Why We Invested In UrbanFootprint

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Why We Invested In UrbanFootprint

Adam Schuit
June 5, 2022

UrbanFootprint is a US-based geospatial intelligence platform which enables decision-makers to make better-informed investment decisions to make communities and enterprises more sustainable and resilient. Its web-based software platform is an analysis tool designed to automate complex and analytical tasks to allow non-technical users to easily and quickly answer critical questions. The company serves a wide range of customers including governments, investors, energy providers, mobility companies, and other service providers who leverage UrbanFootprint’s pre-cleaned and loaded geo-data aggregating over 200 unique national, regional, state, local, and sector-specific datasets.

Our investment in UrbanFootprint plays at the intersection of several key investment themes which are aligned with A/O PropTech’s overall vision of investing in technology companies to improve urban resilience, affordable housing, catastrophic risk, and wildfires.

On November 15, 2021, US President Biden passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the largest single infrastructure investment in American history. The new law is intended to improve the nation’s crumbling infrastructure as well as build new climate-resilient projects. While there are plans in place for how to allocate this incredible bipartisan package across, roads and bridges, railroads, the power grid, broadband, water infrastructure, public transit, resilience from climate change, airports, ports, safety, electric vehicle charging, and the environment, tools such as UrbanFootprint will help provide critical data to help stakeholders find signals through noisy and complex landscapes and figure out where cities should focus development and infrastructure investments. UrbanFootprint enables organizations to better allocate resources and improve resilience most effectively and cost-efficiently in addition to maximizing emissions reductions and improving overall social resilience.

Organizations such as a major electric utility that serves approximately 16 million people throughout a 70,000 square mile service area in northern and central California leverage UrbanFootprint’s platform for grid planning/resilience to support critical grid undergrounding and fortification activities. UrbanFootprint has developed other data products targeted at providing EV charger insights and community resilience insights to electric utility providers, energy consultancies, and EV charging companies. This is one of the core offerings of the UrbanFootprint platform to leverage its comprehensive urban, climate, and community resilience data to drive data-driven outreach, asset identification, and real-time monitoring services to make communities more resilient.

One of the biggest challenges government assistance programs face is getting resources into the hands of the people who need them the most. To put things into perspective and why we are so excited about supporting UrbanFootprint, consider the following. In 2020, the US federal government spent a record $85.6bn on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), the largest federal assistance program in the US, to provide approximately 38 million Americans or about 12% of the total US population food stamps. Programs like this are massive and serve as the social infrastructure backbone for millions of people in need. Based on our research of several typical location-based analytical tools, vulnerability is typically not assessed or prioritized. Many local, state and federal agencies need assistance in distributing funds and UrbanFootprint helps stakeholders locate and target the hardest to reach households to increase application assistance in underserved communities. Several are already being supported with UrbanFootprint’s software with food security insights including Louisiana’s Department of Children & Family Services.

In addition to food security, UrbanFootprint has also developed eviction risk and foreclosure risk insights products. The company is already working with the State of California to deploy Emergency Rental Assistance Fund dollars, which in 2021 was $46.5bn, allocated by the US Dept of Treasury.

The US is slated to spend approximately $170bn on housing assistance which will be spent on rebuilding and repairing public housing and federal housing vouchers. The US has a massive affordable housing crisis and cities have limited tools to help them determine where they should build affordable housing in the next decade. There is a clear link between mobility, housing and distance. Cities will need to rethink zoning laws and density restrictions in high demand places to shrink the time and space it takes for where people need to go. Solving these complex issues requires deep urban planning policy knowledge.

We initially were introduced to Co-founder and CEO, Joe DiStefano in June 2021 and were impressed with Joe’s deep experience in urban planning, having spent the past 17 years working with governments in land use and transportation planning. After spending some time with Joe out in Berkeley, CA at the company’s headquarters this past October and learning more about the highly technical team he was able to assemble, the diversity in the addressable end markets the company was targeting, the speed and quality at which the company was able to deploy these Explorer products, and of course the positive impact, we knew they were building something meaningful.

In addition to helping support urban resilience and affordable housing, UrbanFootprint is also focused on catastrophic risk and wildfires. UrbanFootprint currently offers a disaster assessment insights product which is used to quickly assess fire incident damage to streamline federal (FEMA) disaster declarations and better target recovery efforts. The platform can power faster and better disaster response. The company is working directly with some governments, such as the state of Louisiana, to help them track changing factors, as it relates to COVID-19 and it’s talking to federal agencies that are deciding where in the country to send resources and working to understand which areas might be most at risk if an outbreak coincides with a disaster such as a hurricane or a wildfire.

As we think about the future of mobility and transportation, cities are concerned about the future of what their streets look like and how people will get around. Cities need more help in better managing mass transit in addition to new mobility options ranging from EVs, scooters, bike-sharing, autonomous vehicles, and soon flying taxis. UrbanFootprint was a software partner to support NASA’s new Urban Air Mobility (UAM) initiative to develop a comprehensive industry-standard 3D urban airspace map to help power the future of urban air mobility. This included determining low altitude airspace route planning for last-mile delivery drones, surveillance and drone tracking operations, and air taxis as well as site selection and operational planning for companies operating in this new segment. UrbanFootprint is taking intelligence from the ground into the air.

UrbanFootprint is a platform born from urban planners which unify datasets to help cities, energy utilities, financial institutions, and mobility companies to answer the question of where? Where to invest and where to deploy resources all the way down to the neighbourhood, block, or asset level. I look forward to be joining UrbanFootprint as a Board Observer to work alongside the team and help identify and partner with industry stakeholders to further support our mission at A/O PropTech of investing in a better-built world.

Adam Schuit

Investor, A/O PropTech    

About the author
Adam Schuit

Adam focuses on investment opportunities in the hospitality, climate, sustainability, smart city, AI and retail technology verticals.

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