A big name in the smart cities space just received $400 million from two influential backers.
Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners raised the Series A investment from Alphabet and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund, according to Fortune. The New York City holding company is a spin-off of Sidewalk Labs, an arm of Google’s parent company that aimed to use tech to revolutionize the city of Toronto. Google has since abandoned its participation in Sidewalk Labs’ ambitious project. The initiative faced pointed questions by Toronto residents about Google’s use of their data, as well as bureaucratic backlogs.
The Google alums who founded Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners — co-CEOs Brian Barlow and Jonathan Winer — have vowed to avoid this fate by engaging “technologists, investors, policymakers, [and] academics” in a hybrid approach to solve big, industry sector-size problems, according to the Sidewalk Infrastructure website. Winer told Fortune that the company is consulting mayors and local officials about their needs, and that it does not engage in lobbying.
“Once we have a thesis, we act as a convener,” Winer told Fortune. “We bring together groups of people, including technologists, Alphabet executives, traditional infrastructure players and policymakers.”
The company’s priorities lie in digital infrastructure, mobility, energy, water and waste, and transportation. SIP’s website notes the belief that autonomous vehicles and AI will revolutionize the backbones of cities and the people in them. Fortune reported the company dreams of building inter-city highways for driverless cars, and bringing high-speed internet to rural and urban communities.
When describing its investment approach — in both infrastructure projects and the technology that supports them — Sidewalk Infrastructure again stressed its hybrid perspective, saying it seeks to commit $100 million or more to plans and tech aligned with its infrastructure aims, according to its website.
“That allows us to help entrepreneurs develop new technologies at the same time that we back the major infrastructure projects that scale those technologies,” according to the site.
The company’s only investment so far occurred in November of 2019, when SIP contributed to a $16 million Series B round in the Denver-based AMP Robotics, a startup that uses robots and AI to sort recyclable material.
Sidewalk Infrastructure aims to build a facility in the Midwest to recycle cast-off plastic from nearby recycling plants, and use AMP products to sort the items, according to Fortune. The company will then sell the plastic yielded to businesses like Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble.
These ambitious plans require a growing team. The 15-person company currently has four business development positions listed on its Greenhouse job board, all with the option of New York or the San Francisco area as the location. SIP expects its ranks to grow over the next year, according to Fortune.
The company, Sidewalk Labs and Alphabet did not respond to interview requests from Built In.