking events and matchmaking opportunities with the auto industry; legal, tax and automotive experts; help with economic development opportunities, and venture capital, said Justin Robinson, the chamber's vice president of business attraction.

"How do we help secure the future of Michigan's automotive industry for the next 100 years? The way we want to do that is to bring those global tech disruptors here," Robinson said. "The way we think about this is as a hub ... a physical entry point for these global startups."

MEDC is contributing 75 percent of the space's operational costs through Planet M's allotted budget and the Detroit Regional Chamber is contributing the other 25 percent, Robinson said. The office space is provided at discounted rates through WeWork.

A 10-member team from the ride-sharing startup Splt are already renting space at the Landing Zone. Also on board are about five members of Ford Motor Co.'s City Solutions operations and about six people from the behavioral location data startup Spatial, which is based in Cincinnati.

General pricing is $100 per desk per month for the first six months and $200 per desk per month for months seven to 12. Ideally companies will remain in WeWork or in Southeast Michigan after the full year, Pawl said.

Planet M and the chamber are also seeking auto industry partners to participate in events and networking, and help introduce them to more mobility startups.

Mobility is a general term used to cover advanced technology-focused auto industry sectors such as autonomous vehicles, ride-share systems and electric vehicles. Southeast Michigan companies and the state have made efforts to draw mobility technology businesses to the region.

For more details or to apply, visit planetmlandingzone.com.

Read the story on Crain's Detroit Business here.