Back to news
November 24, 2016

Hey cleantech & smart city startups! NYC is the world’s biggest market

Ten years ago, cleantech meant solar power and energy farms. Now, it’s all about efficient cities and IoT. Local governments are updating aging infrastructure, have a wealth of users and an insatiable appetite for data. Entrepreneurs are equally hungry to decrease waste and, of course, change the world. Cleantech isn’t just “cleaner” “tech,” it’s smarter hardware that senses surroundings, knows users and manages itself. AI and cheap sensors are tiny foremen programmed to manage and track daily ops.

New York City has its fair share of infrastructure ops. We’re the world’s biggest municipal market for energy, sanitation, transportation and buildings. Imagine how much money and time we could save by being better managed, more transparent and efficient. The global smart city market will top $1.5 trillion by 2020, and VC money in the US doubled to $741.1m since 2015 according to Melissa Mittelman and Elliott Snyder at Bloomberg.

NYC-based raised its second fund to invest in smart-city and cleantech startups. This one’s 10x larger than the the VC’s first, in 2014, and Founder Sean Abramson says he’s seeing twice as many qualified deals. The percentage of’s portfolio invested in government startups is up 22%.

Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC investment lays out ambitious goals to eliminate landfill waste by 2030 (0X30), reduce emissions 80% by 2050 (80 x 50) and help develop sector growth across the city (Urbantech NYC). Every day, we send 12,000 tons to the landfill. Every second, uncontrollable apartment radiators pump heat straight through our windows. 

Smart Trash Cans
8x capacity, +80% efficiency, cost reduction 75%

Bigbelly’s solar-powered street trash cans transform the mundane into powerful, scalable cleantech. Their cans have sensors that measure capacity, compress waste and email the city for pickup. Bigbelly’s can handle eight times as much trash, cut collection frequency by 80% and overall cost by 75%. All by hacking the garbage can.

At the same time, Bigbelly cuts truck emissions, fuel use and barely leaves a trace of trash for the rats. Through a partnership with Alliance for Downtown New York, Bigbelly scaled up from 16 to 174 over just two years. The Needham, MA-based company is now in every state and 45 countries.

Radiator Labs
25-35% savings on heat
Radiator Labs, founded by Columbia graduates and incubated at Urban Future Lab, builds smart covers to reduce heat waste in NYC apartments. A NYSERDA grant sponsored third-party validation for Radiator’s pilot on two Columbia dormitories and verified savings of between 25-35%. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t think anyone else would have picked up the phone,” Founder Marshall Cox says of the grant-enabled pilot. Now, real estate management companies are eager to chat. Radiator Labs is in 12 buildings and on 1300 units including a
Rudin Management Company residential building. 

Cox and his eight-person team work out of Brooklyn Navy Yard and Radiator Labs is joining START-UP NY accelerator. Through the program, they’re sponsored by Medgar Evers University and enjoy significant tax incentives. 

+45% production
On the food side, companies like
Edenworks are reducing waste through vertical hydroponics. Urbantech NYC’s Sander Dolder points out that growing local is about more than just transportation costs. “When produce comes from California, you lose about 50% of the yield to damage and rotting. In New York, about 95 out of 100 make it to the shelf.” Edenworks, who grows microgreens for Whole Greens, can also create sun and water 365 days a year.

“When we started supporting companies in the cleantech space a few years back, the industry consisted of early-stage companies in incubators and capital-intensive pilot projects,” said Lara Croushore, vice president of NYCEDC’s Center for Urban Innovation. “Now companies are growing, hiring locally and expanding their footprint in New York City. Technologies are scaling, innovation is happening at lower capex and enabled by advanced manufacturing.” 

Back to news

Recent news