David Friedberg was 20 years old and living across the road from a bicycle rental shop. Every day that it rained, the bike shop was closed. “It became pretty noticeable,â€? recalls Friedberg.
After watching the bicycle rental store owner get rained out day after day, Friedberg started noticing how many other companies–think golf courses and car washes–were taking a financial bath whenever it was wet outside.
“You don’t really think about it, but 70 percent of businesses are affected by the weather every year, across regions and industries,â€? says Friedberg. “The weather affects so many different types of businesses, whether in negative or in positive ways, like taxi cabs in New York, which are often full in the cold.â€?
Friedberg was a business product manager at Google when he had his “a-ha moment.â€? It occurred to him that he should start an insurance company–a very old idea–but gear it specifically toward companies that want to protect themselves from losing money on a rainy day–a new idea. WeatherBill was born.
It may not sound new. After all, insurance companies generally protect you if you’re hammered by a hurricane, slaughtered by a sandstorm or frozen under the tundra. But we’re talking about the car wash that doesn’t want to lose an entire day of income when there are five inches of rain.
That’s why Friedberg developed, with his “computer science friends,” an elaborate website where anyone can log on and buy a contract to protect themselves from unseasonable weather. The site is completely customizable and automated.
A farmer, for instance, could receive money every time the temperature dips below 67 degrees in a particular month. Or if a ski resort has a week and a half of beautiful, balmy weather in January, the owner could automatically receive a check without having to report the weather.
“There is no claims process,â€? Friedberg says proudly. Instead his company uses a third-party weather station, EarthStat, that independently confirms data and sends daily reports to WeatherBill, which then processes the checks and sends them out.