WI-Bred Weather Startup Understory Raises $1.9M, Moves HQ to Boston

4/30/14Follow @XconomyWI

Understory, a weather data and analytics startup that moved from Madison, WI, to Boston, has raised $1.9 million in a seed funding round, the company announced today.

Palo Alto, CA-based True Ventures led the round, with participation from RRE Ventures, Vegas Tech Fund, SK Ventures, and Boston entrepreneur and angel investor Andrew Payne. Understory previously received investments of $18,000 from Wisconsin-based startup accelerator Gener8tor and $50,000 from Boston hardware startup accelerator Bolt.

With the announcement, the company has changed its name from Subsidence—the new moniker refers to the area beneath a rainforest’s canopy.

Understory has created a device that monitors weather information, including wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, rain, and hail. While traditional radar-enabled weather centers observe the atmosphere, Understory collects data directly at the Earth’s surface, which it says provides a more comprehensive and accurate picture of the movement and intensity of weather events.

Understory’s device is pretty small, weighing 5 pounds and measuring 2 feet tall and 1 foot in diameter. The idea is to install a dense network of these compact weather stations on the ground in various cities, creating a less expensive, more technologically advanced weather-tracking system than the current standard, co-founder and CEO Alex Kubicek said.

Kansas City is Understory’s pilot city, where it intends to install 50 of its weather stations by July.

“There’s [traditional] weather stations tens of miles apart, but they’re not close enough to create really good weather forecasts,” Kubicek said. “If you think of smartphones allowing for cost-effective sensors, we’re making a cost-effective weather sensor. The cost of installing 50 [of Understory’s devices] is less than the cost of the airport in Kansas City installing one traditional weather station.”

Understory plans to use the investment dollars to hire 10 people over the next six months, including software developers, data scientists, product managers, and electrical engineers, Kubicek said. The team is currently made up of Kubicek and Bryan Dow, who co-founded the company in 2012 in Madison, as well as Alex Jacobs, who came on board during the Bolt program.

Kubicek and Dow studied atmospheric science and mechanical engineering, respectively, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while Jacobs studied electrical engineering at … Next Page »

Jeff Engel is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @XconomyWI

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