After years of hesitance, investors are finally warming up to wildfire tech.
Questions around monetization have generally been the reason financiers have avoided startups making technology to help combat wildfires.
According to Ahmad Wani, co-founder and CEO of disaster preparedness company, One Concern, VCs tend to disregard business models that depend on governments as primary customers.
“As soon as you go to a venture capitalist and say the words ‘disaster’ or ‘government,’ they say, ‘You are a disaster. There’s the door,’ ” said Wani.
In the past two weeks, however, a handful of fire tech companies have announced funding rounds.
On Thursday, San Francisco-based Firemaps announced a $5.5 seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz, according to TechCrunch. The company helps homeowners defend their houses against wildfires by creating 3-D models of their structures, developing fireproofing plans, and reaching out to contractors who can perform the work. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also invested in the round.
In June, Israel-based BreezoMeter, which makes the air quality tool used by iPhone and Apple Watch’s Weather app, closed a $30 million funding round led by Fortissimo Capital. The app locates air pollutants, including pollen and wildfire smoke, and also allows users to track wildfires on a map in real time.
In April, Berkeley, California-based wildfire evacuation platform Perimeter raised a $1 million pre-seed round.
VCs aren’t the only ones showing interest in the space. This spring, San Francisco-based evacuation management platform Zonehaven sold to publicly traded alert company Genasys for $24.2 million. Earlier this year, Zonehaven was the subject of an Inc. feature highlighting the difficulties founders face in the wildfire tech space. For Zonehaven, as with others, creating technology that helps combat fires and their destruction hasn’t been nearly as challenging as securing customers and capital.
The increasing urgency of the climate emergency might be drawing more interest to the space. The Caldor fire has burned 100,000 acres in Northern California over the past two weeks, and experts believe 2021 has a chance to be yet another record-setting year for wildfires in the state.