Natural disasters have a way of making people pay attention. Take, for example, California’s recent, catastrophic wildfire seasons, which broke records for how many acres they burned, how much property they destroyed and how many lives they took. That, plus the way they turned the sky a shade of apocalyptic orange, grabbed people by the lapels and didn’t let go.
The ordeal inspired more than a few people to search for solutions. Vibrant Planet was one that grew out of California’s wildfires. TechCrunch covered the company’s seed round, and now the startup is back with fresh funding.
Vibrant Planet has raised a $15 million Series A funding round led by the Ecosystem Integrity Fund, with participation from Microsoft’s Climate Innovation Fund, Citi Ventures, Day One Ventures, SIG Climate, Globivest, Coefficient LP and other investors. That comes on top of the $17 million in pre-seed and seed funding the company announced in June 2022 as well as some government grants, bringing the total raised to $34 million.
Last year, I found the idea of an ecological SaaS refreshing, though I wasn’t sure it would have the potential for the sort of breakneck growth that venture capital firms like to see. Call it skepticism by familiarity: I was trained as a landscape ecologist and spent five years studying California’s oak woodlands; before that, I did a bit of fire modeling as part of a small research project. I’m still close enough to the topic to understand that environmental issues are often treated, and funded, more like footnotes than keynotes. Historically, it’s not been the most remunerative sector.
In the last five years, though, that’s started to change. Disasters like California’s wildfire season have forced a slow awakening upon the world and, more specifically, the U.S. Call it trial by wildfire, hurricane, heat wave, drought or flood. Take your pick.
But are enough people taking the climate threat seriously that a startup focused on wildfire management could succeed? As is the case with any Series A company, it’s probably too early to make any firm predictions. Yet I’m cautiously optimistic, and it’s not because the company has a fatter bank account.