How this father-daughter founding team landed a spot in Techstars with their automotive startup – GeekWire
Jere Lansinger needed some business advice. After spending more than four decades working as an automotive engineer for Chrysler, Lansinger was tinkering around with a new idea in his garage.
So he called up his daughter, Diane Lansinger, a veteran of Microsoft who had recently launched her second startup.
“I know you told me to find a co-founder, but I haven’t gotten around to it,” Jere told his daughter.
Diane agreed to help out for a few weeks. Then she took a look at her father’s patents, and the progress he had made. She knew there was an opportunity to do something big. But could she commit to building a company with her dad?
“I’m all in, but I want to be in charge,” she told Jere. “I want you to work for me — I think you’ll be happiest with that.”
One year later, SEEVA is running on all cylinders, backed by a father-daughter founding team that will graduate from Techstars’ Mobility accelerator next month.
SEEVA, based out of Diane Lansinger’s home office in Bellevue, Wash., is developing heated liquid systems for vehicle mobility. Its technology heats washing solution with a patented process to automatically clean bugs, dirt, sand, dust, and snow off of windshields, LED headlights, cameras, and more. The idea is to help drivers easily clear off debris for safer driving; SEEVA’s QwikTherm product is already being used on the New York state snowplow fleet.
The startup is in advanced talks with several major auto manufacturers — particularly those looking for ways to clean vehicle sensors and cameras that help make an autonomous driving system function properly.
SEEVA was accepted into the Techstars Mobility program with 10 other startups — 500 companies applied — and will pitch on Demo Day next month in Detroit, three months after joining the accelerator.
“My dad had never heard of Techstars,” Diane Lansinger told GeekWire in an interview, laughing about how her and her father make it work as startup founders.
The founders have learned a lot about each other in the past year, working side-by-side in an office environment for 10 hours a day.
“My dad has a wonderful sense of spontaneous humor that I had never quite seen before,” Diane noted. “He’s in there with the other younger Techstars people and fits right in, cracking jokes and goofing off. And yet he’s also the wise, older great uncle to them.”
Part of the company’s early success is due to the founders matching different skill sets. Diane said “we have that yin and yang in terms of business and engineering.”
“I’m the front of the house — my flow state is figuring out how we get our product in the market, figuring out our sales pitch,” Diane explained. “He’s in the back of the house, our innovation and engineering person.”
Speaking of houses — yes, Diane and Jere are sharing a two-bedroom Airbnb in the Detroit area as they go through the Techstars program. Being in Detroit for the past three months has been somewhat of a homecoming for the Lansinger duo; Diane grew up in nearby suburbs when Jere worked for Chrysler in Auburn Hills.
Back then, Detroit was a different place with various issues, and the family didn’t spend much time in the city. Now they’re back in the region and are apart of “this great urban renaissance,” as Diane describes it.
“For us, it’s a reclaiming of Detroit, and a redefining of Detroit,” she explained. “It’s been very much in parallel with our own personal journey as co-founders, redefining our relationship as parent-child and now co-workers. It’s been this very mind-opening experience in many ways.”
SEEVA has raised $100,000 via its participation in Techstars and is looking to raise a seed investment round. John Fluke, an active investor in the Seattle area, is advising the company.
Diane plans to move the company into an actual office in the Seattle area after Techstars wraps up; Jere lives nearby on Camano Island. So far, they are SEEVA’s only employees.
While the co-founders both tend to express strong opinions and get into arguments about the business, Diane said they’ve “absolutely” grown closer as a result of the experience. Jere tells his daughter she’s the best boss he’s ever worked for.
“That’s a huge vote of confidence,” Diane said. “And even better when it comes from your dad.”