Jacob Bro
Partner & Co-Founder, 2150

Why the Urban Stack is the next frontier of tech and sustainability investing

If we are going to build the equivalent of an entire New York City every month for the next four decades, as Bill Gates estimates in his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, we better really be smart about it.
Jacob Bro
Partner & Co-Founder, 2150
Thought Leadership piece
Not since the mass urbanisation of Western Europe and the United States driven by the industrial revolution in the 1800s has the world faced an urban challenge like we do today. Back then, Europe’s crammed, dirty, fast-growing capitals became humanitarian emergency zones where life expectancy often dropped to medieval levels. This crisis inspired a scientific revolution in urban planning that laid the foundation for the technical and social ecosystems we know as modern cities today.
Breakthrough innovation is needed in cities once more. Today however, innovation is not merely necessary for keeping people healthy and safe as they continue to agglomerate in cities to reap all the benefits of prosperity, education, and culture. This time, the battle for sustainable development of our planet will be won or lost depending on how we innovate our cities.
Today, 70% of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions come from cities; almost 40% of global emissions come from constructing, furnishing, and running real assets; and the global urban population is set to almost double in the next three decades, requiring 2 billion new homes and mind-boggling infrastructure development to go with them. The potential for both social and ecological disaster is impossible to ignore, and it is abundantly clear that we need to invest in technology innovation to make this explosive growth sustainable.
Given the powerful tailwinds and staggering scale of this challenge and opportunity, we believe that innovators and entrepreneurs who succeed in solving the urban sustainability challenges facing the planet today will also be the technology champions of the coming decades and their economies the leading ones globally.
So where do we begin?
I asked myself that very question when I initially realized these facts about urbanisation and climate change three years ago. After a couple of years of diving deep into the subject, reading and speaking to experts, analysing hundreds of start-ups and technology solutions, and investing in a handful of them, the answer my partners and I arrived at has become the foundation of our investment strategy at 2150. We call our area of play the “Urban Stack” which spans from the infrastructures that enable the city by supporting, powering, and connecting it; the methods, materials and systems we employ to build them; to how we operate urban environments, and ultimately how we experience life and work as city dwellers.
Cities are complex systems and we tend to view them in the silos of residential buildings, roads, parks, construction sites, utilities, public transport, schools, workplaces, city government, and leisure activities and so on. But all this — which we in rich countries mostly take for granted today — is highly interdependent and fragile, and so the challenges cities face must be understood holistically and tackled together.
The next 10 years will see a radical digitisation, industrial standardisation and automation of construction that will unlock the sector and finally bring it to the efficiency levels of the wider economy - which is why being part of the Urban Partners ecosystem is critical to our mission to allow us to deploy our technologies across our sister funds, but also to educate the broader ecosystem on best practices. This transformation is only just beginning and companies like CarbonCure, BlueFrontier and Luxwall are showing the way on how more sustainable technologies can be good for business while being good for the planet.
Cities are the best place for humans to thrive - and our best chance to survive. We feel incredibly privileged as investors because we have such an abundant opportunity to make great investments and drive valuable and important outcomes for both our investors, our society, and our planet as a whole