We’ve made 23 seed stage tech investments to make cities better, safer and more fun. It’s early days, but even as we see public benefits it seems we can still target competitive investor returns. Today, our unrealized multiples are 1.7x on Fund I (2014) and 1.3x on Fund II (2016).
Some of today’s best investors also see the potential for tech to transform cities. Our co-investors include a16z, First Round, Founders Collective, Omidyar Network, Knight Foundation, Joanne Wilson and General David Petraeus.
Before we look at teams or products we look at potential impact – it turns out that solving city problems always seems to result in very large addressable markets in 4 main sectors: resources, built environment, local government and mobility & logistics.
Resources — Food, water, energy, waste, air, capital, and Internet connectivity are essential to city life.
- BRCK was created to enable people living with unstable infrastructure. Their products are used by individuals or schools to remain connected when power and/or internet connections fail. Their work attracted Series A investors like the Case Foundation and prompted a recent visit from Mark Zuckerberg.
- BlocPower automates the sourcing, auditing, engineering, procurement and financing of energy retrofits for low-income neighborhoods. The team recently won over $12M in contracts from New York City and the state of New York.
- Ecomo is helping bring real time water quality and filtration to consumer devices. They are launching a kickstarter for their first product, the Ecomo Smart Bottle.
- Flair cuts energy use by understanding when rooms are occupied. They use this information to adjust almost any type of residential heating and cooling equipment to get up to a 30% reduction in energy use. They’re accepting pre-orders.
- Revivn moves used electronics from those who are upgrading to those who can use the older equipment. Their customers include some of the best known media, tech and agencies in NYC and they are now expanding to new cities.
- Rachio makes a smart irrigation controller that dramatically reduces water usage. Rachio continues to be the leading product in it’s class on Amazon.com, who participated in their recent series A. To date they have saved over 3 billion gallons of water, a direct impact on the demand constraints on municipalities.
- Radiator Labs is reimagining steam heating systems to increase comfort and dramatically reduce energy consumption and emissions. Its first product, The Cozy, is a radiator cover that helps control the release of heat, resulting in a 34% reduction in heating fuel use (recently confirmed by NYSERDA).
- An Urban Farming startup is almost ready to publicly announce the success of their first product and retail partnerships.
Built Environment — Cities are also defined by their built environment, including real estate and physical infrastructure from roads to stormwater systems.
- Architizer created Source, a marketplace to connect commercial architects connect with suppliers. Source has already helped facilitate transactions valued at over $2.5 billion and Architizer’s A+ awards is kicking off it’s 5th year.
- Kiwi.ki builds secure, handsfree building access control. The solution has successfully rolled out in Berlin to thousands of buildings and has begun rolling out in Hamburg, too.
- LogCheck is the easiest way for building managers to stay on top of routine maintenance tasks, inspections, and meter readings. Their customers already include some of the best known real estate firms.
- Skycatch is leading the way in autonomous commercial data acquisition using drones. With customers like Komatsu using Skycatch technology, the team has a growing international foothold in the construction industry. Skycatch raised a $22M Series B round and investors include Google Ventures, Komatsu, and Autodesk.
- A housing startup to be announced soon
Local Government — Local governments are increasingly challenged with the need to provide more services more efficiently, with fewer resources.
- Citymart transforms the way cities do procurement and connects them with new emerging technology solutions. They’ve worked with more than 50 cities around the world including San Francisco, London, Moscow, Cape Town, Barcelona & Rio.
- HandUp’s charitable-giving platform provides donors with a simple and direct way to affect the lives of low-income locals. HandUp has helped allocate more than $1m in donations, launched a gift card product and a solution for non-profit partnerships coinciding with an expansion to Detroit.
- Livestories is building “Bloomberg for local government” to help local government agencies more quickly understand a rapidly expanding universe local data. True Ventures led the recently announced $3MM seed round.
- Mark43 makes cloud-based records management system (RMS) and analysis suite in collaboration with police personnel from command staff down to patrol officers. After the successful launch of their first deployment in DC, the team has demonstrated significant productivity improvements for law enforcement.
- One Concern provides rapid damage estimates for natural disasters such as earthquakes using artificial intelligence on natural phenomena sciences. The team has rolled out pilots in multiple West Coast municipalities and continues to field inbound requests at the state, federal and international clients.
- SeamlessDocs.com helps governments digitize and automate their operations using online forms. They have hundreds of government customers and recently announced their $7MM series B funding round led by Motorola Ventures.
Mobility & Logistics — A large portion of city life involves moving people and things within and between cities.
- Bikespike was a great effort to make biking safer with tracking and security tools. Unfortunately they never were able to ship their first product.
- Dash Labs created the leading consumer connected-car solution. The company is using their strong consumer success to win customers like New York City Department of Transportation insurers and recently announced new product offerings to serve fleet operators.
- Future Motion created the Onewheel, a single-wheeled, self-balancing electric board that has enchants journalists and awes bystanders. Onewheel has been sneaking the benefits of EVs into the world since November 2014.
- ValetAnywhere started with on-demand services to monthly parking. They’ve recently shifted to focus on selling their logistics solution.
We are on pace to invest in at least 50 of the leading startups re-imaging cities over the next few years. To see what we’re looking for, please take a look at our recent call for startups.
The founders we get to work with are the highlight of what we do. They do all the hard work. We’re thankful for the opportunity to work with them.
“Urban.Us has been a fantastic asset to our company as an investor, advisor, and community provider.” – CHRISTOPHER KLEIN, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, RACHIO
“Our best advisors and hires have come through the Urban.Us Network.” – MARC KUSHNER, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, ARCHITIZER
“Urban.Us literally helped change the trajectory of SeamlessDocs. They were one of the first to show that urban tech is not just good for government, it is also good business. “ – JONATHON ENDE, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, SEAMLESSDOCS
“When Urban.Us says they will help us connect with folks, they really do it.” – ROBERT KAO, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, VALET ANYWHERE
“Shaun and Stonly were some of our first believers, and since then, we have leveraged their guidance and network to move the business forward quickly and intelligently.” – DAN MEYERS, CEO & CO-FOUNDER, FLAIR