Meet The First Urban.Us Startups
We’d like you to meet our first startups and tell you a bit about how we met and why we’re excited about what they are doing.
Architizer – I was fortunate to meet Marc, not too long after he co-founded Architizer. From the start, it was clear that he wanted to create something that would help architects. He wanted to showcase their work, help them discover new resources and ultimately help them succeed in their work. After fantastic growth, Architizer is now one of the largest communities of architects online with a rapidly expanding collection commercial architectural projects.
Potential impact: It would be a mistake to look quickly and see beautiful homes and luxury condos. The really impactful projects are things that most of us will come to experience when we are away from our homes – offices, libraries and waste-to-energy plants (someone the Danish ones are places you’d want to hang out at). Cities have already identified commercial buildings as an opportunity to reduce energy use and environmental impact and as lower cost energy audits come online we’ll be better able to understand what active and passive solutions are working.
In the process, architects are beginning to face an exploding number of choices. There are whole new categories for active and passive energy management, for example. And within these categories, innovation is happening quickly. So this creates a discovery problem for architects and a findability problem for vendors. Great opportunity for a market you say? Absolutely. The discovery problem was underscored by one of Brazil’s leading construction firms who has taken to organizing “fast dating” sessions to learn about new solutions. Architizer has the potential to be the place for architects to discover and for vendors to be found. And if this works, we can hope to see the best sustainable building solutions being deployed more quickly.
Dash – “Fitbit for your car” was an excellent way to draw me in. I’d personally experienced the power of quantifying behavior while using Fitbit. While traveling I found myself wondering around airports to meet my 10,000 step daily goal thanks to Fitbit and Retrofit. So I wondered what might happen if similar behavior changes might be achievable for drivers. I didnt have to wonder for long because Jamyn and Brian were already shipping a Beta version of Dash and seeing interesting results.
For my trial, the results were immediate. Sure I drive my JCW Mini Cooper in a way that might make its creators less proud, but something else interesting happened. When a “Check Engine” light came on in my wife’s car, we were able to determine that she was not going to do irreparable damage to the car. And in case I wasn’t convinced, Ford Motor Company and the US Department of Energy independently awarding Dash prizes in their respective energy and fuel efficiency challenges.
Potential impact: opening up data is a big part of innovation in urban challenges. It turns out that some of this data is trapped in places like our car engine management systems and can be generated by our smartphones, too. And while it is nice to be informed in real time detail about what your car is doing, the potential to use this data to have people drive “better” is enormous. Making small adjustments to acceleration and breaking can greatly impact fuel consumption in the same way that Fitbit helps so many of us ensure that we walk a bit more each day. Also, as auto insurers are finding, it can also help reduce riskier driving behavior. If you let your mind wonder a bit, you can see Dash being used not just by consumers but by people who drive for a living – what might this do for taxi, truck or bus drivers?
Kiwi.ki – I have the good fortune to visit Berlin regularly, often to visit the team from Jovoto. On a recent summer trip, I shared my initial thoughts about Urban.Us with one of Jovoto’s office mates from another most excellent startup, Clue. Hans, Clue’s founder immediately emailed an introduction to a friend working on “something you have to see”. Despite all my best attempts to use great resources like Angel.co, Crunchbase, Mattermark and various social monitoring tools, these types of introductions are still some of the most important discovery opportunities.
And so a few hours later I was talking with Christian and a few days later I met his co-founders Claudia and Peter. The most striking thing about this team is that they are so matter-of-fact about already impressive achievements. A beautifully designed product, phenomenal pilot partners, smart business model and a successful launch at Techcrunch Disrupt, only a few days ago in Berlin. Kiwi wants to replace our old key technology with something much more secure and convenient. And they want to build on what is already in place, beginning with the users for whom keys are most painful like mail and waste management organizations.
Potential impact: there are a few different ways to think about what Kiwi is doing. At the simplest level there is convenience for consumers and then there is the more complex operational impact for service delivery organizations like Deutsche Post. But as one thinks about how the build out of the Kiwi network is funded, you can see that a valuable piece of infrastructure becomes available to residents and other organizations too. Want programmable access to delivery lockers? How about using those lockers for items shared between neighbors? This is not just about arriving home and struggling for your keys, it has the potential to open the door to many more opportunities
We’re unlikely to follow the accelerator model of cohorts or classes. We expect that our teams will need to work with us for longer and so we’ll begin with a rolling admissions process. So we hope to have more introductions soon. If you know someone we should meet, please drop us a line.