Can a startup predict (and prevent) climate threats?
Metaprop portfolio company Urbint has raised $60m in Series C funding as it develops tools to prevent threats to infrastructure and workers.
Responding to the growing risk of disasters that cause billions of dollars of damage, Urbint said it believes “it’s possible to build a world with zero safety incidents” with a combination of real-world data and AI.
According to data from the US National Centers for Environmental Information, the US sustained 258 weather and climate disasters where overall damages reached or exceeded $1bn between 1980 and 2019.
The number of incidents has risen for years. There was an average of 14.6 billion-dollar disaster events per year in the three years to 2019, compared to 6.5 in the years 1980-2019.
Targeting utilities companies, Urbint claims to deliver a “clear picture” of risks to workers and infrastructure a week in advance. The startup assesses the potential severity and likelihood of an incident based on historical project and safety records.
Urbint also uses threat modelling to identify a company’s greatest vulnerabilities to let users know where failures are most likely and where they could have the largest impact on others’ safety.
With the US Senate passing a mammoth $1.2tn infrastructure bill in August, Urbint plans to tap into an unprecedented amount of investment into infrastructure.
Corey Capasso, founder and CEO of the startup, said: “America’s infrastructure is at an inflection point. As we’ve seen time and again, mounting threats from climate change to an ageing grid have made the risk of major safety incidents unmanageable.
“Our technology equips the nation’s energy and infrastructure companies with AI to prevent everything from fires, outages and explosions to tragic worker accidents. The investment will fuel our expansion to meet this unprecedented moment.”
The funding round was led by Energize Ventures, with participation from American Electric Power, OGCI Climate Investments and existing investors Energy Impact Partners, National Grid Partners, Blue Bear Capital and Salesforce Ventures.
Tyler Lancaster, principal at Energize Ventures, said: “Today’s critical infrastructure owners and operators are facing new challenges as ageing assets and climate change threats create a more complex operating environment.
“Electric utilities in the US alone spend more than $15bn annually on operations and maintenance. Urbint’s next-generation risk management software helps customers identify and prioritise safety and reliability threats, in turn lowering O&M costs, reducing emissions and improving worker safety – all while ensuring critical infrastructure stays online.”
Rise of ‘climate intelligence’ startups
Risks caused – or elevated – by climate change have become a major focus for startups in the built environment.
In May, for example, a startup called Cervest raised $30m by promising to help companies and governments quantify climate risk down to the asset level. One of its products, EarthScan, gives users on-demand access to current, historical and predictive views of risks such as flooding, droughts and extreme temperatures that might affect their assets.
VC firms have similarly made a concerted effort to target startups mitigating the effects of climate change.
Fifth Wall last year launched a $200m climate tech fund – backed by Ivanhoé Cambridge – explaining in a blog post: “We believe the real estate industry is the world’s largest contributor to the climate crisis.”