Our Story

So what's our story?

The UrbanSim modeling methodology was designed by Paul Waddell and developed over the course of many years and six National Science Foundation grants. It has been released as open source software and continuously improved and re-engineered as its usage has grown among planning agencies that needed rigorous methods to analyze the potential impacts of alternative transportation plans, and alternative land use plans, to evaluate their effectiveness, and by researchers in over 70 countries that have leveraged it to advance their research. Interest in making it practically usable led to consulting projects to support users in the development and application of UrbanSim. This was done initially through Urban Analytics, a consultancy.

In late 2012, we decided to scale up the effort and to begin developing a more compelling user interface, particularly capitalizing on the emergence of 3D urban visualization to make the results of UrbanSim models more understandable by policymakers and the public. So we established a startup and called it Synthicity, and set about creating UrbanCanvas, a 3D visualization platform, while re-engineering UrbanSim yet again.

By the middle of 2014, we had enough interest in our evolving technology that bigger companies, and their customers, started to notice. We were approached by Autodesk, which made an offer to acquire Synthicity and help us scale up our efforts more rapidly.

In January of 2015, Synthicity was acquired by Autodesk. In April we presented UrbanCanvas at the American Planning Association meeting in Seattle.

After a year of collaborative effort and following organizational changes within Autodesk, we mutually agreed that the best way to pursue our vision to transform urban planning practice with new tools, was to emerge from Autodesk as a new entity and to have the autonomy to make our own choices on how best to pursue this. We spun out of Autodesk in April 2016, and formed UrbanSim Inc., taking with us our products and intellectual property, and capitalizing the new company so we would have enough capacity to deliver on our vision.

With newfound focus and autonomy, we have redoubled our efforts to make UrbanSim a truly transformational platform. We moved away from developing another desktop 3D visualization platform, and committed to developing the UrbanSim platform on the cloud, with a web browser user interface that would support rapid prototyping and design of alternative scenarios and compelling 3D visualization of results.

In mid-2016, we made our first acquisition, and are delighted to have brought the ViziCities platform on board. With ViziCities accelerating our move to the web, we have grown our development team in Argentina, as well as in Berkeley.

And less than a year after spinning out of Autodesk, in 2017 we launched UrbanCanvas Modeler, the world's first cloud-based urban simulation platform. We plan to continue developing it into a tool that can democratize planning and increase its robustness, while making it increasingly capable of supporting open data and transparent, inclusive planning, anywhere in the world.

Urban problems are hard, and with challenges like climate change, crises in housing affordability, new technologies and business models disrupting transportation and housing sectors, and massive disruptions from natural and man-made causes, we need tools that enable communities to understand the forces of change, and how local actions might improve outcomes for local communities, from the site level, to the neighborhood, to the metropolis.

We hope you will join us on this journey.

Paul Waddell

Founder and President