Report Index


Sean Simpson, Evening MBA '13
CEO and Co-founder, AutoBike

Launching a new company is sometimes like pushing a bicycle up a very steep hill. At the Ross School and Zell Lurie Institute, CEO and co-founder Sean Simpson, Evening MBA '13, found the helping hands and funding he needed to propel his start-up venture, AutoBike, over the entrepreneurial crest and to gain sufficient momentum for a smooth product rollout. “The networking contacts we made through the Institute enabled us to get plugged into the tightly knit community of entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor and Detroit,”he explains. “Entrepreneurial-studies coursework, business-development seminars, and investors' feedback at the Michigan Business Challenge also gave us a good solid foundation.” Simpson collaborated with five co-founders, including John Czoykowski, BSE '06, MSE '13, to design the AutoBike Voyage, an automatic-shifting bicycle for casual users who want a simple, smooth, comfortable riding experience. Creating the patent-pending shifting system was a slam-dunk for Simpson, a mechanical engineer who previously designed auto transmissions at General Motors Co. He enrolled in Ross's evening MBA program in fall 2009 to gear up on the entrepreneurial business skills needed for creating and scaling a business to commercialize that technology. AutoBike, launched in 2011, shifted into high speed the following year, winning $10,000 at the 2012 U-M Victors' Challenge competition and closing on $250,000 in seed round funding while participating in Betaspring, a Providence, Rhode Island-based start-up accelerator program for technology entrepreneurs who are launching new companies. “I knew we could do something on our own and make a big impact on the final product,”says Simpson, who is selling the first production bikes through his website,