By Edward Cardenas

DETROIT ( – AOL co-founder Steve Case and his Rise of the Rest Road Trip rolled into Detroit Tuesday for a day of celebrating entrepreneurship and competition among start-ups for a $100,000 investment.

“We love what is happening in Detroit. It’s time to shine a spotlight on innovation that is happening in the start-up community,” said Steve Case, following a morning press conference.

Case stated that Detroit was, and is again, the home to innovation.

“Sixty years ago Detroit was Silicon Valley. It was the most innovative, entrepreneurial region in the country – arguably the world,” said Case. “It has lost its way, kind of lost its entrepreneurial mojo, but its fighting its way back on the back of start-ups and entrepreneurs – many in this downtown Detroit area.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told the audience at the kick-off press conference that he heard directly from people at the Ford Fireworks who moved from across the country to the city to start a business.

“People are starting to see Detroit as an area of opportunity,” he said.

A sampling of these firms took to the stage Tuesday at the M@dison to pitch their business ideas with hopes of winning $100,000 from Case.

  • Birdhouse for Autism – a web and mobile-based care management platform for families raising children with Autism.
  • Locqus – a field service management system.
  • – uses Facebook to connect people who need high-value goods or services with trustworthy professionals that their friends recommend.
  • Cribspot – helping connect students to off-campus rental housing.
  • Wisely, Inc – helps people find and build relationships with their favorite local merchants.
  • SkySpecs – developing unmanned aerial vehicles for safe, low-cost infrastructure inspection.
  • Gridpar – SaaS solutions for solar installers and financiers.
  • Spincard – free contact sharing app that simplifies the exchange of contact information by sharing a 6 character Spin.
  • AdAdapted – in-app advertising solutions.
  • Detroit Aircraft Corp. – unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) design, integration, testing, and aerial services for commercial and creative clients.

Following the presentations, judges selected for the $100,000 investment from Case.

Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rock Ventures, stated there is a dual benefit of the tour and investment for all 10 companies competing by bringing a “spotlight” to the start-up community in the city.

He added that the tour is bringing local and national attention to the “tech start-ups and what is happening here.”

Prior to the competition, Case visited start-ups throughout downtown Detroit including those in the M@adison building, Detroit Labs and the Shinola offices.

“It’s not just drop your app in the App Store and hope for overnight success,” said Case, who stated that Detroit’s history of innovation through the auto industry will serve the tech industry well. “It’s going to be a lot of hard work.”

Detroit was the first stop on the four-city bus tour – presented by UP Global, revolution and Google for Entrepreneurs – and now moves on to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Nashville.


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