How Start-Up ZOMIO Found Success at WCX


The shift from automotive to mobility creates huge opportunities for brand-new innovations, but entrepreneurship is risky—up to 90% of start-ups fail. According to CB Insights, the top reason for failure is lack of market need, with running out of capital a close second. 

Ishmael Lebron, co-founder of Puerto Rico-based ZOMIO, found a unique way to improve the odds for his new tech company at last year’s WCX™ SAE World Congress Experience: The FCA Pitch Pit.  

A start-up at the forefront of creating and developing new consumer products, ZOMIO brings safety technology into the home to monitor seniors and infants. ZOMIO saw the automotive industry as an adjacent market, where its technology could make a great impact. Its smart sensor, ARK, detects the presence of a person or pet inside a vehicle cabin, monitors conditions, and then alerts parents, caregivers or emergency services if conditions become dangerous.  
“We needed to know and hear from real-life people if our idea was viable,” Lebron says, “and if it was something the industry was looking for.” 

In the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Pitch Pit, entrepreneurs can identify commercial ability, find partners and get valuable feedback that can help raise demand and the seed capital to go the distance.

Meet Partners

“Puerto Rico isn’t known for the auto industry, so once (ARK) reached the prototype point, we looked for opportunities to get exposure,” Lebron says. “We thought WCX was the right opportunity and the right timing.”

Soon after Lebron and fellow co-founder Raul Valle chose WCX and submitted their proposal for the Start-up Pavilion, they heard from Vanessa Reddick of the SAE event sales and development team. Reddick thought ARK was a great fit for the Pitch Pit and sent the team an application. 

Showcasing groundbreaking innovations right on the exhibition floor, the FCA Pitch Pit offers exhibitors a closed-door forum to introduce their newest products and future innovations face-to-face with top executives and buyers at FCA, an exclusive partner with SAE in the Pitch Pit. 

“There’s a balance between protecting your IP and saying enough to get people to engage with you,” Lebron says. “If we’re going to take this risk, don’t see them as someone who’s going to swallow us. Let’s see them as a potential partner.” 

He added that although the ZOMIO team was nervous, the pitch went smoothly. 

Build Credibility

Through Pitch Pit, ZOMIO received invaluable feedback from FCA. 

“The experience was excellent, warm and welcoming,” Lebron says. “It felt like they were there to really hear us out. It went beyond a pitch and into a back-and-forth conversation.” 

The WCX team followed up as well, and six weeks later the ZOMIO team was touring FCA Auburn Hills Complex in Michigan.  Lebron says they returned with a plan to drive collaboration in the future. 

“We’re still pre-revenue so we wanted to prove viability and commercial potential,” he explains. “That opportunity and those conversations gave us the credibility to let us raise a larger amount of seed capital—close to $300,000.” 

Focus on Technology

WCX is the first and only place ZOMIO presented ARK—Lebron says the event went so well that they didn’t see the need to showcase anywhere else.

“Everybody there is serious and focused on technology and where the industry is headed,” Lebron says. “It was exactly what we wanted and it worked out perfectly.”

The next step for ARK is to break into the automotive industry and into new vehicles as a standard feature. ZOMIO and FCA continue to work closely together at next steps for improving the technology. Lebron continues working to make sure ZOMIO has a market-ready product by the end of this year and plans to exhibit at WCX 2020. ZOMIO is also developing applications in search and rescue, healthcare and military.

For fellow start-ups considering WCX Pitch Pit, Lebron recommends taking the leap. “It’s definitely worth the time, the investment,” he says. “It’s not a competition—more of a real opportunity.”  

Ready to put your start-up on the path to success? Pitch Pit is reserved for registered exhibitors only, so visit to secure your space today for WCX 2020.

For more information, contact the SAE sales team:

Vanessa Reddick
Event Sales and Development

Linda Wagner
Event Sales and Development

Detroit Regional Contact:
Nicole Gize
Event Sales and Development