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4 Gov Tech Startups Among Finalists for Urban Tech Challenge

The new innovation competition from Ashoka and QBE North America will receive pitches next month from 10 startups aiming to improve well-being in cities. A winner and runner-up will each receive cash prizes.

Four gov tech companies are among 10 finalists for the QBE and Ashoka Urban Resilience Challenge, a new innovation competition in which startups will pitch ways to improve life in cities to a panel of business and social impact leaders in New York next month.

The competition is a collaboration between Ashoka, an international nonprofit organization that invests in entrepreneurs, and QBE Insurance. According to QBE’s news release, nearly 100 applicants applied to the competition, which has four tracks: the built environment (infrastructure), sustainable economies, food/water/waste, and public health and safety.

The finalists each suggested for-profit innovations that interested Ashoka and QBE based on their impact, innovation and sustainability. Four of these were gov tech companies:

  • Senscity makes software that helps governments or organizations gauge how cities are reacting to climate impacts, whether their current programs are working and future risk. Founded by five people who saw the impacts of climate change around the world, Senscity aims to collect data that would help developers and environmental consultants prepare for disasters. It’s being piloted in the city of Bendigo, Australia.
  • Cityflag, a company that bills itself as the first social platform for city services, makes community apps for open communication between local governments and their citizens. Among other things, the company has apps for 311, community engagement, rental property maintenance requests and citizen relationship management. The team at Cityflag, which includes academics, political scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, proposed to use its apps to better identify communities excluded from the economy by vast income inequality.
  • ODN, a company that predicts where vehicle crashes are most likely. It measures environmental hazards and other risks on roads, pinpointing them with geospatial calculations, and shares them so cities can address them and insurance carriers can incentivize safe driving. The company is working with departments of transportation in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
  • Citysense, which proposes to create smart cities and IoT ecosystems by installing a network of cloud-enabled “Citysense Urban Satellites,” armed with environmental and digital sensors and communication protocols. With more than a dozen sensors to detect noise, CO2 levels, temperature, humidity, volatile organic compounds and other inputs, the goal of these sensors is to inform data-driven solutions to problems of safety, health and mobility.
Other finalists included Drugviu, which is collecting user-generated health profiles from people of color to compile medical data and compensate for their exclusion from clinical trials; Dox, which helps companies predict EV battery behavior in fleets of drones or vehicles; BioCellection, which molecularly recycles plastic waste into virgin-quality engineering plastics; Arglite, which turns unrecyclable plastics into gravel; Exergy, which purifies and recycles water at the point of use in high-tech manufacturing; and Omega Grid, which makes blockchain software to optimize the design of local energy grids.

On Oct. 23, each of the 10 finalists will pitch their ventures in New York City for a chance to win a $75,000 cash prize or a $25,000 runner-up prize.

With this announcement, the Urban Resilience Challenge joins a growing list of startup accelerators fast-tracking innovations for government. URBAN-X will finish its sixth cohort of urban tech startups at the end of the month; Startup in Residence’s (STiR) sixth cohort is in progress; Verizon’s 5G First Responder Lab announced its first cohort in March; the Small Places, Big Ideas Innovation Cohort focusing on smaller governments launched in April; the state and local government-focused CivStart announced its first cohort in July; 500 Startups is taking applications for Batch 26; Y Combinator is taking applications for 2020; and DreamIt Ventures is taking applications for its fall 2019 program.

Editor's note: The date of the pitch event has been corrected.