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

4/30/14Follow @XconomyWI

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the University of Arizona and has done research on robotically controlled boats that could take weather measurements from the eye of a hurricane, Kubicek said.

Understory says its technology has applications for insurance, agriculture, broadcasting, and transportation, among other sectors.

The insurance industry is Understory’s initial target market. Its first customer is Madison-based American Family Insurance, which is betting that the startup’s technology will help it save money and provide better customer service. American Family will use Understory’s storm data and weather projections to more efficiently deploy claims adjusters, Kubicek said.

“Right now they look at storms coming in, they’re a little unsure how many claims adjusters to send out,” Kubicek said.

Understory’s data will also help American Family be more proactive in contacting customers whose property might have been marred by a storm or could face impending damage, he said.

Understory originally intended to sell its products to consumers, hoping to attract engineers and hobbyists interested in putting open-source weather hardware in their backyards to crowdsource weather data.

“We found that even at the really low price point of $100-$200, there weren’t enough people who wanted to buy that where we could get really good coverage of weather data,” Kubicek said. He declined to name the current price of the device.

After going through Gener8tor’s first program in summer 2012, Understory pivoted to become a company selling to enterprise customers. A year later, Understory was accepted into Bolt’s inaugural group of startups. The company has decided to stay in Boston and will move into its own office later this year, Kubicek said.

Understory chose to remain in Boston because of the area’s strength in hardware technology research and startups, as well as the mentors and connections gained through Bolt, Kubicek said. His team has found it can draw from the expertise of similar tech companies in Boston who are several months or a couple of years ahead of Understory’s progress.

“There’s a great hardware community here in Boston. That’s what Bolt has really helped foster,” Kubicek said. In Wisconsin, “the Gener8tor program is doing an awesome job of helping grow the startup community there. But it’s still kind of growing, and we needed a stronger foundation to build what we’re trying to achieve.”

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

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