REEF Technology raises $700M to support the 15-minute city

Source: Smart City Drive

Dive Brief:

  • Mobility, logistics and neighborhood hub operator REEF Technology announced Tuesday it has raised $700 million to help deliver its vision of a 15-minute city. The growth equity round was led by Mubadala Capital, with Softbank and others. The remaining $300 million was raised under a partnership with Oaktree called The Neighborhood Property Group to acquire real estate assets.
  • The infusion of capital will help the company expand its network of more than 4,500 parking lots and garages, 100 neighborhood kitchens, fulfillment hubs and health care centers, according to the official announcement. The funding will also help the company build on its existing technology and create more “Neighborhood Hubs,” which connect people to local goods and services.
  • REEF Technology will also use the money for a pilot program to allocate $10,000 marketing grants and support for up to 100 local, underrepresented, and women-owned restaurants to grow their business on its Neighborhood Kitchens platform. The solution helps restaurants expand delivery service under a revenue sharing partnership, with the kitchens helping handle costs, operations and food preparation.

Dive Insight:

The 15-minute city design concept, a place where people can access everything they need within a 15-minute radius of their homes, has seen strong enthusiasm from some private and public-sector leaders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “As we have witnessed during the pandemic, proximity to the consumer is increasingly important in today’s economy,” Managing Partner of Softbank Investment Advisers Ervin Tu said in a statement.

The design concept has taken hold in Minneapolis, with leaders saying transit should be no more than a five-minute walk away. And the Coalition for Urban Transitions, in partnership with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and C40 Cities, made the 15-minute city a goal as part of an active transportation plan that includes more available multimodal options.

A 15-minute city also places a large emphasis on having a strong and resilient community network, something REEF has made strides towards. Earlier this year, the company kicked off its Barrier initiative in New York City to provide sanitization and personal protective equipment (PPE) bundles to drivers, with officials noting the effort is key to helping communities get back on their feet after the pandemic. At the time, a REEF spokesperson said such investments are key to move away from vehicle ownership while at the same time ensuring other modes are safe for use in the 15-minute city.

“What COVID has done is it has accelerated some trends that we were seeing in the mobility space,” the spokesperson said in a previous interview. “We believe we’ll continue to see the rise of car-sharing, ride-sharing and micromobility, ultimately moving towards a future that is shared, autonomous and electric. That is focused and centered around the idea of a 15-minute neighborhood, where everything that you do in your life is within a 15-minute bike or walk of where you live.”

In addition to the pandemic, experts have said the 15-minute city could be a way to incorporate racial equity into urban life, especially after this year’s protests against systemic racism. The design principle can be used for a comprehensive look at available amenities like open space, retail, healthcare, housing and internet availability to provide services in a more equitable and accessible way, Gensler’s Principal in Cities and Urban Design Andre Brumfield said.

REEF shares a similar view. The new funding and the opportunities it allows can help cities “become more sustainable and inclusive centers of community and opportunity,” CEO Ari Ojalvo said in a statement.

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