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Bessie Schwarz is Co-founder & CEO of Floodbase, a startup that provides flood tracking for disasters and insurance. Powered by satellites, machine learning, and on-the-ground observation, they’re on a mission to enable all communities to prepare & respond to climate disasters, by reducing the barriers to scientific info and capital. Few know it but 1.5B people face flood risk worldwide, with $15T of economic activity at risk of flooding by 2040.
This is climate adaptation at its finest.
Bessie began her career ‘in the field’ as a field organizer, helping those most vulnerable to flooding, but saw the greatest possibilities was really in gathering satellite AND field data, to model the projected path of floods, and then communicating that out to local governments and eventually, reinsurers (more on what that is later).
Floodbase has been on a tear since 2015, currently monitoring for almost ½ a billion people across planet Earth.
We dive deep into…what exactly is climate adaptation? How did Bessie get into this space? Is flooding increasing? Why & how? What’s parametric flood insurance? How is Floodbase enabling all climate adaptation financing? And finally, what the hell is CLI-FI and why should you care?
This episode is particularly valuable for…big thinkers! Bessie is the quintessential founder who saw an incredible opportunity and took massive action to make it happen. If you’re looking for inspiration on launching a startup that has both impact and money in it, look no further. As well, this episode is valuable for future-focused nature-lovers who have wondered: how will we adapt to a changing world and survive it? Get some answers today.
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- [0:36] When you talk about using money to solve a problem now, with a country or a city, this is what you’re talking about? Parametric insurance.
- [3:26] How parametric insurance allows banks to make loans
- [4:34] How the finance vehicles (parametric insurance, reinsurance) are major tools for Floodbase
- [5:13] How there’s a lot of private capital that can be distribute through these financial vehicles
- [6:28] Why do you think a ‘for-profit way’ is the way to drive changes?
- [8:43] How Floodbase needs to partner with local organizations to understand local context, to understand what resilience looks like
- [10:10] How did you strategically align your investors?
- [13:59] How you have to include ‘impact’ in the ‘product-market-impact’ fit formula
- [14:45] What does the investor landscape look like moving forward?
- [18:50] What advice do you have for someone starting a climate tech company (or non-profit) today?
- [22:01] How Floodbase defined a concrete and literal ‘win’ and what it looked like in the future
- [22:56] What’s the next big step change in climate action or sustainability?
- [24:19] Rapid mayhem questions!
- [27:30] Climate change is so big, people often feel helpless in helping. What is the equivalent of what a listener can do?
- [29:45] Where can we find you?
Links From Episode
- Connect with Bessie: LinkedIn | Twitter
- Connect with Beth Tellman (Co-founder): LinkedIn
- Follow Floodbase: LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog
- What is parametric insurance
- How does parametric insurance work
- What is reinsurance
- What is climate adaptation
- What is climate resilience
- Colin Doyle (Floodbase Principal Scientist)
- What is underwriting
- Lowercarbon Capital
- What is (social) equity
- What is disaster science
- What is climate adaptation
- What is risk transfer
- Just 1 inch of flood water can cause $27,000 in damage to your home (source)
- Wetlands in the U.S. save more than $30 billion in annual flood damage repair costs (source)
- ~17% of all the urban land in the United States is located in the “100-year” or high risk flood zone (source)
- For every degree (Celsius) of climate change, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere increases by ~7% (source)
- FEMA Flood Maps
- Droneseed (now Mast Restoration)
- Floodbase’s world’s largest collection of flood maps
How might the future of flood risk management affect your neighborhood or city? Share in the comments below!