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Smart city accelerator demo days go virtual

Both Urban-X and Techstars have taken their demo day events online, ensuring start-ups and innovation continue to be supported despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Accelerators are going virtual to ensure innovation can still shine through
Accelerators are going virtual to ensure innovation can still shine through

Smart city accelerators are using the online environment to stage virtual demo days in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak.


The Urban-X smart cities accelerator conducted its first ever virtual demo day yesterday, while Techstars, the global platform for investment and innovation, is hosting all of its 16 virtual accelerator events online throughout April and May.


Urban-X cohort


The Urban-X event saw seven early-stage start-ups graduate after showcasing technology solutions to combat the climate crisis and build city resilience to an audience of investors, customers and public sector leaders.


Urban-X, launched by automaker Mini in 2016 as part of the brand’s innovation practice and in partnership with venture firm Urban Us, invests up to $150,000 in up to 10 companies building solutions to address the most complex challenges cities face today.


Seven start-ups showcased solutions ranging from drone infrastructure for emergency response, electric vehicle (EV) charging software, novel materials inspired by nature to decompose air pollution, automated sewage assessment, predictive analytics for the construction and energy industries, and Internet of Things (IoT)-based solutions for food safety and cold-chain integrity.


“As the need for solutions for local resilience has come into clearer focus across the world over the past weeks, we could not be more proud of the dedication Cohort 07 has shown in addressing large-scale challenges to improve city life,” said Urban-X managing director, Micah Kotch.


The full list of Cohort 07 companies include:

  • ChargeLab: making electric vehicle (EV) charging simple through an open EV charging management platform
  • Therma: building technology to ensure food safety and waste reduction from farm-to-fork
  • Eva: provides drone infrastructure and airborne logistics for vertical take-off and landing transportation in healthcare and emergency response
  • Firmus: leverages AI and historical data to help construction companies learn from previous mistakes and automatically detect errors in the early stages of design
  • Hades: provides automated assessment of sewer infrastructure, improving public health and environmental protection
  • Metalmark: develops novel materials for highly efficient catalytic decomposition of air pollutants, making clean air globally accessible and affordable
  • Unety: a SaaS-enabled marketplace for sustainable finance that automates underwriting to reduce the time and costs of each transaction.

The demo day event marks the start of teams seeking additional investment to grow their companies, and served as a demonstration of the product and business development milestones hit during Urban-X’s 20-week accelerator programme.

“Cities are central not just to climate action, but to resilience as well. This is especially apparent today.”

Responding to real-time challenges as the crisis around Covid-19 has emerged, one of the cohort, Eva is deploying its high throughput drone docking stations to aid in Covid-19 response efforts.


Eva began working with partners in Europe and New York State to combat supply chain disruptions and support delivery of essential goods to healthcare institutions, pharmacies and home-bound elderly populations.


A number of other companies from current and alumni Urban X cohorts have deployed their technology to help cities respond to Covid-19 including companies: AO Air, Circuit, Food For All, GreenQ, Near Space Labs, Numina, Therma, Thrilling and Upshift.


“Cities are central not just to climate action, but to resilience as well. This is especially apparent today,” said Shaun Abrahamson, Urban-X investment committee and managing partner at Urban Us. “We are thrilled to support the founders of Cohort 07 now and into the future, and to continue to invest in driven entrepreneurs improving city life through Urban-X.”


Urban-X Cohort 08 will launch this summer and will be the first Urban-X class to be conducted completely online.


Techstars term one


Meanwhile, all 16 of the Techstars term one 2020 programmes are shifting to a virtual demo day format.


“We are well-positioned to make the shift to a virtual programme model for as long as it is required to keep everyone safe and healthy,” said David Brown, CEO of Techstars.


He added: “Using the right technologies and tapping the best talent and experience in the start-up community, we will continue on our mission to support start-up communities around the world with meaningful connections and lively, engaging experiences.”


The Techstars Smart Mobility Accelerator virtual demo day kicks off tomorrow at 4.30pm Central European Summer Time followed by those focused on cities such as Bangalore, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Lisbon and Seattle taking place later in the month and throughout May.


“While challenging and uncertain, it’s times like these that teach innovators and leaders resiliency and inspire founders to create the solutions needed for the future,” Brown said. “We’re here to help all of our founders do just that," added Brown.


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