Deal Dive: VC interest in wildfire tech grows as the world burns around us

Frontline is the latest startup to take VC dollars with a $6.4 million seed round

Forest fires, and the damage they cause is a growing problem. The United States saw more than 66,000 wildfires in 2022 alone, and while many think of these natural disasters as largely a California problem, they burn across the country, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Harry Statter knows this, as his entire career has focused on the intersection of the built world and natural consequences. In 2012, he was working at a forestry company he founded and decided to do research on what causes buildings and structures to catch fire in a forest fire. He found that 90 percent of structure fires were the result of wind-blown embers, which can travel seven (and up to 24) miles from an actual wildfire. He decided to pivot.

“Active defense, through the presence of the fire department on the property and the protection of that structure, you just can’t escalate the fire department to the amount of exposed structures,” Statter told me. “Also, firefighters are there for the safety of life, they are not there for the protection of private property. During bushfires they are facilitating a safe evacuation of people, they are not there to protect people’s homes.”

Statter founded Frontline, which builds outdoor sprinkler systems that use geospatial software to detect wildfires. If a home is in range, Frontline’s software will activate the sprinklers and provide advice on what users should do next. Ten years later, the company just raised a $6.4 million seed round led by Echelon and is starting to scale.

“We’re growing very fast and we’ve seen massive demand for our technology,” he said. “We’re raising our Series A because we’re growing so fast.”

But Frontline doesn’t have to be a silver bullet, and there’s still a long way to go until there’s a broad set of technology that helps users mitigate fire damage and learn to better live with it. But the foundations are being laid for this to change.

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At Ikaroa, we are following the growing interest of venture capitalists (VC) in wildfire technology. This interest has intensified over the past months as the world experiences increasingly damaging wildfires throughout the globe. The increased investment reflects the current reality of fire danger and climate change.

Wildfires have always been common during dry season, but the intensity and duration of these events have been increasing in recent years due to climate change. It is becoming increasingly clear that we need innovative solutions to mitigate these risks and protect people, communities, and nature from being devastated by wildfires.

The VCs’ interests in wildfire tech centers on new technologies that can reduce the cost of prediction and response. Such technologies are invaluable in firefighting, since they enable more directed, proactive responses and reduce the risk of destruction caused by wildfires.

At Ikaroa, we are working hard to develop high-tech wildfire technologies for both prediction and response. Our flagship product, the Wildfire Relay System, is designed to provide first responders with real-time situational awareness and time-critical decision support. The system integrates multiple layers of predictive analytics, sensor data, and historical records of wildfire activity to enable customized alerts, information sharing, and situation-dependent planning.

As the world struggles to reign in the harm caused by wild fires, the VCs’ new interest in wildfire technology can help support the innovative solutions naturally found in the tech space. By investing in these technologies, the VCs could help fund the best in technology world, saving time and ultimately saving lives.


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