Car-Free Cities Startup Culdesac Raises $30M Series A
Culdesac, a startup with the lofty ambition of building America’s first car-free city, has raised $30 million in Series A funding.
Polls suggest that a majority of Americans want to live in walkable neighborhoods, but don’t. Culdesac, based in Tempe, Arizona, bets it can help them take that leap.
“With record increases in congestion, loneliness, road deaths and global warming, creating a new option for our way of life has never been more important,” the company said during its the announcement of his Series A on Thursday.
The funding will help the startup raise its first $2 billion in debt and realize its vision beyond its first “post-car neighborhood,” Culdesac Tempe, which will open in a few months. Khosla Ventures led the round, with participation from Founders Fund, Byers Capital, Zigg Capital, Initialized Capital and homebuilder Lennar’s venture capital arm, LENx.
Residential real estate has been fertile ground for proptech investment and innovation during the pandemic, but much of it has focused on improving existing models – making homes and neighborhoods smarter and more efficient, not necessarily more idyllic. Culdesac, which describes itself as a company at the crossroads of technology, real estate and culture, wants to rewrite the master plan.
The company opened Culdesac Tempe, which it bills as the first “car-free community built from the ground up in the United States,” in 2019. The 16-acre neighborhood, across the Salt River from Phoenix, can accommodate 1,000 people. It is largely open space, with a grocery store and other retail outlets, as well as coworking spaces and other bookable flex spaces. Instead of driving, residents will walk, ride or wheelie. An adjacent light rail station will serve the neighborhood.
Opticos, based in Berkeley, Calif., led the master plan for the project, which it designed to be “similar in character to a historic Greek, Italian, or French village, with irregular, narrow winding paseos,” according to the site. Company website.
All residents will rent, choosing from a variety of “courtyard housing types,” totaling 636 units. Studios cost $1,090 per month and one-bedroom apartments $1,250, per Culdesac Tempe site.
Residents of Culdesac Tempe will receive $3,000 a year in mobility benefits thanks to the startup’s partnerships with Lyft — Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer just joined the company’s board — the company electric scooter rental company Bird, car-sharing startup Envoy and Arizona Valley Metro.
Culdesac has raised $200 million in real estate capital to complete its Tempe project, and has begun planning its next neighborhoods in unidentified “growth cities across the country.” Each will be three times larger than Culdesac Tempe, he said.
Culdesac has 30 employees and is hiring. Opendoor chief customer officer Meyer Toolson recently joined the company’s board alongside Zimmer.