In September, Jason Stein embarked upon an ambitious agenda as the new president and corporate development officer of motormindz, a global automotive venture consultancy.
Motormindz founder and CEO Jeff Van Dongen tasked him with creating a 2.0 version of the company which has served the automotive industry for seven years. While it sounds like a daunting task, Stein says he’s up for the challenge because every position he held during his career prepared him for this opportunity.
A native of Ontario, he worked as a sports writer and automotive columnist for publications in Ohio and Indiana before joining Crain Communications in 2003. After serving as a reporter for two years, Stein moved to Munich and was later named publisher of Automotive News Europe. He returned to the United States in 2009 to become the editor of Automotive News and eventually publisher as well. He welcomed the switch to motormindz because of the firm’s reputation within the auto industry.
“I have been watching Jeff from a distance for several years and have always been impressed with his depth of knowledge,” says Stein. “He has built an amazing foundation at motormindz by assembling a coalition of 120 automotive experts working in 32 countries around the globe. That gives the firm a lot of operational expertise other companies lack.”
The group’s array of expertise gives motormindz a unique perspective. Its experts have studied solutions that worked as well as those that didn’t, allowing them to bring ideas to the table that help firms develop tangible solutions, says Stein.
“This position will bring thought leadership to the industry in a very non-traditional way,” says Stein, who hosts Sirius XM’s weekly “Cars & Culture with Jason Stein” radio show, which is also streamed as a podcast. “I’m leveraging my understanding of the business side of the automotive industry and the consumer side.”
That unique insight is needed as good solutions become increasingly complicated because of almost daily dynamic changes within the industry, he notes.
“When you look at the number of challenges we face today, the auto industry needs a mastermind group with expertise to bring all players together to address a myriad of problems,” says Stein.
motormindz has done extremely well operating within its own network. Now Stein will hone the message, simplify it and bring solutions it helps develop to the industry, he explains.
“I am the brand ambassador for motormindz tasked with leveraging longstanding relationships and partnerships established throughout my Automotive News career,” he adds. “My job is to meet with people on many levels to understand what their major issues and stubborn problems are then match them with motormindz experts to create comprehensive solutions.”
motormindz Venture Fund
Another aspect of the job Stein finds particularly appealing is an opportunity to promote the motormindz Venture Fund. It pools financing and other resources to help young companies grow in their ability to deliver much-needed solutions to industry problems.
“motormindz is already recognized as an industry thought-leader. With the Venture Fund, we can now lay the groundwork to establish a collaborative approach to finding and building companies needed to advance solutions, especially those related to autonomous connected electric vehicles,” says Stein.
“We can help accelerate new technology companies to become problem-solvers in developing practical solutions, especially in the area of autonomous connected electrification,” he adds.
With the fund, motormindz can get involved with early-stage technology companies and help them scale business models to respond quickly to emerging opportunities across the entire spectrum of the automotive industry.
“There are a lot of tech companies trying to get into this space because of the autonomous connected electrification issues,” he notes. “motormindz can connect the right people with the right products to form solutions the industry really needs.”
In recent years, the automotive industry has been bombarded with tech partners which see themselves as solution providers. In fact, emerging technology is transforming the auto industry into one of the largest tech industries in America, if not globally, Stein explains.
“When you look at all facets of autonomous connected electrification issues from a retail perspective, and add in automakers and suppliers, there is a high level of interest from groups desiring to become actively involved in the development process,” he adds.
“It has always been that way. As the automotive industry evolves and changes, there are more players who want to become part of new opportunities,” he says.
That’s because the first firms to bring solutions to market not only stand to profit handsomely but will likely control an industry segment for the foreseeable future. However, it’s difficult for new firms to break into the well-established industry, and that’s where motormindz plays a significant role.
“The auto industry is a very confusing space to enter because it is so complicated,” Stein explains. “It may look easy from the outside, but without an ability to open the right doors, the automotive industry is a very difficult space for new firms to penetrate.”
By leveraging existing relationships in every segment of the auto industry, motormindz can open doors for small tech start-ups trying to penetrate the industry as well as large OEMs which have a need they must address,” he explains.
“There are a lot of needs the industry isn't even aware exist,” he adds. “Yet, players from other industries coming into the automotive space already have solutions the auto industry needs. It will require partnering with a firm like motormindz to match innovative solutions and companies with traditional automotive players.”
Supply Chain Opportunities
The supply chain will fuel enormous transformation in the industry by delivering products and services to advance automotive capabilities.
“Technologies are developing so rapidly that it requires experts who know how to navigate those technologies, optimize them for the auto industry and then integrate them into solutions,” says Stein.
“We are especially seeing this at the retail level where massive acceleration is taking place at some retailers,” he adds. “There are solutions which have been applied in other industries that would be really effective in the automotive space.”
Electrification of vehicles is just one disruptor challenging today’s auto industry today. Government mandates are driving rapid development of electric vehicles.
“That requires us to have a deep understanding of existing infrastructure and how to best educate consumers about changes taking place,” says Stein. “We have to sell those emerging technologies to consumers to help them understand how they will improve their experiences.”
As the world becomes more technologically intertwined, connection will continue expanding to vehicles simply because consumers expect it to be available. In fact, Stein predicts technology will create a tenfold increase to consumers’ current expectations.
“We need to bring technology partners and connectivity partners together and encourage them to join forces within the auto space,” he explains.