All over the globe, wildfires are raging in many countries. California is experiencing some of the most destructive wildfires in history. The Caldor fire, along with others, are blazing in the north. Greece and other Mediterranean countries have been fighting fires for several weeks to put a few massive blazes under control.
Millions of homes in the United States are now in high-risk areas for wildfires due to climate change. Governments and insurance companies are pushing homeowners to spend more on protecting their homes. This is commonly called hardening. It means that the home will be able to withstand fires and not spread further.
Firemaps, a SF-based company, has a bold vision to rapidly scale up and solve the problem of home toughening. They make a complex and time-consuming process simple.
The company was established in March and sends out a team with a drone to inspect a homeowner's house or property. The team will create a 3D model of the property in less than 20 minutes. The team will then identify hardening options and send out bids to trade contractors for the job on the company's marketplace.
Although it is still early days, the website has already gained traction. Andrew Chen, A16Z, has led a seed round of $5.5 million into the company (the Form D placed the round around April). Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber CEO, and Additions Lee Fixel were also present.
Firemaps is headed by Jahan Khanna. He co-founded the company with his brother Rob Moran, who has a long history in civil engineering. Khanna was the co-founder and chief technology officer of Sidecar, an early ride-sharing company. Moran was one of the first employees. They spent a lot of time exploring climate issues, but remained focused on the present. Khanna stated that we have reached certain thresholds with the climate and need to control it. We are only one part of the solution.
Khanna and his brother have been exploring the possibility of opening a California-based solar farm or home powered by solar over the last few years. Khanna stated that it was impossible to build anything in California because the state will be destroyed. What's the endgame? They realized that fire hardening was something millions of homeowners needed. It was faster and cheaper than they thought and they were needed sooner than they expected.
There are many ways to make a home safe from fire. However, there are some options that are popular. You can create an ember-free area within a few feet of your home by placing granite gravel on the ground. Although these options are not cheap, some state and local governments offer reimbursement programs that allow homeowners to recover at least some of their costs.
Firemaps is a company that lists contractors who have been vetted on its platform. Khanna believes contractors will be able bid on contracts because the drone provides a complete model of a home and they won't need to visit their site. Khanna stated that these contractors are able to get shovel-ready projects at a fraction of the cost.
Khanna stated that long-term, the operating hypothesis of Khanna is that building a platform, and then building these models, is intrinsically valuable. The company is currently being launched in California. He stated that the goal is to make the model repeatable and scalable over the next year, which will mean doing hundreds of homes each week.