Collaborating with Giants: HAAS Alert's Successful Startup with Stellantis

Collaborating with Giants: HAAS Alert's Successful Startup with Stellantis

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In this episode of the Automotive Leaders Podcast, host Jan Griffiths interviews Cory Hohs, the CEO and co-founder of HAAS Alert. Cory takes us through the fascinating journey of HAAS Alert, a company dedicated to revolutionizing roadway safety through connected vehicle technology and V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communication.

Cory shares his leadership philosophy, emphasizing the importance of trust and rallying his team around a shared mission. At HAAS Alert, that mission is clear and compelling: ensuring everyone gets home safely. He recounts the personal incident that inspired HAAS Alert—a near-collision with an ambulance—and the realization that vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology was overdue.

Cory underscores the significance of being mission-driven throughout the discussion. He said that HAAS Alert is not just a tech company but a safety company first. This focus on safety over technology for its own sake has been crucial in motivating his team and the broader market.

Cory highlights HAAS Alert's successful partnership with Stellantis. He praises Stellantis for its innovative mindset and willingness to adapt HAAS Alert's technology quickly, bypassing the usual bureaucratic obstacles that can slow down such integrations. This partnership exemplifies how forward-thinking OEMs can successfully work with startups to enhance vehicle safety.

The episode shows how different tech startups and traditional automotive companies are. suggesting that legacy companies can learn much from startups' agile, mission-focused approach. Cory's insights offer a refreshing perspective on leadership and innovation in the auto industry, making this episode a must-listen for anyone interested in the future of automotive technology and safety.

Themes discussed in this episode:

  • Leadership style of a tech startup CEO and co-founder
  • Cory’s views on building trust and focusing on a mission rather than just selling tech
  • HAAS Alert’s passion for saving lives through innovative tech solutions
  • Revolutionizing roadway safety through connected vehicle technology
  • How a personal near-miss with an ambulance inspired Cory to create HAAS Alert
  • Effective strategies for tech startups to collaborate with major automotive manufacturers
  • The story of a seamless integration with Stellantis showcases what’s possible when an OEM embraces innovation

Featured Guest: Cory James Hohs

What he does: Cory is the CEO and co-founder of HAAS Alert, a company dedicated to saving lives through connected vehicle safety and smart infrastructure solutions. He focuses on collision prevention technology for first responders and government fleets, ensuring safer roads with real-time alerts integrated into automotive systems. Cory's background includes over a decade in engineering and product management, with significant contributions to connected and autonomous vehicles. His leadership has positioned HAAS Alert as a key player in enhancing roadway safety, delivering nearly one billion alerts across over 240 cities and private fleets, including police, fire, EMS, and more.

On leadership: “To be a leader within an organization, especially at a startup where you're asking people to do more, you're asking people to strive further, asking them to do things that have never been done before. I always remind everybody during all hands that everybody at a startup is an entrepreneur, not just the founders. We could all be at different jobs, cozier jobs, working less, getting paid more, but instead, we're all focused on a mission to get something done. It's really about keeping people rallied around that and us never forgetting, especially in our case, where it relates to safety, making sure that it's just constant reminding of folks, like why we do what we do every day, and reminding that we're not a tech company first, we're a safety company first.”

Mentioned in this episode:

Episode Highlights:

[00:03:43] Safety first, tech second: Leading HAAS Alert, Cory fosters trust and an entrepreneurial mindset among his team, emphasizing their mission to prioritize safety over mere technological advancement.

[00:04:58] Realizing the Mission: Grounding his team in the real-world impact of their work, Cory starts meetings with sobering statistics on road fatalities and injuries, reinforcing HAAS Alert's commitment to saving lives through innovative safety solutions.

[00:07:36] Let’s talk about HAAS Alert: Reflecting on how HAAS Alert started, Cory shares how a close call with an ambulance inspired the company's mission to integrate life-saving technology into automotive systems.

[00:12:43] Collaborating with Giant: Cory talks about the road to a successful partnership with Stellantis and applauds the industry giant for swiftly embracing their technology's life-saving potential, which enhances vehicle safety and differentiates their brand in the market.

[00:19:37] The Hard Part: Cory highlights the challenges startups encounter when negotiating lengthy and complex agreements with OEMs. He stresses the importance of having open, direct conversations and not letting bureaucracy slow down innovation and progress.

[00:24:35] Creating the Path: When Stellantis decided to prioritize launching HAAS Alert's safety technology, they acted swiftly, driven by top-level commitment and a clear mission. This approach allowed them to quickly implement vehicle communication solutions and add new safety features to older models almost immediately.

[00:27:55] Advice for OEMs and Tier Ones: Cory's advice is to break out of the strict corporate mindset when dealing with startups and smaller companies. He stresses the importance of having open, direct conversations and not letting bureaucracy slow down innovation and progress.

[00:32:39] Command and Control: Cory emphasizes the importance of striking a balance between traditional top-down leadership in large manufacturing companies and the adaptability required in new businesses. He emphasizes the need for clear decision-making and deadlines while also adjusting quickly to changes.

[00:35:48] Cory, on the 21 Traits of Authentic Leadership: Cory values vulnerability and transparency as critical traits of authentic leadership, which are essential for bridging gaps and driving innovation in startups or established OEMs.

Top Quotes:

[00:05:30] Cory: “When we start board meetings, we start with how many people were struck and killed, how many first responders were struck and killed. And we spotlight that. And it's a way that we're able to keep the focus of the company, not on the greatest, as I said, technology and all the great things we do on that side of the house, but that means nothing if it's not having an impact on the lives of people like you and me that are driving in our vehicles to keep us safe and if it's not having an impact on the first responders and the roadway workers that we serve on a day-to-day basis.”

[00:11:57] Cory: “We're not doing this technology for technology's sake; we're doing this to bring us all back to the table around saving lives and being mission-driven to get our customers home safely.”

[00:20:44] Cory: “As much as we fall to OEMs, I also think if you're a startup and you want to move quickly with an OEM, you're going to need to do a lot of work because they are not capable of moving that fast. If you're just going to say, here's a bunch of work that you'll need to do to get this product into the vehicle, that is not a success for anybody. And for the startups, we don't want to be another R&D project. We don't want to be a test case somewhere in the valley that does a dog and pony show; headquarters never hears about it at the OEM, and then you're just kind of tossed aside. Like you really got to fight your way through it, and you got to make sure that this isn't looked at as something that's just sort of a nice-to-have product.”

[00:25:24] Cory: “If you ask anybody at Stellantis about why you did the integration with HAAS Alert, no one's going to say to create the largest North American V2X Vehicle Communication Network that the world has ever seen. That's not what they're going to say. They're going to say, 'We wanted to launch with a safety application.’ They actually had an internal employee program that asked for ideas. And one of them was emergency vehicles to communicate with their cars. There was just so much, 'We want to solve this problem.' And, of course, it gives them safer cars. It makes them look better for automotive awards. There are some other things in there, but when you talk to anybody who's worked on this project, they will go to this to help protect first responders. This helps protect our families when they're on the road.’ 

[00:35:59] Cory: “You have to be comfortable being vulnerable, or you will never get out of your silo. Whether that's a startup, whether that's an OEM, no matter where you work or what you're doing in life, be okay to be vulnerable. Even in just personal relationships like you have to be okay to be vulnerable to kind of breakthrough things, talk things out, and then move forward like bigger, better and stronger.”

Mentioned in this episode:

This episode is sponsored by Lockton, click here to learn more