Our Investment in Cloud to Street
Protecting the world from flood risk
In recent weeks, the world has seen the catastrophic loss of life and destruction of property as a result of extreme flooding. Scenes of a muddy deluge rushing through German towns, carrying a destructive wave of vehicles, were quickly followed by footage from central China of subway passengers trapped amidst chest-high water, many of whom ultimately perished. In its reporting of the torrential flood that tore through western Germany — what has historically been considered a once in a millennium event — The New York Times attributed the cause to climate change. Simply put, “a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, generating more, and more powerful, rainfall.” As climate change accelerates, Swiss Re, a provider of insurance, estimates that global financial losses resulting from floods will account for over $40 billion in damages annually, of which 70% is not insured.
Brooklyn-based Cloud to Street is addressing uninsured flood risk through its real-time flood mapping platform, which enables insurers to underwrite coverage for countries that are the most vulnerable. We are excited to announce our investment in Cloud to Street, led by founders Bessie Schwarz and Dr. Beth Tellman with a mission to leverage technology to protect billions of dollars in uninsured assets and the millions of lives that depend on them. We’re also thrilled to share that the company was featured in the most recent issue of Nature which details Cloud to Street’s Global Flood Database, the largest library of flood maps in the world.
What is Cloud to Street?
Cloud to Street synthesizes a range of optical and radar satellite data and pairs it with machine learning to forecast threats in flood-prone areas. Whereas traditional models often rely on ground data and represent mere snapshots in time, Cloud to Street provides greater accuracy through near real-time insights. This information has proven to be of interest to a number of leading insurers and reinsurers of flood risk, who utilize Cloud to Street’s platform to underwrite policies in parts of the world where information is scant or unreliable. Specifically, as part of an insurer’s underwriting process, Cloud to Street’s data informs the structure of policies and price of premiums as well as how claims are paid out.
A screenshot of Cloud to Street’s flood mapping platform, which monitors people and assets at risk, pinpoints blocked roads and measures the amount of property and agricultural damage.
The net benefit of Cloud to Street’s technology is that insurers are able to expand their book of business in parts of the world, in particular the “Global South,” traditionally seen as high-risk; and as a result, developing countries get access to asset protection in the event of a catastrophic flood.
Why Did We Invest?
Strong Founder-Market Fit
Bessie and Beth, respectively Cloud to Street’s CEO and Chief Science Officer, have worked together for nearly a decade since first meeting as graduate students at the Yale School of the Environment. Collectively, they bring expertise in geospatial and climate products, specifically related to flood tracking, as well as relationships with prominent climate research and technology institutions. Since founding the company in 2018, they have assembled a top-notch team of experts from a wide range of disciplines with backgrounds from NASA, Google, Willis Towers Watson, and others.
Compelling Customer Adoption
Cloud to Street currently serves over 18 governments and insurers, representing 169 countries. Among its customers is WillisRe, the reinsurance subsidiary of global insurer Willis Towers Watson, which has used the company’s platform to inform its actuarial models in markets like Indonesia. Cloud to Street has forged relationships with a number of other leading insurers and serves as a critical component of their respective risk-assessment models.
The Cloud to Street team has written over 140 academic papers related to flooding and remote-sensing. The company’s prolific contributions to scientific publications on the topic have elevated its profile as a thought leader in the field. We believe this credibility represents a key advantage as it continues to engender the trust of insurers, governments, and other multinational stakeholders.
While Cloud to Street is currently focused on serving the underwriting process, the company eventually hopes to expand to other aspects of insurance origination, including directly enrolling customers and servicing claims. In addition, countries, such as The Republic of The Congo, have used the company’s flood forecasting to detect and respond to crises before they escalate. While the company helps to insure billions in assets, the recent spate of climate change-induced calamitous flooding reminds us that Cloud to Street has the opportunity to deliver meaningful humanitarian impact at scale.
MIT Technology Review: “New global map shows populations are growing faster in flood-prone areas”
Nature: “Satellite imaging reveals increased proportion of population exposed to floods”
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