What is URBAN-X?
URBAN-X is a venture accelerator founded by MINI and run in cooperation with joint venture partner Urban Us that educates and advocates for companies shaping the future of cities through technology and design.
Every six months URBAN-X selects up to 10 urbantech startups, and invests at least $100,000 per company, to participate in a 20-week accelerator program that equips startups facing the unique challenges of working with and in cities. By forging meaningful connections with leaders in public and private sectors, URBAN-X helps early-stage startups turn compelling ideas into viable, scalable solutions for urban life.
Since its inception, MINI has been built upon a foundation of innovating sustainable mobility for city dwellers. Originally born as a small, efficient and urban car in response to a fuel crisis in the 1950s, MINI has since evolved, taking bold steps in creating an electrified future and pushing new, innovative sustainability measures that help improve our cities. Looking beyond the car to do this, MINI founded URBAN-X in 2016.
Through URBAN-X, MINI has built a portfolio of global startups working in areas across transportation and mobility, energy, real estate, construction, infrastructure and food, waste and water to tackle some of our most pressing urban challenges to help city dwellers thrive.
If I applied in the past, can I apply again?
Yes. We encourage startups to apply multiple times and to update us on their progress.
WHAT STARTUPS HAVE ATTAINED SUCCESS AS A RESULT OF THE PROGRAM?
HOW MUCH EQUITY DOES URBAN-X TAKE IN EXCHANGE FOR $100,000 IN FUNDING?
The amount varies depending on a number of factors including your stage of product development, whether or not you’ve built a startup before, the expertise of the team, etc. Some startups entering the program have prototypes and others are already selling products to customers. Some startups have already raised capital, while others have not. We consider all of these factors before proposing equity terms.
HOW DOES THE PROGRAM WORK?
The program is structured around two core activities – weekly meetings with the core URBAN-X team and curriculum sessions with experts. The curriculum is customized depending on the needs of your company and team and the goal is to help with specific adjustments for each startup. Cohorts can expect to learn and participate in sessions about fundraising, legal, accounting, customer development, cash flow management, sales, communication, team building, culture building and scaling. We dive deep into specific urbantech topics such as working with local governments to funding hardware companies. The curriculum builds on work we’ve been doing with the National Science Foundation’s iCorps program and The University of Chicago Booth School.
WHAT ARE THE TRAITS OR CRITERIA YOU LOOK FOR IN STARTUPS?
We evaluate each applicant by the amount of impact the company can have, who is on the team, what experiences they have, the company’s approach to urban problems, the type and amount of competition the company will face and how much risk is associated with their proposed solutions. We look for founders who have a growth mindset and learn quickly, who are relentless, and who are deliberate about their culture.
WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIPS DOES URBAN-X HAVE WITH EXPERTS, INVESTORS AND CUSTOMERS?
We’ve built an extensive network of investors, founders and customers in core urbantech industries like construction and real estate, infrastructure and industry, food, water, waste, public health and safety, energy, govtech, transportation and mobility. Our network has deep knowledge in B2G, B2B and B2C.
We pull program mentors from our network of an engaged group of ~2,000 people primarily located in the US and EU, with the largest groups in New York and the Bay Area.
Throughout and after the program, our goal is to connect you to these networks. Over the last four years, these introductions have led to investments, pilot projects, new customers and new hires. See below for more information on perks and partnerships.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS THAT STARTUPS AT URBAN-X RECEIVE?
Corporate partners and perks include HERE, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Hubspot, Intercom, IBM, and more. Local resources include NY City Government, academic institutions including NYU, CUNY and Columbia, Smart Cities New York’s network and potential pilot space in downtown Brooklyn through the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.
What is the timeline?
Each cohort runs for 5 months.
DO YOU NEED TO BE ON-SITE IN BROOKLYN TO BE ELIGIBLE?
No. URBAN-X is currently a virtual program and startups can participate from anywhere. More on how our virtual programming works can be found here.
DO YOU INVEST IN OR PROVIDE INTRODUCTIONS TO STARTUPS OUTSIDE OF YOUR ACCELERATOR PROGRAM?
Occasionally we meet startups that are too far along for the URBAN-X program. In these cases we may refer them to other funds such as BMW iVentures or the Urban Us Venture Fund. If we are not investors in a startup it is often a conflict for us to make introductions to our network and investors.
CAN NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS APPLY?
We don’t currently have a way to work with non-profits, but we’d be happy to explore other incorporation options. Sometimes Public Benefit Corporations can achieve similar objectives.
Can I refer a startup?
We have had several program startups come from referrals. Referrals and applicants can apply here: https://urban-x.com/apply
WHAT MAKES URBAN-X DIFFERENT?
While there are many great accelerator programs, we specialize in urbantech.. Our startups operate in specific sectors like mobility, govtech,, real estate, construction, logistics, transportation, water and energy. These sectors build and operate core city services and, as a result, they’re regulated and tend to approach emerging technologies cautiously.
For this reason, we’ve organized a specialized program and network with sector leaders as well as founders who share experiences building some of the leading urbantech companies. Our experience over the last four years proves that sector specific experience can increase urbantech startup success rates. While other automotive OEMs simply sponsor accelerator programs, URBAN-X brings real resources in the form of resident designers and engineers from MINI and BMW to help startups develop solutions that have design value and market potential.