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Urban.Us Rebrands as Third Sphere and Renews Climate Focus

The government and climate technology investment firm marks a shift in its mission as more local and state agencies deal with the realities of global warming. The new brand could influence future investments.

A smokestack.
Urban.Us, an urban tech venture capitalist firm, has a new brand and a renewed focus: Say hello to Third Sphere.

Along with the new name comes a sharper focus on tech designed to combat climate change.

The move represents an evolution of the investment firm’s vision, according to Shaun Abrahamson, co-founder and managing partner at Third Sphere. The evolution reflects the emerging view of the systemic nature of climate change.

“Our name and logo is inspired by the third planet from the sun, The Earth,” he wrote in a recent post on Medium. “We also recognize that beyond the public sphere and private sphere is an emerging Third Sphere in which we consider not just humans but all the natural systems on which we depend.”

The new brand not only seeks to reassure the larger tech world that Third Sphere is focused on more than just cities — it also signals a more sophisticated way to judge investments in the space, he added.

“With Urban.Us, we focused on ‘upgrading cities for climate change,’ and with Third Sphere we’re shifting a bit to ‘reimaging systems,’” he wrote.

According to his figures, the company since 2013 has made more than 100 investments, including six exits and three climate “unicorns” — the venture capital term for a private startup with a value of at least $1 billion. Among the more recent gov tech investments that Third Sphere, then Urban.Us, was involved in was a $5 million round for HAAS Alert, which delivers notifications to drivers about emergency vehicles.

Third Sphere also is running an online accelerator and a platform via which companies can access credit instead of investment funds.

“If you are doing product design or manufacturing some physical asset, it doesn’t make sense to use just venture capital,” he told Government Technology.

Along with the new brand comes a reminder from Third Sphere about the urgency of climate change — a sense increasingly shared by state and local governments even as they continue to deal with the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. And that sense will no doubt help guide future investments in the government and climate technology space.

“Even the most optimistic scenarios have us living with decades of worsening floods, fires, hurricanes, cycles and droughts,” Abrahamson wrote. “For the wealthiest, this mostly means inconvenience, but for the vast majority of people, this means food or water shortages.”
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in New Orleans.