Citiesense, a member of the second cohort at URBAN-X, organizes the most accurate information about neighborhoods in cities – such as storefront vacancy, sales, foot traffic, and more – to better inform local market demand and neighborhood dynamics. Star Childs, who co-founded the company in 2015, talked about the ambitions of the venture.
What inspired you to start Citiesense?
Citiesense started as a student project at grad school. After spending four years as a city planning consultant, I saw a disconnect between the planning and development processes and people on the ground. I met Carl at Yale, and he came on board after seeing the opportunity for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as a customer group. From the product’s start as a user-friendly GIS mapping tool, to its current evolution as a neighborhood knowledge platform for BIDs, we have always strived to create a tool that puts people at the forefront of any urban-scale decision making.
What is your mission?
The mission of Citiesense is to enable the city building process to be more directly driven by the everyday activity of people on the ground.
How did being part of the URBAN-X ecosystem help you to grow and develop your initial product and deal with the roadblocks you have faced so far?
URBAN-X enabled us to build relationships with an amazing cohort of like-minded, city-focused startups. The program was an intensive 12-week period of learning, building, and growing our companies together. Every startup needs to do a lot with a little, and having that network to rely on to share experiences, ask advice, commiserate the lows and celebrate the highs – whatever the case may be, that’s been the real lasting value.
What’s next for Citiesense?
We’re working with some of the connections we made during the URBAN-X program on connecting a broader spectrum of IoT devices to the Citiesense platform. We’re also working on strategic revenue and client growth within our current market of NYC.
WE LOVE WORKING WITH BIDS AND THEY LOVE US BECAUSE THERE CURRENTLY IS NO PRODUCT BESIDES OURS THAT CATERS TO THEIR SPECIFIC NEEDS.
—Star Childs, Co-Founder of Citiesense
What are the main risks you are facing in the future and how can they be mitigated/ overcome?
Having recently crossed the milestone of being cash-flow positive, the first thing is to maximize product feature clarity. This helps us to minimize adoption risk. At the same time, we are one week into August and it’s already our biggest month for sales, so by validating and improving the unit economics we are reducing risk around our business model.
The real estate market is at a pivotal period right now as the way we work, live and travel in cities is being entirely reinvented. What is the key advantage that will permit you to compete with the more established players in the real estate analytics field?
We are hyper-focused on neighborhood managers like BIDs as our market entry point. We love working with them, and they love us because there isn’t currently a product besides ours that caters to their specific needs.
The real estate market has historically been slow to change, but in our view it is also highly pragmatic; if a new solution delivers results, people use it.
Every neighborhood is unique. Citiesense reflects that reality and lets BIDs collect, enrich, and analyze the key data streams that matter most to their specific neighborhood.
At the same time, all neighborhood managers share a common goal; to attract more people to live, work and shop in their area. This is the measure of success, and our platform is uniquely tailored to help them all achieve this by organizing all local knowledge for the neighborhood level.
This thought piece has been put together by the URBAN-X team; with research support from Felix Keser and Adrian Dahlin.