MAGAZINE: Next-gen logistics firm targets green last mile

Two former Prologis executives have launched URBZ Capital, a firm aspiring to a CO2-neutral and socially conscious last-mile supply chain. 

From a start-up base in Amsterdam, two former Prologis professionals are planning to alter the way customers, municipalities, and other stakeholders participate in last-mile logistics real estate across Northern Europe.

Ali Nassiri and Bram Verhoeven spent over a decade working for customers and investors of the US giant as head of fund management Europe and regional head of Northern Europe, respectively.

And while they say they are hugely grateful to the company and its clients, they felt it was time to launch URBZ Capital, a company they aim to make unique in the way it focuses on creating C02-neutral and societally accretive assets in future locations for last-mile urban real estate.

Says Nassiri: ‘I am pursuing a dream of mine by starting my own company together with my friend, Bram. We want to build up something for the long term, our own legacy.’

The name URBZ comes from a fusion of ‘urban’ and ‘z’ – with the ‘z’ standing for zero as in zero emissions as well as being a reference to ‘Generation Z’.

‘This is a generational thing considering those who tend to do things differently and have a different world view,’ says Verhoeven. ‘We believe the key tailwinds for the sector are unstoppable and will become even more important with the new generation, so we want the best of all worlds – to grab the investment opportunity, hop on the train of trends, and not least, help our customers who are so caught up dealing with their growth that they welcome a partner for real estate solutions in this specific sector.’

Paris climate agreement
He says global targets to reduce CO2 emissions signed in the Paris Agreement of 2016 will have a huge impact on cities. ‘It will have an impact at the real estate level too, and that is where we want to chime in, by working with municipalities and our customers and at the same time with investors to go forward.’

For now, URBZ is focused on Northern Europe where the founders have their most experience and where they believe new clusters of at least 1 million inhabitants can deliver results.

‘We fundamentally believe in not only creating economic value but in three pillars; shared value, tomorrow’s environment and society, and innovation,’ explains Nassiri.

‘We have made some very hard commitments from the start. We want to be CO2 neutral. When we hopefully move to making a profit, we will be looking to reinvest 10% of profits into the communities or societies in which we are investing.’

Verhoeven: ‘Globally, last mile has become a huge buzzword in logistics, and to an extent, so has social impact investing. But the truth is that it is still an undefined and untapped segment for real last-mile real estate both from an investment and customer perspective.’

He added: ‘Given the growth of the sector, extrapolating the current status quo is not a valid solution and both the operating model as well as the real estate need to change and adapt. When you look at today’s players in last mile, it is not very competitive yet. It ranges from those that have a unit size of 500 m2 to investors who say they do urban logistics but fundamentally do “big box”. We think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and that is where we want to profile URBZ.’

Last-mile blueprint
Adds Nassiri: ‘What we found is that there is a very strong requirement for a blueprint, for a definition. We thought we should come out with a definition which we call our “URBZ Standard” and which we want to roll out. It is a standard that includes tech, the environment and society in terms of characteristics blended into a blueprint.’

At Prologis, Nassiri was responsible for the gargantuan Prologis European Logistics Fund (PELF), a €13 bn open-ended logistics property vehicle boasting around 11.8 million m2 of assets across 12 countries in which Prologis owns a 24% stake alongside more than 100 global investors. Through that and his nearly 17 years’ experience in the sector, the URBZ co-founder had vast exposure to the asset class.

With the tailwinds of e-commerce and long-term drivers linked to environmental initiatives, the two entrepreneurs are hoping they can become the next logistics success story, at least in last mile.


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