Keith Porter showing off his bike at the 2013 Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge
Keith Porter wants to have an impact, do something big, change the world for the better. And he doesn't want to waste any time in the process. One way to do that is to be an entrepreneur - a path he's been following since high school.
Recently, Keith and his partner, Ansgar Strother, both computer engineering seniors at U-M, took second place and $15K in the 2013 Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge with their startup company, A2B Bikeshare.
A2B Bikeshare is a hardware and software product development company focused on bike sharing. You walk up to a bike, rent it, ride it, and drop it off at one of the bicycle home bases, or "nodes" as Keith calls them. "We create the hardware and software that enables the automated transaction system to work," explained Keith. "What makes us unique is we've been able to lower the cost of the entire system by at least 60% from our competitors, while offering a superior product. We also offer maps and guided tours during the ride. The technology is accessed via a touchscreen on the handlebars of the bike."
Describing Keith's path to A2B Bikeshare is an introduction to entrepreneurship at Michigan. His freshman year he entered 1,000 Pitches, already attracted to starting his own company - something he did as a high school student. He came away empty-handed, but did better his sophomore year by winning first prize in the category Michigan Matters. Keith further honed his entrepreneurial skills through participation in events offered by the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE) and MPowered Entrepreneurship. While taking the CFE's 411 entrepreneurship practicum, he and Ansgar came up with the idea for A2B Bikeshare. They continued to refine their ideas as part of TechArb, and received advice from the U-M Law School Entrepreneurship Clinic before entering the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge.
Here's Keith's and Ansgar's pitch at the Michigan CEVC competition:
The company is working on its first major contract and all seems to be moving ahead at a steady pace. But if it all falls through? Keith isn't worried in the slightest - he knows something else will come up.
This summer, for example, Keith is heading back to Boeing - this time acting more as a consultant than intern. He'll be working on the production of the latest Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which recently resumed flying since being grounded in January of this year due to battery problems. Using predictive analytics, he'll help predict future issues with Boeing's newest aircraft.
How do you see your future?
"I fly by the seat of my pants pretty well," answered Keith. "When I travel I try to get lost so I can explore something new, have an adventure."
"I love working with people, and organizing the higher-level perspective of how things work." This could mean organizing the team members at his start-up company, or managing a project, or being part of an internal design team in a larger company.
He particularly enjoys making technology comprehensible to others, both engineers and non-engineers.
His immediate future will be spent here at Michigan getting his master's degree as part of the Engineering Global Leadership Honors program. Since he enjoys working with people, he'll take advantage of any coursework or learning opportunities that focus on leading teams.