Venture fund Urban.us is gearing up to close a $10 million fund to continue investing in startups focused on impacting urban city living across mobility and logistics, environment, utilities and local government. Urban.us expects to close the fund later this year, but it has already committed some of that money to smart irrigation startup Rachio, FutureMotion, the maker of electric board OneWheel, and connected heating and cooling systems startup Flair.
Urban.us’s first fund was $1.3 million, which it divvied up amongst 20 startups relatively equally. Other startups in Urban.us’s portfolio include HandUp, BRCK, dash, Revivn and Skycatch. The goal of the first fund was to help get companies from the pre-seed to Series A round. With Urban.us’s second fund, the idea is to provide follow-on investments to the some of the companies that have shown growth and achieved measurable public benefits.
“We believe climate change is the biggest challenge we’re going to face as a society,” Urban.us co-founder Stonly Baptiste told TechCrunch. “And we see cities as one of the key mechanisms for efficiency to impact what that trajectory looks like.”
Cities account for roughly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions across the world, according to the United Nations-Habitat, the UN’s program for urban development. By 2050, urban populations are expected to double and therefore increase the overall gas emissions coming from cities. That’s why Urban.us invests in companies that have the potential to rapidly scale and positively impact approximately 100 cities within five years.
“This idea of making the world a better place is very broad, but it normally tips on the scale of sacrifice,” Baptiste said. “Like, what can you do personally to help the situation is usually looked at, ‘what can you sacrifice?’”
That’s why Baptiste especially likes OneWheel, because it highlights the concept of sneaking in public benefits. OneWheel is both fun and useful, Baptiste said, but at the tail end of it, there’s a big public benefit. If more people choose to get around on small, personal electrical vehicles like the OneWheel, it could impact the number of people driving, Baptiste said, and ultimately impact CO2 emissions from cities.
“If we can start changing the conversation from there is a separation between doing good and making a profit, or a separation between doing your part and actually enjoying your life, if we can heal that and help people realize you can do both, then great,” Baptiste added.