Tuesday, September 29, 2020

harbor, an emergency preparedness platform, picks up $5 million in seed funding

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Billion-dollar natural disasters are on the rise in the United States, according to CNBC. Even as I write, a hurricane is making landfall in Louisiana while wild fires rage in northern California. And those are just the big disasters.

There were more than 1.3 million fires in the United States in 2018, and nearly three out of every five deaths related to a house fire happened in a house where there was no smoke alarm or it didn’t function properly.

Harbor, a company that just closed on a $5 million seed round, wants to make users more prepared.

The product, which will launch in October, aims to gamify the process of doing everyday preparation for disasters. Using publicly available data from agencies like NOAA, FEMA and USGS, as well as land maps and building codes to pinpoint individual household risk, Harbor takes a look at the user’s location and the general state of their home to determine types of risks to that individual user and their property.

From there, the platform curates a weekly checklist for the user to stay prepared, whether it’s keeping track of the amount of water on hand (for those in the path of hurricane season) or checking the battery levels and functionality of a smoke alarm.

“For us, it’s not about buying a go bag,” said CEO Dan Kessler. “It’s about doing the things you need to be prepared. Your plan is a heck of a lot more important than your bag. Your bag is also important, but without the planning it’s completely pointless. The problem is a lot of people, especially right now with the wildfires happening are saying ‘I don’t have a go bag,’ and they buy one for $50 on Amazon. But they are not any more prepared at that moment as they were before they bought the bag.”

Not only does harbor want to help users prepare for disasters, including curated product recommendations around preparedness equipment, but also help guide them through the disaster itself and the aftermath, offering step by step instructions based on the specific situation.

Though harbor hasn’t launched the product publicly, the company is prepared with a two-fold business model which includes e-commerce and a freemium subscription plan for the app itself.

The sole investor in the $5 million round was 25madison, a New York-based venture studio that incubates and funds companies from inception. 25madison brought on Dan Kessler, a former Headspace executive, as CEO in January. Kessler brought on Eduardo Fonseca as chief technology officer, who previously served as CTO of GoodRx.

In total, harbor is made up of a team of 10 employees, and the company declined to share any stats around diversity and inclusion on the team, saying “Dan and the team are very proud that the makeup of women and underrepresented groups is above tech industry averages, including the advisory board.”

The advisory board includes a number of notable experts in the disaster space, including former administrator of FEMA Brock Long, current senior fellow for climate change policy at the Council on Foreign relations Alice Hill, and professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and CNN national security analyst (who served as Assistant Secretary at the DHS) Juliette Kayyem, among others.

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