In The New York Times on Monday, I write about WeatherBill, a San Francisco startup that announced a $42 million round of financing from Google Ventures and Khosla Ventures:
Google Ventures and Khosla Ventures have led a $42 million financing round in WeatherBill, a San Francisco start-up that insures farmers against extreme weather that can cripple crop production.
Founded by Google alumni, the four-year-old company runs computer simulations to predict the likelihood of extreme weather in any given location at any given time and charges farmers accordingly.
“We provide protection to farmers of unexpected weather primarily caused by extremes of rainfall or temperature, something we’re seeing more of because of climate change,” said David Friedberg, WeatherBill’s chief executive, citing the recent floods in Australia and drought in China.
“By getting a guarantee on what one might make on an acre of farming, farmers can feel more comfortable about making investments in their operations,” Mr. Friedberg, who was a founding member of Google’s corporate development team, said on a conference call with reporters on Monday.
He said WeatherBill has now raised just under $60 million from investors that also include NEA, Index Ventures, Allen & Company, First Round Capital, Atomico and Code Advisors.
The investment marks a growing interest by Silicon Valley venture capital firms in the nascent sustainable agricultural market, also called Ag 2.0, which is loosely defined as environmentally beneficial farming,
“Recently we’ve been very, very interested in the impact of technology on agriculture,” said Vinod Khosla, a leading green tech investor and founder of Khosla Ventures. “I realize that agriculture is an unusual area for venture capital but I would submit that agricultural technology has the same potential in agriculture as biotechnology had in pharmaceuticals or chip technology had in telecommunications.”
Bill Maris, managing director of Google’s investment arm, however, made clear that his firm was not about to trade in the company Prius for a pickup truck, taking pains to describe WeatherBill as a cloud computing startup not an agriculture or insurance play.
“This is a technology company working on something that is going to have a real-world impact on a foundational global industry, which is agriculture,” Mr. Maris said. “Helping famers protect their financial futures and protect the global food supply is something I think we all can be passionate about.”
Mr. Friedberg said WeatherBill’s computer scientists and climatologists crunch weather data and feed it into computer models run on hundreds of servers and are updated several times a day.
You can read the rest of the story here.