Wildfires are increasing day by day threat As homes are built closer together and the growing impact of climate change wreaks havoc on the natural landscape. In response, entrepreneurs have begun to develop technology to reduce the scale and damage of these natural disasters. Countervailing capital is a new VC firm looking to support them.
Bill Clerico, the former co-founder and CEO of fintech WePay, founded the company this year and has since raised $35 million in a first-stage fund to help early-stage startups create technology can help detect and prevent wildfires. The fund plans to invest in about 15 companies by writing seven-figure checks.
While some of these startups may be under the umbrella of climate technology, Clerico said the focus on wildfire solutions is more in line with the climate resilience category. The difference makes it a simpler investment opportunity, he says, because today’s growing wildfires are already a problem as opposed to climate technology aimed at preventing or mitigating future problems. future.
The argument turned out to be a polarizing one as some investors understood the immediate need while others argued that a focus on wildfires could prove to be too relevant.
“It’s easier to raise funds in that there are people who have seen the economic opportunity first-hand and understand the impact of the fires there,” says Clerico. “Either they experienced it in different ways…or people didn’t.”
Clerico left WePay after a decade to pursue angel investing and become a volunteer firefighter. During his time living at his home in Montecito, California, he watched the effects of the wildfire crisis intensify when one of the natural disasters closed the road to his home and he find themselves struggling to get home insurance.
“Just watching wildfires become a really big crisis,” says Clerico, “and really taking an interest in the outdoors led me down this path. “I started thinking about how technology could be a solution.”
Clerico has made about 50 angel investments and admits he gets bored at the thought of hearing another fintech pitch. He started advocating fire tech companies and began to specialize in the field. He decided to raise funds so that he could invest in this field on a large scale.
He estimates that there are currently 200 startups focused on the sector, arguing that Convective Capital has probably talked to them all. These startups are tackling different areas of the wildfire crisis, from Pano, a startup that uses camera systems and AI to help emergency response teams detect fires earlier , to Rain Industries, a company that creates autonomous drones to help put out fires.
“What’s missing is that community comes together and acknowledges that firefighting technology is key,” says Clerico. “It doesn’t exist as a category like fintech does. Part of what we want to do as a company is to raise awareness of that category and really just help these founders get to know each other.”
Maxwell Brodie, co-founder and CEO of Rain Industries, told TechCrunch that while it’s likely that everyone in California has been affected by wildfires, it’s always fun to see someone like Clerico really trying. Try to do something about it. He hopes that his participation can help attract more builders and investors to this category.
“All the great resources [and capital] Brodie said. “What [Clerico] working with Convective Capital is proving that there is a new growth area emerging and everyone should be paying attention to that, especially late stage investors. “
While Clerico doesn’t believe any sector can actually be recession-proof, he thinks firetech is one that isn’t really tied to broader market conditions. And while many of the companies he backs failed to prevent wildfires from starting, he hopes they can help mitigate some of the damage.
“To leverage the power of startups to have a positive impact is a truly inspiring challenge,” he said. “And one of the reasons why me and my partners went for this.”