Earthmover to bring petascale data tools to climate tech with $1.7M pre-seed

Shortly after the COVID pandemic hit, inspiration struck Ryan Abernathey and Joe Hamman. The pair had been watching the “mass mobilization” of the epidemiology research community, Abernathey said.

“Joe and I were both thinking at the time, ‘We wanted to be part of something with that level of intensity and urgency around climate change.’”

Abernathey and Hamman met while working on open-source projects, including Pangeo and Xarray, both of which gave them a taste of where the field was heading. Abernathey, who is an associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University, said he saw his lab’s work on tools having a greater impact than the results of their research projects.

Hamman, who previously worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also foresaw how data tools could begin to change the field. The business world was benefiting from a slew of new tools that worked well for their data types. “But none of those really exist for scientific data,” he said.

The pair eventually connected with Tony Liu, a partner at Costanoa Ventures who specializes in data infrastructure.

“We’ve seen the transformation of the business analytics world over the last few years,” Liu said, “where you have this ecosystem of cloud-native tooling that’s emerged that really reduces the complexity for someone less specialized to set up data infrastructure in their company. We believe that a similar pattern will emerge here.

“We’re seeing use of climate data increase, even among our portfolio — there’s several companies that are making use of climate data at scale. And also we expect a continued, massive investment into climate tech companies,” he added.

The scale of the data, and of the problem, is why Abernathey and Hamman’s new company, Earthmover, raised a $1.7 million pre-seed round from Liu and Costanoa, TechCrunch learned exclusively.