PALO ALTO, Calif. – WindBorne Systems Inc., a weather and climate tech company with an ultra cost-effective balloon-based data source, announced today that it has closed a seed financing round of $6M. The round was led by Footwork, and included Khosla Ventures, Pear VC, Ubiquity Ventures, Harvest Ventures, and Humba Ventures, among others.
“WindBorne is working on an enormous and growing problem — weather forecasting — with a unique solution, starting with proprietary data collection from balloon technology that the team has been working on for many years. We could not be more excited to partner with the WindBorne team”
Beginning as a research project within the Stanford Space Initiative, WindBorne’s patented balloon technology fills the data gap for the 85% of the globe with inadequate or nonexistent weather data. Filling this data gap unlocks significantly better weather forecasts for airlines, shipping companies, the energy sector, and the general public. The company’s intellectual property allows collecting 100x more data per dollar than alternative methods.
With the new investment, WindBorne will scale its data collection capabilities by an order of magnitude and make several key hires. WindBorne’s core business, which includes customers in the U.S. military as well as private-sector businesses, is already cashflow positive.
“Businesses and governments rely on accurate weather forecasts to make critical decisions, yet all too often the weather forecast is wrong. Everyone I talk to has a story about bad weather causing a travel nightmare — the stakes are even higher on a state, national or continental level,” said John Dean, CEO and co-founder of WindBorne. “This new investment will supercharge our data collection as we seek to fill the data gap for weather globally.”
“WindBorne is working on an enormous and growing problem — weather forecasting — with a unique solution, starting with proprietary data collection from balloon technology that the team has been working on for many years. We could not be more excited to partner with the WindBorne team,” said Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Co-Founder and General Partner at Footwork.
The data gap problem — and the WindBorne solution
In an era of accelerated global warming, businesses, energy providers, governments, and relief organizations are desperate for accurate predictions about the weather. Because weather is a global system, even places where the weather is well-measured receive low quality forecasts. For example, the North American West Coast’s winter storms – which cost California more than $1B – were hard to predict because the systems developed over the Pacific ocean, one of the world’s biggest data deserts. According to the World Meteorological Organization, 85% of the Earth lacks adequate weather observations.
From 1990 to 2022, weather-related disaster recovery costs have increased from $30B to $175B, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and these costs continue to rise. Globally, governments spend more than $10B annually on weather data to improve forecasts.
WindBorne has invented a new kind of long-endurance, smart weather balloon to fill the data gap and improve weather forecasts. Where a traditional weather balloon collects data for only about two hours, WindBorne Global Sounding Balloons can fly autonomously for over a month. In that time, they can fly tens of thousands of miles, collecting the critical data needed to improve weather forecasts.
Due to their long duration and controllability, WindBorne’s balloons enable previously unattainable worldwide atmospheric sensing, as WindBorne has already proven in revenue-generating contracts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, and the National Mesonet Program. In contrast to other high-profile balloons, WindBorne’s balloons are cost-effective and small, with each fully-loaded balloon weighing under six pounds at launch and carrying a sensor housing that fits in the palm of a hand. WindBorne has purpose-built their balloons to be lightweight and zero-emission, propelled purely by wind currents, making perpetual planetary observation affordable and sustainable.
WindBorne has launched more than six hundred balloons to date. They have been flown into extreme weather around the world, including into atmospheric rivers, arctic cyclones, and even Hurricane Ian.
WindBorne is a full-stack weather company, currently licensing access to its data and working to build value-added products on top of it. With this financing, WindBorne will be able to scale operations from several flights per day, to hundreds of concurrent balloons by the end of 2024. WindBorne is also expanding their sensor suite beyond the sensors typically used in weather observation–temperature, pressure, wind speed, and humidity. Ultimately, WindBorne plans to continuously operate tens of thousands of balloons, providing constant, comprehensive atmospheric awareness and dramatically better forecasts.
About WindBorne Systems
WindBorne is a full-stack weather company selling data & forecasts to governments and businesses. We design, build, and operate a constellation of long-duration, smart weather balloons that fly hundreds of times longer than traditional balloons and can cost-effectively access the critical data other technologies can’t. WindBorne’s mission is to solve the atmospheric data gap, enabling access to the previously invisible 85% of the atmosphere and using that intelligence to fight climate change.
Footwork is an early-stage focused venture capital firm investing its first fund of $175M. The firm exclusively leads and co-leads Seed and Series A rounds in technology companies with early signs of product-market fit. Footwork’s co-founders are Mike Smith (formerly President and COO at Stitch Fix, and COO at Walmart.com) and Nikhil Basu Trivedi (formerly Managing Director at Shasta Ventures where he led early-stage rounds in Athelas, Canva, ClassDojo, Frame.io, Lattice, and The Farmer’s Dog).