EarthRisk Figures Odds in Long-Range Forecasts of “Extreme Weather”

1/25/12Follow @bvbigelow

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variety of patterns that could be correlated to current weather conditions, but it was impractical for commercial use, Plavan says. So Bennett and Plavan worked with UC San Diego’s Technology Transfer Office to license the technology and enlisted Digital Telepathy, a San Diego software engineering firm, to create a graphical user interface. “We knew going into this that turning this data into usable information was the job of the private sector,” Bennett says.

Digital Telepathy became an investor in EarthRisk Technologies, along with Sear Technologies, a San Diego investment firm that Plavan and two partners founded in 2008. “We didn’t need to get a big equity investor to fund development,” Plavan says.

The company also has generated some revenue by providing its technology to 10 customers on a subscription basis. “We currently can only sell to energy firms large enough to have their own meteorology desks,” Plavan says, explaining that some technical expertise is needed to interpret the data. EarthRisk’s next step is to develop next-generation technology capable of generating probabilistic forecasts. With eight full-time employees and consultants, Plavan and Bennett plan to also expand their forecasting capabilities beyond cold snaps and heat waves (which is the chief value and focus of their energy customers) to hurricanes and other destructive storms.

“We’re already breaking new ground by introducing these new products,” Bennett says. “If we are ultimately successful in pioneering these new weather analytics techniques, they will become widespread. They’ll become the industry standard.”

For EarthRisk Technologies, Plavan says, “Our goal is to generate a large amount of recurring revenue,” based on a software-as-a-service business model. “We think we can sell an awful lot of subscriptions with this.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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