Tech entrepreneur looks to make big AI push in metro Detroit – Detroit Free Press

Entrepreneur Brandon Cooper returned to the Motor City last year with lofty ambitions as he was selected by Techstars Detroit to be part of its 2024 accelerator program for startups in underserved communities.

Now, his company, Aphid, is getting a boost and he’s working to help tee up the metro Detroit region as an artificial intelligence (AI) capital, just as it’s known as the auto capital.

“I want Aphid to be an innovative tech giant that leverages advancements to eliminate obstacles and stress for the average person,” he said. “Our goal is to make Detroit as synonymous with AI as it is with automotive and change the workforce economy’s outdated structure by eliminating the 40-hour workweek.” 

Cooper, 36, was born in Detroit and attended Michigan State University but left his junior year to go work for Apple. He moved to Atlanta and worked in Apple’s technology department for seven years before deciding to pursue his entrepreneurial passion; he moved to Los Angeles, where he’s been the past five years.

He created Aphid in 2019 with co-founder Shri Ramani. They’ve been working to bring the company to life as they opened a Detroit office to complement their Los Angeles headquarters. According to Aphid’s website, the company allows businesses to access AI bots to get work done with “digital AI workers.”

Their journey will take an important step on May 30 during the Techstars Detroit Demo Day in Detroit when Cooper and the 11 other startups selected by Techstars Detroit, will showcase their products and services.

Techstars Detroit is supported by JP Morgan and offers promising startups $20,000 as a starting point, with some getting up to an additional $100,000, Cooper said. Techstars Detroit is given a small percentage of the company in exchange, he said.

“Aphid’s goal is to help both employees and also small businesses,” said Cooper, who is serving as CEO of his company. “They can transition into our AI network to have digital bots work on their behalf to create a better quality of life. We are primarily focused on small, medium-sized businesses and gig economy workers.”

He said most companies have fewer than 10 employees and don’t have staff to do things like accounting or taxes, for example. Aphid’s solution is a cutting-edge AI network that requires no code or technical experience to power the bots to work on their behalf. The activity in the ecosystem and how much it is used by people, a business or organization determines how much money can be earned by the folks who create the bots found on Aphid. Examples include sales bots for websites, logo designs or automated stock trading.

In all, Cooper said, Aphid will have bots created by folks that will provide 14,000 different services and products, which will be found on its website set to be unveiled on May 30 during Demo Day.

“I invest in founders with big visions who have the skills to pull it off,” said Techstars Detroit Managing Director Monica Wheat. “Brandon and the Aphid team are one of those rare moments when all the key pieces line up in venture, and we are excited about where they’re going and how bullish they are on their ability to execute it well.” 

I posed a few questions to Cooper. Answers are edited for length and clarity.

Question: Talk about your background in Detroit.

Answer: I was born in Detroit. Growing up, I was a bit of a nomad, moving from place to place quite often, so I am very familiar with several Detroit neighborhoods. I grew up on the west side of Detroit, living in Rosedale Park until I was 8 and then my family relocated to the 7 Mile area in my adolescence. Those are just a few examples. After high school, I attended Michigan State University for marketing but, after three years, I decided to embrace entrepreneurship. Before his passing, my father was quite the entrepreneur, so it was innately ingrained in me. 

Q: Tell me about your company.

A: Aphid is an artificial intelligence (AI) control system that allows people to power digital bots to work on their behalf. Our ecosystem is built for both individuals and businesses. For individuals, we produce new, less time-consuming earning avenues in the gig-economy. For businesses, our ecosystem offers stronger, more responsive digital customer support services.

Q: How did you find out about Techstars?

A: Techstars has been on my radar for quite some time. As I worked to grow my business from an idea to a product and service from which individuals and commercial entities could both benefit, I kept watch of Techstars until my team felt we had a strong chance at acceptance. After applying, Techstars Detroit selected Aphid to participate in the 2024 (program) based on various parameters, including idea, team, marketability, etc. 

Q: Tell me about the logistics of how your company operates?

A. The team was excited about our expansion to the Midwest. Detroit is also an emerging technology ecosystem. Large businesses are investing major capital and moving operations here because they see it, too. Many technology pundits are watching and reporting on the city and its residents are even taking the tech space into their own hands. If it weren’t a growing tech economy, businesses such as Techstars, the Rock Family of Companies or Newlab Detroit wouldn’t be here. Often underestimated, the city has so much to offer and Aphid can help.

Q: What is Techstars doing for your company?

A: Techstars is one of the most prominent accelerators for startups. It helps companies scale with product, market fit, investors, mentorship and resources. Techstars is doing just that for Aphid.

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Contact Carol Cain: 248-355-7126 or She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs 5:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS Detroit and noon Sundays on Detroit 50 WKBD. See Politico’s Senior Columnist Jonathan Martin, CEO Denise Ilitch, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and strategist Susy Avery on this Sunday’s show. “Michigan Matters” can also be found on those stations’ listings on FUBO, Pluto TV, It is streamed 9 p.m. weeknights.


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