Google Ventures' next big bet: Weather insurance

February 28, 2011: 6:02 PM ET

Together with Khosla Ventures, Google announced an investment of $42 million into WeatherBill.

Over 90% of crop loss is due to inclement or unexpected weather conditions.  With climate change in full swing, more and more agricultural businesses are at risk for unpredictable weather conditions.

WeatherBill uses an algorithm to calculate risk and sell insurance online against unpredictable weather.

WeatherBill's flagship product, Total Weather Insurance (TWI) is a the first full-season weather protection program for U.S. farmers designed that addresses the adverse weather conditions they face every season. WeatherBill's TWI provides the U.S. agriculture industry with a private-sector supplement to government-subsidized crop insurance.

Today Google (GOOG) Ventures is investing.

"Google Ventures' mission is to identify and fund big ideas -- and WeatherBill's vision of helping farmers adapt to climate change aligns perfectly with that mission," said  Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures, in a press release (bel0w). "WeatherBill's founders, CEO, David Friedberg, and CTO, Siraj Khaliq, are ex-Googlers, so it's understandable that they are working on turning the big problem of climate change into a big opportunity.  Google Ventures is excited to support the WeatherBill team as they take on big data challenges and create products to protect a foundational global industry: agriculture."

Existing investors include NEA, Index Ventures, Allen & Company, Atomico, First Round Capital and Code Advisors.

More on Fortune.com:

Press release follows:

WeatherBill® Raises $42 Million to expand Technology Platform that Helps Farmers Worldwide Adapt to Climate Change

Khosla Ventures and Google Ventures join existing investors in Series B financing of disruptive technology company delivering personalizable weather insurance products for the $3 trillion global agriculture industry


SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 28, 2011 – WeatherBill, the technology pioneer that has made weather insurance a reality for millions of people and businesses affected by the weather, today announced that it closed a $42 million round of Series B funding with new investors Khosla Ventures and Google Ventures joining NEA, Index Ventures, Allen & Company, First Round Capital, Atomico, and Code Advisors in the financing round. The capital will support WeatherBill's aggressive product and sales expansion in the U.S. and internationally.

"With a firm belief that technology can create new markets and address vital global challenges, Khosla Ventures immediately recognized the potential of WeatherBill to fundamentally change the risk profile of the global agriculture industry," said Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures. "WeatherBill is one of those rare companies that has the leadership and vision to apply new technology to an ancient and daunting problem – weather's impact on agriculture. Now WeatherBill can help farmers globally deal with the increasingly extreme weather brought on by climate change."

"Global agriculture production is more than $3 trillion per year, and it is at risk today from extreme weather conditions, as evidenced by the recent droughts in Russia and China and extensive flooding in Australia, which have decimated global commodity supplies," said David Friedberg, CEO and co-founder of WeatherBill. "More than 90 percent of crop losses are due to unexpected weather and climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events. Dedicated to addressing this global concern, WeatherBill is applying the use of our technology platform  to become the first company to provide every farmer – from the developing world to the technologically sophisticated – with a simple and effective solution for removing weather-related risk from their financial profile, in order to support and ensure the sustainability of the global food supply."

"Nine years ago we had a very dry growing season in rural Ohio. A year later we experienced 14 inches of rain in 10 days.  The flip flop of weather from one year to the next is the biggest challenge farmers face," said Steve Wolters, a farmer growing corn, soybean and wheat in Celina, Ohio. "It makes sense to me to take advantage of WeatherBill's automated weather insurance programs that pinpoint the weather conditions expected to affect my land and pay me if they happen.  Protecting my seasonal profits with this product, before I even plant a seed, greatly reduces the risk I take every year and allows me to invest in improving my growing operation."

Google Ventures' mission is to identify and fund big ideas – and WeatherBill's vision of helping farmers adapt to climate change aligns perfectly with that mission," said Bill Maris, managing partner of Google Ventures. "WeatherBill's founders, CEO, David Friedberg, and CTO, Siraj Khaliq, are ex-Googlers, so it's understandable that they are working on turning the big problem of climate change into a big opportunity.  Google Ventures is excited to support the WeatherBill team as they take on big data challenges and create products to protect a foundational global industry: agriculture."

WeatherBill's unique technology platform continuously aggregates enormous amounts of weather data from many disparate sources, and combines sophisticated statistical analyses to run large-scale weather simulations in a proprietary cloud-based computing environment. The system enables completely automated and easy-to-use, personalized weather insurance products. As part of its current expansion, WeatherBill is adding to its team of world-class software engineers, mathematicians, climatological agronomists and product managers to build out its platform on a global scale.

In 2010, WeatherBill launched its flagship product, Total Weather Insurance (TWI), the first full-season weather protection program for U.S. farmers, designed to address the adverse weather conditions they face every season. WeatherBill's TWI provides the U.S. agriculture industry with a private-sector supplement to government-subsidized crop insurance.  Created with insight from agronomists and growers nationwide, TWI enables growers to lock in profits and protect their businesses against poor weather, which is the cause of 90 percent of crop loss each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As with all of WeatherBill's products, TWI pays out automatically based on measured weather conditions, requiring no claims process and no waiting for payment.

To learn more about WeatherBill, visit www.weatherbill.com, and to join the WeatherBill team, check outwww.weatherbill.com/careers

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Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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