Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Deal Dive: VC interest in wildfire tech grows as the world burns around us

Wildfires, and the damage they cause, are a growing problem. The U.S. saw more than 66,000 wildfires in 2022 alone, and while many think of these natural disasters as largely a California problem, they burn all across the country, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Harry Statter knows this as his entire career has focused around the intersection of the built world and natural consequences. Back in 2012, he was working at a foresting company he founded and decided to do some research on what causes buildings and structures to ignite in a wildfire. He found that 90% of structural fires were the result of wind-blown embers, which can travel seven — and up to 24 — miles from an actual wildfire. He decided to pivot.

“Active defense, by way of firefighters being at the property and protecting that structure, you simply can’t scale firefighters to the amount of structures exposed,” Statter told me. “Additionally, firefighters are there for life safety, they are not there for private property protection. During wildfires they are facilitating a safe evacuation of people, they aren’t there to protect people’s homes.”

Statter founded Frontline, which builds external sprinkler systems that use geospatial software to detect wildfires. If a home is in range, Frontline’s software will turn the sprinklers on and offer advice on what users should do next. Ten years in, the company just raised a $6.4 million seed round led by Echelon and is starting to scale.

“We are growing really fast and have seen a massive amount of demand for our technology,” he said. “We are raising our Series A round because we are growing so fast.”

But Frontline isn’t meant to be a silver bullet, and there is still a long way to go until there is a broad suite of technology that helps users mitigate the damage from fires and better learn to live with them. But the foundation for this to change is starting to be built.

Deal Dive: VC interest in wildfire tech grows as the world burns around us by Rebecca Szkutak originally published on TechCrunch

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