Last week, we reported on a jaw-dropping investment in Louisville weather services and intelligence company Climavision. The Rise Fund (TPG’s global impact investing platform) invested $100 million in the company, with the goal of reducing the economic risks of climate change on companies, governments and societies.
Louisville Future spoke with Chris Goode, Climavision’s co-founder and CEO, about the tech behind the company and plans for the funding.
This investment announcement was a big surprise. Was the low profile intentional?
Goode: It was absolutely intentional. We were in stealth mode for a couple of months. With the capital raise of this size and magnitude, it took us several months and, of course, it was more challenging during the pandemic. The entire process was done over Zoom calls. TPG’s main offices are in London, San Francisco and Dallas. The RISE fund is out of San Francisco. However, the principals that were engaged with us on this capital raise were actually based in London.
Tell us about Climavision.
Goode: We deploy technology to fill gaps in weather forecasting using high-resolution radars, GPS-RO data and proprietary software. We’ll be rolling out X-Band Weather Radars to fill the gaps here in the U.S. between the NexRad radars, which are the government-supplied radars that we can see on our phones. There are about 160 of those radars across the country and, while it’s a very good network, it does have gaps — both spatially and from a time standpoint. There’s some latency involved with those.
By combining lower altitude, proprietary data with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology, our platform provides ten times higher resolution and more accurate forecasting to address critical coverage gaps left by existing radar networks across the U.S.
Goode: Why is more accurate weather forecasting so important now?
As weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and volatile due to climate change, the need for higher-quality regional and hyper local weather data has never been more pronounced.
Any weather forecast you might see begins with a current state of the atmosphere. Global observations are what fuel that current state of the atmosphere, in terms of our understanding. So if you have gaps in information when you’re trying to assess that science to date, you are only extrapolating and then compounding the errors that were associated with a lack of information you might have had when you started.
We’re filling in those gaps such that the current state is more highly characterized. This will limit the errors as you move out in time and you create a forecast.
The data you collect will help players throughout the industry, correct?
Goode: Yes. All the players — AccuWeather, the Weather Channel companies and so on — are leveraging essentially the same dataset. That dataset is provided by the government, whether it’s here in the U.S., in other countries or the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
So when they’re all looking at the same set of data, it’s very difficult for them to actually have a fundamental improvement in the accuracy of what they’re doing.
We’ll aggregate all of that public data, just as those other companies are. However, we’re overlaying our own proprietary information to fill in the gaps, and that will lead us to a better result in terms of forecasting.
Why did you decide to start Climavision in Louisville?
Goode: Well, I’m from Kentucky and live here in Louisville. I’ve moved all over, and have spent time in Boston, Alabama and Seattle. We wanted to stand this company up here in Louisville, where we feel the locals have a lot a lot to offer.
In addition, we wanted to take advantage of some other talent that’s been developed in this area. A number of companies have formed in the area that are heavy into data analytics, so there’s a lot of talent here.
I also think that Louisville is very underrated in terms of what it can offer for a startup like Climavision. I take a lot of pride in our ability to stand up our headquarters here in Louisville.
Goode: Yes. They’ve proven that Louisville is a viable community to launch these types of businesses. Also, as far as location, COVID-19 taught us that people can be conditioned to work remotely from different places. A workforce that’s geographically distributed, where it used to be the exception is now quickly becoming the rule. a workforce that’s geographically distributed, where it used to be the exception is now quickly becoming the rule.
What plans do you have for the funding?
Goode: We’ll first be dealing with the fundamentals of standing up any business: Bringing on the workforce and scaling up for different areas. A significant portion of that funding will go toward the physical assets we’re rolling out, those being the radar systems. Those are expensive pieces of equipment.
We’re heavy on AI and numerical weather prediction and forecast modeling, so we’re standing up a full team of scientists to launch those types of services and products for us.
We’re also a geographically dispersed workforce. That gives us the flexibility and opportunity to start a very big endeavor right here in Louisville.