These are the Urbantech trends we’ll be tracking in the new year.

More Climate Action From Cities

Much of the Climate Change media coverage focuses on international debates and negotiations, but a lot of the action is in cities. One important development should begin to make this more visible – a global standard to measure city greenhouse gas emissions.

This standard will make it much easier to compare progress between cities as they work toward greenhouse gas emission targets. We think a standardized measurement framework will help bring visibility to some of the solutions that might work best versus those being most aggressively marketed (i.e. the types of things we know great founding teams are working on).

Citymart has given us a glimpse of what happens as cities can compare and share solutions. In the new year, we think we’ll see even more sharing and comparing of what works, which will in turn help with awareness for some early stage firms.

The New C3PO (Choices for Public Private Partnership Opportunities)

Adoption of new technologies often comes with hard choices about how to fund projects. We’re already used to seeing ads as a way to subsidize transit systems and even the newest pieces of public mobility, like bikesharing systems, has gone down this path. Trendspotting highlighted a number of “Branded Government” projects that further underscores new methods for funding public services from private companies.

Ad models are interesting and we expect we’ll see more of them, but they don’t provide the scale for larger investments that will be necessary at the intersection of cities and climate change. Even more important, an increasing number of things are not likely to be the sole responsibility of city government. Consider coastal flooding for example.

Coastal flooding in the US occasionally makes it into media, but we expect we’ll see more debate about how best to address it (on the US East Coast, for example). This is a debate that will bring together real estate owners, developers, insurers and banks shifting some of the political debate.

2015 will be the year that “I’m not an actuary” replaces “I’m not a scientist”. With financial services firms at the table, we expect to see some really interesting discussions on solutions, efficacy and funding.

The Force Awakens

2015 will be a big year for the Starwars saga, but even bigger for the ongoing battle between fast-moving tech companies and deliberating local governments trying to balance the needs of different stakeholders. Uber has come to exemplify a “let the market decide” model and an increasing number of local and national governments are pushing back. At the same time, we’re seeing more dialog and co-operation, as Next City points out as they contrast approaches by Car2Go and Uber.

Whatever the specific outcomes in ride- and car-sharing, we suspect founders will benefit from a growing understanding of what to expect from local governments in different cities, helping them to prioritize roll-outs and investments in relationship-building. We also think that cities are increasingly prepared to debate the issues that result from tech disruption, even if there is no guarantee they that they are able to move at the speed that founders and investors would like.

The new year will see more successful engagement between early stage companies and local governments.

From DIY to DFY

The internet of things (that make cities, business and citizens smart) are finding their way into our homes and workspaces. The high end of the market ($10k+ projects) has long been served by installers and the lower end ($200 devices) has been left to DIYers. But this will change in 2015. We expect retailers to begin bundling installation services – Best Buy is already well positioned to do this with Geek Squad and Amazon will look to match you with local installers.

Even if retailers don’t succeed here, it’s likely that a growing universe of freelance and small business installers is going to find a way to connect with customers via the growing number of local services marketplaces. At the same time we expect fixed line and mobile carriers to provide devices (and installation) as a means to securing new revenue sources. And we expect to see more “lite”

And we expect to see more “lite” installation options too, so that renters can benefit from IOT. With easier access to installation help, more people will embrace IOT at home, work and in their cars.

2015 may be the year that Genius’s begin making house calls.

More Early Stage Funding for Urbantech

Firms like Intel and Google already more than hold their own with the best-performing funds. But more recent entrants ranging from BMW to EON are making really interesting bets. Corporate venture is likely to be different this time, because innovation processes are different – more companies expect more innovation to come from outside of the R&D operations – as P&G calls it, a move from Not Invented Here to Proudly Found Elsewhere.

Beyond the influx of corporate venture funding, there is an expanding universe of early stage capital focused on pro-social endeavors that touch on many city issues. This year alone saw the announcements of govTech Fund, Obvious Ventures, and we expect more fund announcements in 2015. These funds are joining a growing group of foundations who are moving beyond grants to make equity investments too. And let’s not forget local government like New York state programs such as NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and the recently announced Innovation Venture Fund.

2015 will be the year in which we see an increasing number of Urbantech investors.

Location vs Mobility

Mobility has been hot for a few years now. It helps that Uber is today’s most valuable startup. But ridesharing is not alone in it’s transformation of mobility options. We’re embracing car sharing, bike sharing and new personal mobility devices, not to mention pop-up mass transit and new apps that help us quickly select optimal options for particular occasions.

So how does this change the value of location? We think we’ll begin to see real estate developers factoring in different access options and we’ll just wonder aloud at what this might do to real estate values.

Then again 2015 might be too soon, but we’ll be looking at mobility impact beyond the value of Taxi Medalion prices to see how it impacts real estate values and investments.

Bring on 2015!


Sean O'Hanlon
March 18, 2015 1:34 pm

It would be great if we could get Miami to do something like this: < It would be a big boost towards making Miami the tech capital of Latin America.

Stonly Baptiste
March 21, 2015 6:53 pm

Thanks for sharing Sean. The project in Bristol will be interesting to watch and will likely provide a few lessons for other large scale city technology deployments. We are however focused on startup solutions to city challenges. Startups are a less expensive way to test what works, and when successful, they scale to multiple cities very quickly. And because the solutions they provide are often distributed through consumer or business channels, startups can reduce the burden on local governments. Regarding Miami’s positioning, there are other efforts and groups focused on this. We are interested in helping all cities.

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