The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, with geography that makes it vulnerable to typhoons, floods, volcanos, earthquakes and droughts. While working in IT, Felix Ayque began compiling cyclone reports and sending them as email alerts to communities. His work evolved into environmental intelligence platform Komunidad, which collects data from government and private sources, and turns it into customizable analytics to help clients react quickly to potential disasters.
The Manila and Singapore-based startup announced it has raised $1 million in seed funding, led by Wavemaker Partners with participation from ADB Ventures, the Asian Development Bank’s venture arm, to expand in Asia and add features to its platform, including a self-serve version that is slated for release in January 2022.
Founded in 2019, Komunidad has clients in the Philippines, India, Cambodia and Vietnam, and serves multiple sectors, including utilities, agriculture, mining, education, local governments and business outsourcing centers. Before launching the startup, Ayque worked as an IT developer at several weather agencies, including the state-owned New Zealand MetService. He began creating cyclone reports on his own as a consultant after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda, which killed at least 6,300 people in the Philippines.
The reports were meant to help businesses respond more quickly to natural disasters. Typhoon Haiyan hit at a time when the business outsourcing sector was growing rapidly in the Philippines, with many foreign companies setting up multiple offices in the country. During a typhoon, businesses typically transfer workload to offices in areas that are not affected. Ayque’s first emails contained manual analysis of potential cyclones.
Demand for his reports grew as companies, including energy providers, needed to respond to climate change. Komunidad began earning enough revenue to expand and for Ayque to hire employees, including meteorologists, data scientists, software developers and business development teams based in India and Southeast Asia. Its new investment will be used to build a scalable platform.
Komunidad’s data sources include major players like The Weather Company, acquired by IBM in 2015, weather intelligence platform Tomorrow.io, and several smaller environmental and weather data providers.
The platform turns data into dashboards relevant to their customers’ needs, like severe weather, solar, marine, soil moisture or air quality. “We act as a system integrator that only brings the relevant data and tells customers that this is the most important data,” said Ayque. Komunidad also enables its customers to build their own alert systems. For example, in the Philippines, many customers send alerts through Viber, one of the country’s most popular messaging apps, or SMS to reach areas with unstable internet connections.
For customers in the energy sector, Komunidad’s tools help them predict things like power usage based on temperature. It’s also been used by local governments to decide school cancellations. During the pandemic, Komunidad helped cities monitor people density so they can decide what areas need more crowd control.
One of Komunidad’s competitive advantages is understanding what data is important in different areas. For example, it recently closed a deal with the Assam State Disaster Management Agency (ASDMA) to focus on lighting and thunderstorm alerts, because Assam is the one of the most lightning-prone states in India.
“Every country has a different profile, and we understand that our approach has to really focus on community, and then extend to business,” Ayque said.
Since Komunidad’s customers have to react quickly, it creates easy-to-understand visualizations from raw data reports, which are often incomprehensible to people without technical backgrounds. For example, that might be a simple bar graph, warnings in green, yellow and red, or maps that turn red if a major weather or environmental event is expected to occur within the next six hours.
Part of Komunidad’s funding will be used to launch self-service customizable dashboards next year that will allow clients to drag-and-drop widgets, similar to creating a website in Wix or WordPress. The seed round will also help Komunidad take on new business opportunities in India, Thailand, Cambodia and other markets, grow its sales teams and pay for more data sources.