With temperatures approaching 100 degrees at night in New York City, the summer of 2016 was the hottest on record. So far this year, the planet’s average temperature has been 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the late 19th century, according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
That’s one example of the way the world is changing, and the task of exploring how we’ll live and move around in the years and decades ahead is as challenging as it is interesting: How will society, the economy, living conditions and consequently, our mobility, change? What opportunities will new technologies open up for us?
In the midst of a global climate emergency, entrepreneurs that are committed to more diverse, efficient and liveable cities are shaping the future by creating it in three major areas of opportunity — that’s exactly what we’re interested in at Urban-X, the smart cities accelerator I manage that’s launching its second cohort in Greenpoint.
I’ll get to those three major areas, but first, a word about Urban-X.
Focusing on the convergence of smart cities, connected real estate, resilient energy systems, the future of mobility, big data and the digitization of urban infrastructure, Urban-X is looking for pre-seed startups, founders and hungry risk-takers working on technology for intelligent cities, urban hyper growth and society-scale challenges.
Applications are due November 29. The second cohort will kick off this fall.
Operated by car company Mini and the HAX program of Irish venture capital company SOSV, Urban-X invests in and accelerates startups through a four-month program, with hands-on mentorship, customer development, hardware engineering, design, partnerships and fundraising help. Our network of over 100 mentors, prospective partners, customers and policymakers is incredibly deep. Applications are competitive. Chosen startups will receive $60,000 in seed capital investment plus significant in-kind software, hosting and legal services, as well as the opportunity to hone your solution at HAX’s facilities in Shenzhen and BMW/Mini’s global operations in Munich. [Editor’s note: Take a peek into Urban-X’s new headquarters, a makerspace called A/D/O.]
Now, here’s a look at three spaces we’re interested in.
Connected Real Estate
With more than a million buildings and the largest commercial real estate market in the world, New York and other large pre-war cities have a legacy of hard assets that have yet to be digitized. Companies like Manhattan’s Ollie have a vision for inclusive coliving. With an asset-light business model and social-proof in the form of New York’s first micro-apartment development, this team demonstrates a keen understanding of their unit economics and the value proposition to the real estate development community.
By 2025, New York will have another two million people and we’ll need to figure out where and how they’ll live. At Urban-X, we know this is a massive problem that will require a number of solutions and interventions to address.
However, technology alone may not be enough to solve this problem. Over $123 billion is invested in community design annually in the U.S, with no standard policy resource and a glaring absence in the area of climate adaptation and mitigation.
Addressing this policy issue for the urban planning community are startups like Greater Places, a team with serious urban planning credibility, developing an “owner’s manual for cities” (the team also developed the cult-hit “Cards Against Urbanity”).
Addressing the finance issue are new startups like FOAM, a platform providing real estate investment opportunities for the public. This is a huge market, with $570 billion spent in the U.S. in annual real estate construction.
At Urban-X, we love companies that expand access, connect architects and designers with the public for better buildings and empower individuals to make their communities more liveable.
Future of Mobility
Startups like Nauto in Silicon Valley and comma.ai in San Francisco represent the incredible potential of autonomous vehicles, which we’ll need to reduce transportation congestion and cut down on the 33,000 deaths per year in the U.S. caused by auto accidents. Meanwhile, startups like Manhattan’s BookBuses are not waiting for autonomous control. Instead, they are targeting the same resource efficiency goal pursued by Uber, Lyft and Zipcar, and providing a window into the $14 billion charter bus industry with insights into why a B2B (business to business) approach to this industry can scale. Resource efficiency and last-mile mobility are megatrends that excite us and we think there’s massive value to be unlocked in this space.
Other startups like Fort Greene’s LEIF Tech are disrupting walking and demonstrating novel approaches to getting around in increasingly crowded cities. In most cases, 15 miles per battery charge is more than enough for urban commuters for one day’s use. In a space where the popular imagination is dominated by hoverboards and teeming with innovations like Urban-X cohort company SamoCat, OneWheel and others, new personal mobility solutions that take a clear-eyed approach to the safety issue make this a dynamic place to watch.
Knowledge is power!
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