We’ve seen hundreds of great startups express interest in URBAN-X. A number of them have shared questions about the program. We’re sharing some of the most frequently asked questions here.
What is URBAN-X?
URBAN-X was created by BMW/MINI to support founders working to make city life better. If this sounds a lot like what Urban Us does, it is. But there are some important differences.
URBAN-X is specifically for founders who might not have paying customers or a finished product.
URBAN-X makes investments in cohorts, where each team receives $100,000. The curriculum for each cohort will build on our experience as founders ourselves, with founders we work with in Urban Us Ventures and over two years of work we’ve been doing with The University of Chicago Booth School. A/D/O in Brooklyn is our home, and we make trips to Munich, San Francisco, and other urbantech startup hubs.
Mark works with Micah Kotch to lead URBAN-X. Micah previously ran the leading cleantech accelerator, ACRE. Additional BMW and MINI team members support founders in design, communications, and engineering.
How many prior cohorts have gone through the program?
We’re currently working on Cohort 03 and recruiting for Cohort 04. However, our teams have worked with nearly 50 startups focused on urbantech over the last 4 years. While the program is relatively new, it builds on deep experience at the intersection of startups and cities.
What amount of equity does URBAN-X take in exchange for $100,000 in funding?
It varies depending on a number of factors including your stage of product development, whether or not you’ve built a startup before, the expertise of the team, etc. For example some teams entering the program have prototypes and others are already selling products to customers. Some teams have already raised capital, while others have not. We consider all of these factors before proposing terms.
How is the URBAN-X program structured?
The program is structured around two core activities – meetings with the core URBAN-X team and curriculum sessions. The curriculum is customized depending on the needs of your company and team and the goal is to help with specific adjustments for your company. Companies can expect to learn and participate in sessions about fundraising, legal and accounting, customers, sales, and scalability with specific urbantech topics such as working with local governments or funding hardware companies. The curriculum builds on work we’ve been doing with the National Science Foundation’s iCorps program and The University of Chicago Booth School.
What are the traits or criteria you look for before making an offer?
We evaluate each applicant by the amount of impact the company will have, who is on the team and what experiences they have, the company’s approach to urban problems, the type and amount of competition the company will face, and how much risk is associated with their ideas.
Does URBAN-X help with introductions to investors and customers?
We’ve built an extensive network of investors, founders and customers in core urbantech industries like urban living, mobility, food, water, waste, smart governance, IoT, security, and energy. Our network has knowledge in B2G, B2B and B2C.
To date, this numbers over 1,600 people primarily located in the US and EU with the largest groups in New York and the Bay Area.
Throughout the program and after, our goal is to connect you to this network. Over the last four years, these introductions have led to investments, pilot project, new customers and new hires. See below for more information on perks and partnerships.
What perks and partnerships do the companies in URBAN-X receive?
We have partnered with many corporate and local organizations to provide the URBAN-X teams with perks and partners who can be transformative to their growing companies. Corporate partners and perks include Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Hubspot, Intercom, Intel, IBM and BMW/MINI. Local partners include the space at A/D/O, the Smart Cities New York’s network, and potential pilot space in downtown Brooklyn through the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
What is the timeline?
Applications for Cohort 04 end on January 31 and starts on April 16. Each cohort runs for 5 months.
Do you need to be on site in Brooklyn to be eligible?
We provide office space and access to extensive resources during the program’s duration. Many of the introductions we make, especially investors, are people in New York. We also want to ensure that teams are dedicated to building their companies full time. It’s our preference that at least one member of the team can participate in person for most of the program. We will consider remote teams that may join us for targeted meetings, but work remotely, on a case by case basis.
Do you invest in or provide introductions to startups outside of your accelerator program?
Sometimes we meet teams that are too far along for the URBAN-X program. In these cases we may consider them for investments via other funds such as BMW iVentures or Urban Us Venture Fund. Unfortunately if we are not investors in a company, it is difficult to make introductions, especially to other investors. Most investors will wonder why we are making an introduction if we were not interested in investing.
Will it be a problem that we’re currently structured as a nonprofit?
We don’t currently have a way to work with nonprofits, but we’d be happy to explore other incorporation options. Sometimes Public Benefit Corporations can achieve similar objectives.
Can I refer a startup?
Yes. Please send them this URL: https://urban-x.com/apply
We’re accepting applications for the next cohort until January 31. We will select up to 10 of the most promising companies to join us for Cohort 4.
Does the world need another accelerator program?
There are many great accelerator programs. However, we’ve identified some specific challenges for urbantech startups that other accelerators don’t specialize in. These startups operate in specific sectors like government, real estate, construction, logistics, transportation or utilities. These sectors build and operate core city services and as a result, they’re regulated and tend to approach emerging technologies cautiously.
For this reason, we’ve organized a specialized network with representatives from urbantech sectors as well as founders, who have can share experiences building some of the leading urbantech firms. Our experience over the last four years suggests that sector specific experience can increase urbantech startup success rates.
How is URBAN-X different from Urban Us?
The table below highlights the key differences between the two.
|URBAN-X||Urban Us Venture Capital|
|Stage||Evidence that a real problem has been identified. Prototype solution.||Traction with a few early customers.|
|Program||A/D/O in Brooklyn with trips to SF and Munich. Organized around weekly offices hours and stage-specific curriculum content.||Primarily online with periodic meetings in NYC and SF. Organized around monthly updates and priority-specific content.|
|Network||Over 1,500 investors, founders and customers. Full time support from the MINI team and other on-site experts in areas such as design, hardware, software and communications.||Over 1,500 investors, founders and customers.|
|Milestone||Get to the best position to demonstrate high potential for impact and raise a seed round.||Get to the best position to growth capital to increase the rate and scale of impact (i.e. series A).|
|Investment||$100,000.||Up to $250,000.|
|Valuations||Up to $5m pre-money.||$5m to $10m pre-money.|
Why is Urban Us doing this?
At our 2017 Investor Summit, we shared observations and challenges after four years of investing in 26 urbantech startups. One thing we’d like to do is invest earlier, and this requires a few things.
First, younger companies are less dependent on larger amounts of funding and more dependent on access to expertise, customers, and partners. If we meet teams earlier we can help them explore more options to understand stakeholders and customers.
Investing earlier also requires a significant time investment that was impossible with just two full-time people (Shaun & Stonly). Mentors and advisors are helpful, but they don’t own the process of guiding teams. The URBAN-X team gives us more capacity.
Finally, we meet great teams from all over the world, and aim to support organizations beyond the United States. URBAN-X is designed to support teams from around the world in large part because of the extensive network and international brand experience of BMW and MINI.
Why BMW and MINI?
From our first conversations three years ago, it was clear our organizations had very similar goals. We even worked together on naming (ok, not really). Back then we wondered, as we suspect you may be doing, what do BMW and MINI want from this?
As an advocate for urbanism and the future of cities, MINI has always embraced innovation. Over the last three years, BMW/MINI has dramatically ramped up smart investments via BMW iVentures, and they’re working on a variety of exciting initiatives beyond EVs and AVs. Perhaps most importantly they meet the most important thing we look for in founders we work with – they care a great deal about the future of the planet and humanity.
Will Urban Us build more accelerators?
We’re not in the business of selling accelerator services. We’re partnering because we see that with MINI, we can provide a lot more to urbantech founders and improve investment outcomes. If there are other organizations interested in urbantech startups, we’d rather find a way to build URBAN-X together instead of creating multiple program factions.