Austin’s Riskpulse Formed in the Vortex of Two Weather-Tech Startups
Austin—For businesses that ship anything from mayonnaise to car parts, a change in temperature or an unexpected storm can mean bigger problems than just rotten eggs or stalled repairs. In this age of “just in time manufacturing,” entire factories might need to halt production if the right parts aren’t delivered, potentially costing thousands of dollars in delays.
That’s a problem that Austin-based Riskpulse says its data service can help resolve. The company, which has some roots in San Diego, sells analytics software that combines weather-monitoring services with risk-assessment data analysis to give customers an idea of whether their truck or train shipments might run into trouble while being delivered.
Riskpulse studies a customer’s historic shipments data, such as information about how long shipments are on the road, if and how long they wait in delivery areas, or how often products spoil. It matches that information against weather applications it developed to see if a shipment might run into any unusual weather patterns, such as extreme heat or a big storm, and can make recommendations to customers about how much risk their shipment is facing—providing a score on a scale of one to 25, with 25 carrying the most risk. For example, it provides one customer, Anheuser-Busch, scores on about 15,000 shipments each day.
“We’ll work with the history of information to make the risk score better, so that it can be predictive and can help them make a decision about whether a load should have a different timing because there’s going to be a storm along the way, or if there might be extremely hot or cold temperature on the route a load is taking,” says Stephen Bennett, the company’s chief operating officer. “They can decide if they want to ship a couple days early or a couple days late.”
The company has numerous relationships with other large companies, from Honda North America to Unilever. As it continues to sell its service to others, Riskpulse is aiming to make its data adaptable to other software that its clients use, such as customer relationship management tools. The company announced a partnership in February with 10-4 Systems, a Boulder, CO-based startup that provides delivery tracking and notifications to carriers and shippers. All 10-4 customers now get an automatic risk score, Bennett says.
Riskpulse had a bit of a circuitous beginning, forming from the combination of two independent startups that developed weather-focused tech businesses at different ends of the spectrum.
In 2007, Matthew Wensing co-founded a company called Stormpulse, a weather tracking website that turned into an alternative to Weather.com. It offered scaled rating system that was meant to help them understand how bad something like a thunderstorm or flood might be. Over the course of the years, Wensing and others at Stormpulse—largely a group of software developers—started getting more and more corporate users, who were specifically requesting information on how this weather tool might impact product deliveries, Bennett says.
Wensing decided Stormpulse needed additional expertise in extrapolating more meaningful information from the weather data his company was using, which he found in Bennett and a company Bennett co-founded called EarthRisk Technologies. The San Diego-based company, which Xconomy profiled in 2012, had software that could develop long-term weather forecast. Bennett, who started his career as a meteorologist, hired other meteorologists to develop weather reports and other research from the data, which EarthRisk sold to hedge funds who were looking for an edge in the commodities market, Bennett says. (Bad weather can mean big changes for crops.)
After a short partnership, the companies merged in 2015 and Riskpulse became what it is today. Combined, the companies have raised about $6 million in funding but is now able to sustain itself on its own revenue, says Bennett, who is based in San Francisco. Wensing remained CEO of the combined company.
Riskpulse is by no means alone in the field. There are countless systems for mapping and analyzing supply chain data, from more rudimentary geographic information system tools to companies such as Amerigo, Cleo, and SAP, among others.
While many offer mapping or supply chain management software, Bennett says he believes Riskpulse stands out because it can offer companies a weather-based risk information that is “hyper relevant” to the customer’s specific needs by analyzing troves of that customer’s shipping data and applying its predictive weather tool to that information.
“We’re inside their operation, working with their data to develop the recommendation that they’re looking for based on their data,” Bennett says. “(We’re) doing the data science to train the algorithm to predict the thing that their transportation planner is trying to figure out.”