Last week I visited Urban-X Demo Day held at A/D/O in Brooklyn, a 23,000 square foot space that houses co-working space and a restaurant, and is low-key funded by BMW’s Mini brand. I say low-key because there’s not a single Mini logo on the site, or Cooper-like vehicle parked out front of the facility. I arrived with the same skepticism I take to any carmaker-sponsored event that feels like an attempt to sell me the future. How can anyone sell the future, when no one knows exactly what will stick?
I watched presentations from nine startups focused on improving life in cities. Some focused on infrastructure ideas, like RoadBotics, designed to cure the pavement of potholes through machine learning, or Swiftera, a company that makes high-altitude balloons to generate hi-res maps, or the San Francisco based car-sharing company Upshift that specializes in loaning out Toyota Priuses.