Research

UrbanTech Market Map #1

After a year of publishing UrbanTech, our team decided to map out the startups and companies that make up the nascent urban tech space.

John Thomey
John Thomey
Jun 10, 2021
UrbanTech Market Map #1
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UrbanTech started as a free newsletter last Summer, after 12 months published over 70,000 words on cities and tech, launched a podcast to chat with leaders and shapers in the space, and now we're building out a paid model to explore further how tech is changing our cities more by the day.

The UrbanTech Map Project is our first attempt at telling a story across our channels, and we are looking to build it out over time. If you think we missed a company, let us know by filling out this brief form or email me at john@urbantechnews.net.

For paying members of UrbanTech, we plan to share exclusive content for the project, host events around this series, and learn how we can continue to build out the series.

If you're interested in joining the conversation and supporting our work, please consider joining UT as a paid member. Our goal is for UT to be the go-to place on the internet for professionals interested in cities and tech, and we'd love if you considered joining what we're building!

The UrbanTech Market Map Version 1.0

When I started writing UrbanTech, while still working as a media consultant before I started grad school, I had a really simple model for curating stories from around the space. Every company, policy change, or news story that I included fell into one of three buckets:

  1. Real Estate Tech;
  2. Mobility Tech;
  3. or Logistics Tech.

One of the key themes for our editorial work is that none of these three spaces exist in a vacuum.

Many of the companies that are working to solve urban problems exist across these three verticals. The everything-store, Amazon, is probably the easiest example to point to and explain how the first version of the map is organized.

For this piece, we categorized the company as a logistics tech company because the company's main mission is to efficiently and effectively move goods for customers.

That said, Amazon is also in the mobility tech business or is now looking at how to move people from one place to another.

Last Summer, the company acquired autonomous driving startup Zoox, which, like several startups, is attempting to build the technology to unlock autonomous vehicles for human transportation.

While the movement of goods and people has been the biggest focus of Silicon Valley for the last decade -- my assumption is the explosion and rise of Uber led to this obsession with solving movement problems -- innovation in the massive real estate sector remains a big opportunity for companies of all sides.

While WeWork didn't quite re-invent the office like maybe we hoped, the company showed massive value created by un-bundling traditional office leases for companies and operators who didn't want to commit or have the capital for burdensome commercial leases in high-priced cities.

Using the Amazon example to close this thought out, the company not only owns and is optimizing commercial spaces (including Whole Foods) around the country, but famously the company pitted American cities against each other in arguably the biggest real estate competition ever to acquire it's "HQ2" in 2017-2018.

Where the Map Project Goes Next

The clearest conclusion we have from creating this first version of the map is that there is still A TON of work to shed a light on this growing sector. I wanted to include a bunch of companies but couldn't quite figure out how to categorize them for this piece. For example, many startups focused on sustainability technology or cleantech fall into this bucket, and could use an entire post dedicated solely to their part of the urban tech sector.

Also, the companies on our first edition of the map are North American companies. That comes from me being U.S. based and mainly having spoken with U.S. urban tech operators since launching UT. Still, we know there are companies across the world looking to solve urban problems, so we'll continue to look to other countries to find the companies changing cities more by the day.

UrbanTech started as a free newsletter last Summer, after 12 months published over 70,000 words on cities and tech, launched a podcast to chat with leaders and shapers in the space, and now we're building out a paid model to explore further how tech is changing our cities more by the day.

The UrbanTech Map Project is our first attempt at telling a story across our channels, and we are looking to build it out over time. If you think we missed a company, let us know by filling out this brief form or email me at john@urbantechnews.net.

For paying members of UrbanTech, we plan to share exclusive content for the project, host events around this series, and learn how we can continue to build out the series.

If you're interested in joining the conversation and supporting our work, please consider joining UT as a paid member. Our goal is for UT to be the go-to place on the internet for professionals interested in cities and tech, and we'd love if you considered joining what we're building!

The UrbanTech Market Map Version 1.0

When I started writing UrbanTech, while still working as a media consultant before I started grad school, I had a really simple model for curating stories from around the space. Every company, policy change, or news story that I included fell into one of three buckets:

  1. Real Estate Tech;
  2. Mobility Tech;
  3. or Logistics Tech.

One of the key themes for our editorial work is that none of these three spaces exist in a vacuum.

Many of the companies that are working to solve urban problems exist across these three verticals. The everything-store, Amazon, is probably the easiest example to point to and explain how the first version of the map is organized.

For this piece, we categorized the company as a logistics tech company because the company's main mission is to efficiently and effectively move goods for customers.

That said, Amazon is also in the mobility tech business or is now looking at how to move people from one place to another.

Last Summer, the company acquired autonomous driving startup Zoox, which, like several startups, is attempting to build the technology to unlock autonomous vehicles for human transportation.

While the movement of goods and people has been the biggest focus of Silicon Valley for the last decade -- my assumption is the explosion and rise of Uber led to this obsession with solving movement problems -- innovation in the massive real estate sector remains a big opportunity for companies of all sides.

While WeWork didn't quite re-invent the office like maybe we hoped, the company showed massive value created by un-bundling traditional office leases for companies and operators who didn't want to commit or have the capital for burdensome commercial leases in high-priced cities.

Using the Amazon example to close this thought out, the company not only owns and is optimizing commercial spaces (including Whole Foods) around the country, but famously the company pitted American cities against each other in arguably the biggest real estate competition ever to acquire it's "HQ2" in 2017-2018.

Where the Map Project Goes Next

The clearest conclusion we have from creating this first version of the map is that there is still A TON of work to shed a light on this growing sector. I wanted to include a bunch of companies but couldn't quite figure out how to categorize them for this piece. For example, many startups focused on sustainability technology or cleantech fall into this bucket, and could use an entire post dedicated solely to their part of the urban tech sector.

Also, the companies on our first edition of the map are North American companies. That comes from me being U.S. based and mainly having spoken with U.S. urban tech operators since launching UT. Still, we know there are companies across the world looking to solve urban problems, so we'll continue to look to other countries to find the companies changing cities more by the day.

UrbanTech Market Map #1

John Thomey

John Thomey is a founder of Urban Tech, a newsletter and podcast. He’s a graduate student at the University of Southern California, studying Public Policy and Urban Planning.

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