The Urban Tech Mosaic
Urban tech is a mosaic of ten critical systems.
There are thousands of tech enterprises in New York City. They range in size from big companies to small startups. University research centers and government innovation agencies play a part, too. Most tech stars focus on traditional industry sectors and policy areas. But some focus on the city itself—they create urban tech. Urban tech cuts across old boundaries. It delivers innovations that make cities everywhere more connected, livable, efficient, fair and accessible.
To create this analysis of New York City's new urban tech ecosystem, we screened thousands of tech enterprises throughout the five boroughs (learn more about our methodology here). To date, we have identified [total companies] engaged in urban tech. These were organized into eight categories of essential urban systems for buildings, food, energy, mobility and more. Two more categories cover innovations and resources that push everyone in urban tech forward.
Scroll down to explore New York City's newest innovation... urban tech.
Solutions that help create, maintain, and adapt the physical structures in which people live, work and play.
Innovations that create and modernize food marketplaces, enable urban agriculture, and increase access to food.
Vehicles, software, and services that improve the ability to move people and goods efficiently and fairly throughout cities.
Health & Education Systems
Digitized delivery schemes that combine automation, telecommunications, and new human-computer interfaces to expand the capacity and scope of human services and measurably improve outcomes.
Solutions and initiatives that integrate traditional, mobile, and virtual workplaces; enhance and extend access to tech training in cities; and connect workers with nearby jobs.
Innovations that address municipal governance, public administration, economic development, and other interactions in the public realm.
Advanced information processing technologies that provide new basic capabilities for monitoring, analyzing, and managing the urban environment.
Engineered solutions for the generation, distribution, storage, and conservation of energy in urban buildings, infrastructure networks, and vehicles.
Facilities, services, and sources of capital (financial, human, data, intellectual) that catalyze, improve, scale, and promote urban tech innovation.
Solutions that enable conservation of natural capital—soil, air, water—and related ecosystem services.
Systems of Systems——The Impact of Urban Tech in NYC
Urban tech isn't just isolated systems. Each solution connects to multiple systems in practice and the systems it enables connect to many other systems too. This larger urban tech ecosystem includes many enterprises big and small that together draw investment and create jobs for the New York City economy.
New York's urban tech ecosystem spans the entire city.
New York City's urban tech ecosystem is concentrated in Manhattan, south of 59th Street. And urban tech enterprises are operating in all five boroughs.
A significant and growing amount of urban tech innovation chooses to locate beyond Manhattan, concentrating along the East River waterfront from Mott Haven, through Long Island City, and south to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. These locations provide access to unique talent, outdoor testing sites, and industrial space for manufacturing and intensive agriculture that are essential for bringing tomorrow's breakthrough technologies to market.
Consolidation and Crisis
The story of urban tech innovation in New York City is still being written.
In the mid-2010s, the early expansion of urban tech in the city was driven by proptech and shared mobility startups. But as weaker players were weeded out, and remaining firms went through a wave of consolidation, the rate urban tech enterprise formation started falling in 2016. When the pandemic arrived, this downturn in the business cycle had left behind a smaller, stronger set of firms that remain major market players globally. But the pandemic effectively froze the launch of new ventures in 2020.
A slow reboot started in 2021, continuing into 2022, tracking the broader New York City economy. Investment has surged into subcategories of urban tech that address urgent needs and opportunities, such as last-mile delivery and vertical farming.
But urban tech in New York City also faces a new set of headwinds. There are alarming signs that new urban tech startups are far more footloose. Many are all-remote or remote-first, with a smaller portion of their workforce based in the Big Apple than their predecessors. Remote work provides resilience for tech enterprises. But urban tech innovation thrives on proximity to buildings, infrastructure, people, and ideas in cities. This dispersal could jeopardize future urban innovations. Bringing urban tech firms back to New York City in force should be a high priority for the current administration's ongoing recovery efforts.