Ann Arbor-based startup Nahsai creates extreme environment materials and sensors for aerospace, defense, and industrial applications. As such they are at the forefront of seeing the defense industry, among others, adopt lean startup strategies for invention, project management, and manufacturing. In the case of aerospace, the market for private companies going to space (e.g. SpaceX) is so new that companies have to invent and produce parts in-house for their rockets in many cases. But whether it’s a private or public contract, when companies like Nahsai are brought on board to contract out parts, the industry is recognizing that the product development cycle is shortening dramatically and large contracts can’t deliver on time and still be relevant. Enter lean startup strategies.
There was one moment that convinced us Ann Arbor was going to make it through the birth canal as a growing tech hub, and that was when Ford decided to locate a new agile software consultancy, FordLabs, in Ann Arbor, to recruit University of Michigan software development talent to help make the 100-year-old automaker more agile and lean. Where Ann Arbor’s arts and tech culture meet the automotive giants of Detroit, FordLabs sits at the crossroads, not just of shifting best practices but of time. John Handy, Office Director of FordLabs who welcomed us in with several other key players in the organization for a tour, told us this is really nothing new. People forget, ourselves included, that lean startup culture was in part born here in Detroit, in lean manufacturing.