BMW MINI Teams Up With HAX To Build A NYC Accelerator Focused On Connected Cities Of The Future

Next Story

INNOVATE2016: Presidential Candidate Martin O’Malley On Technology And The 2016 Campaign

What will the city of the future look like? We’re starting to see new technologies capable of helping future urban populations share more resources, reduce costs and communicate in new ways and BMW’s MINI would like to be at the forefront of this movement.

That’s why MINI says it teamed up with HAX, an existing hardware accelerator within SOSV (formerly SOS Ventures), to build a new accelerator dedicated to startups working on the city of the future called Urban-X.

“We wanted to experiment with something in the city and think of it as a bit of a playground,” Cyril Ebersweller, head of HAX told TechCrunch.

The city, effectively, becomes an operating system, into which services will be plugged; a platform on which dreams will be realized. MINI wants to have an active part in this, by helping to build a city that becomes increasingly more livable and enjoyable.
— Esther Bahne, BMW MINI
Ebersweiler’s HAX program runs in Shenzen, China and San Francisco, with a focus on hardware startups. The new Urban-X is based in New York City and will bridge both hardware and software with a focus on solutions for the urban environment.

It’s a bit confusing to have an accelerator within an accelerator within a venture firm, but Ebersweller believes this will bring focus to the city of the future – something HAX does not concentrate on.

What’s in it for MINI? A connection to a changing urban population beyond asphalt and rubber.

“In the 50s, cities were built around cars. The newly emerging metropolis demands products and, most of all, services, to be purpose-built for and around it,” MINI’s head of impact ventures Esther Bahne told TechCrunch. “Autonomous driving, paired with ridesharing, is only one of the many revolutions on the horizon that will change the way we interact with our environment and with each other. The city, effectively, becomes an operating system, into which services will be plugged; a platform on which dreams will be realized. MINI wants to have an active part in this, by helping to build a city that becomes increasingly more livable and enjoyable.”

MINI and other automakers have had to adapt to a changing industry. We saw quite a few all-electric prototypes on display at CES this past week and autonomous vehicle seems to be the buzz word for those at the Detroit Auto Show this week. For its part, BMW has already started to move beyond mere car sales and into car-sharing with DriveNow, a peer-to-peer car sharing platform available in San Francisco and several cities throughout North America and Europe.

The U.S. government has also started thinking about the smart city of the future. The Department of Transportation recently unveiled the Smart City Challenge, a $40 million initiative designed to help cities use innovative ideas to connect transportation assets within the urban environment.

MINI and HAX will give $60,000 in equity to each startup in the three-month program and tells TechCrunch it could further invest in the strongest ideas.

“If we see exciting teams, working on products and services with a potential strategic fit for MINI and its future direction, we can absolutely envision to strengthen our commitment with a follow-up investment,” Bahne said.

Applications are open now for the program, which starts March 2016. Those interested in applying can do so at urban-x.com.