You probably didn’t know this, but British automaker MINI has a venture capital arm called Urban-X that aims to help startups bring their technologies to market. More specifically, Urban-X will invest up to $ 100,000 in businesses that are in the early stages of developing a product that can improve urban life.
I have to say I had never heard of Urban-X until I met with Managing Director Micah Kotch about a month ago just before the C2 conference here in Montreal. I came away truly impressed by what they are doing over there in Brooklyn at the head offices of Urban-X.
Having studied Finance, I have always had an interest in the kinds of things Urban-X is doing. They basically hear a company’s pitch about an idea it has to improve urban centers and urban life, and if it’s good enough they provide the expertise and resources needed to get the project off the ground or to market.
Very few funds will invest as early in a project and that’s where Urban-X truly differentiates itself. Although the MINI brand founded the fund, cars and transportation are but a fraction of the products in Urban-X’ current portfolio.
Here are 8 ideas that are as brilliant as they are unique.
O2-O2’s Unique Mask
O2-O2 makes futuristic-looking air masks designed to protect the user’s health in polluted areas.
Rentlogic’s Rating System
Using a wide range of data, Rentlogic assigns a grade to apartment buildings in a city. They will tell you how each building rates in regard to its electrical system, its plumbing, its heating system, and plenty of other criteria including rodents and cockroaches.
Farmshelf makes having an urban farm easier and thus helps users grow their own nutritious food.
WearWorks is a haptics design company that has developed sensory feedback systems and vibration-based languages to communicate with blind or visually impaired users and help them navigate the world around them.
Samocat is the first automated kick-scooter sharing system. A kick-scooter is more compact and agile than a bicycle, and easier to use in crowded environments.
Upcycles develops tricycles that are human-powered and electric for moving goods around the city.
Brooklyness developed what it calls the world’s most intelligent bike helmet. It is designed to improve both visibility and environmental awareness to improve the user’s safety.
Sapient is an autonomous energy management system that aims to eliminate wasted energy in buildings by adapting to human behavior.
To learn more about these technologies and others at Urban-X, check out their website here.