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Benioff-backed software startup helps companies get smarter about climate risk

Cog shown underwater

Will that new $50 million factory be threatened by flooding or wildfires? How many buildings in your company’s real-estate portfolio might require climate-adaption retrofits? 

Questions such as these are fueling a flood of early-stage investment in climate tech that crosses over into the enterprise software realm, as companies seek to integrate data about emissions, resource consumption — and risk — with more traditional measures of operational efficiency. 

Indeed, one of the more intriguing venture deals I've read about this spring came in late May, when a group of investors — including well-known Silicon Valley figures Chris Sacca and Marc Benioff — chipped in $30 million for a Series A round for London-based venture Cervest. The funding, led by venture capital firm Draper Esprit, brings Cervest’s total backing to $36.2 million.

"Climate tech has grabbed a lot of attention recently, with good reason," noted Draper Esprit partner Vinoth Jayakumar. "But solutions come from understanding the problem — climate intelligence is a new $40 billion market category, which seeks to provide us with answers." 

Cervest, founded and fronted by former banking and agribusiness exec Iggy Bassi, is developing a platform called EarthScan that corporations can use to map physical assets and assess potential exposure to climate risks. "You need climate science that is at the service of business decisions," Bassi told me.

Cervest dashboard

Currently in private beta with close to two dozen companies (who Bassi won’t name), EarthScan’s freemium edition lets companies add up to five physical assets (think buildings or, eventually, pipeline systems) and uses statistical science and machine learning to model potential risk and resilience scenarios using data that looks back 50 years and forward 80 years. It uses scads of private and public data from the likes of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and CMIP6 from the World Climate Research Program. 

The information isn’t fixed in time; rather, it updates continuously. The hope is that companies can use this data not just for disclosure but to take real action to shore up their resilience and physical integrity over time, Bassi said. And the idea is to open up the platform to banks, regulators, investors and others involved in financing projects or approving new infrastructure. "It’s about taking climate intelligence into your markets and starting to make new decisions."

Cervest’s most direct rival is the fast-growing Jupiter Intelligence, which has raised a reported $34 million from investors including Energize Ventures, DCVC and Ignition Partners. Last year, Jupiter launched a tool called ClimateScore Global that also provides climate risk analytics. Its high-profile customers include Liberty Mutual, Zurich Insurance Group, BP, ConEd, Hawaiian Electric, New York City, Miami and NASA.

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