Why this local tech startup is building a team of — meteorologists?

Kelly Jackson

Startups rely on a number of skills to build a business: tech savvy, sales experience, operational know-how and a keen emotional IQ that's unintimidated by risk.

Meteorology usually doesn’t make the cut.

Not so at Riskpulse, where they staff their customer support department with a whole team of weather gurus.

We didn’t stutter: As a client of Riskpulse, your key contact and support is a bona fide meteorologist.

The Austin startup uses probabilistic intelligence and data visualization to predict weather risks for the supply chain industry, supporting global energy producers, commodity investment firms, food shippers, auto manufacturers and retailers.

“Meteorologists are our customer success,” said CEO and co-founder Matt Wensing. “They are the people that know how to really figure out if customers are being successful with the platform. They know on any given day how to tell what the weather data means and if [the clients] are using it right.”

Mega corporations like MillerCoors and Honda use Riskpulse’s platform to determine cargo delivery schedules and transportation routes, which are informed by environmental data. Clients receive color-coded weather signals and a risk score — similar to a FICO score.

“What we’re producing is a number on a scale from one to 25,” said Wensing. “Then the platform breaks it down into a green, orange and red warning. Green means all is quiet. Orange means pay attention and red means to take some type of action.”

When a company’s shipping lanes or shipments receive a red signal due to weather conditions, it signals to clients to make certain calls, like where to shift inventory levels and which transportation routes to avoid — potentially saving millions of dollars in shipping and labor expenses.

“Our scoring not only takes into account potential for delays, it also takes into account the likelihood that it will be damaged,” said Wensing.

But it didn’t start out that way.

Riskpulse originally launched in 2007 as Stormpulse, an ad-free alternative to Weather.com with stronger visuals and mapping.

By 2012, the weather site had over six million unique users — enough activity to raise a seed round from Austin investors, including Capital Factory. At the time, their enterprise model included a monthly subscription service with user-based weather alerting software.

But after the extreme weather patterns in 2013 and 2014 (think Polar Vortex), Riskpulse’s partners wanted a deeper risk management solution to support their logistics planning.

“Now, we’re solidly a logistics company that understands how to to take advantage of environmental data,” Wensing said.

The team of 12 — five of whom have advanced degrees in meteorology or atmospheric science — now awaits a value analysis before scaling globally. They’ve just expanded their engineering and data science teams and are looking to build up their go-to-market team in the not-so-distant future.

“We’re in that transition between proving and scaling,” said Wensing. “We’ve been able to achieve what we do with a pretty small crew. Now it’s about how do we scale this out and what other exciting things can we do.”

 

Images provided by social media.

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