The startup turning the tide with predictive flood modelling technology

2 July 2019

CEO and co-founder, Juliette Murphy, discusses how FloodMapp has developed rapid predictive flood modelling technology to provide businesses with more time and location-specific information to prevent flood damage. The solution reads in real-time weather and river height data and leverages cutting-edge technology (including big data and analytics, and machine learning) to produce predictive mapping.

What is your favourite thing about Brisbane City?

It’s hard to pick one thing! I love going for a run along the river pathways – particularly at sunset. It really hits home how beautiful the city is.

I also love the sense of community here. Brisbane is a city that often feels more like a town. The startup community here is particularly close-knit and we’re so lucky for it!

What inspired you to start your business?

In 2011, I was living in Brisbane when Cyclone Yasi hit. The catastrophic flooding submerged my friend’s house with the floodwaters going over the roof. She lost almost everything she owned. When it was safer, we spent hours cleaning up and trying to salvage her family photos. It really impacted me. After that, I moved to Calgary, Canada, which suffered from devastating flooding in 2013. Over 75,000 people were evacuated with little warning. I took in five friends who had nowhere to go as they had lost their homes from the flood.

The learnings from both events were very similar, in that residents needed more warning time and a better understanding of the impacted areas from pulse events, like floods. As a professional Water Resources Engineer with ten years’ experience working in hydrology and flood modelling, these events, combined with my professional background, gave rise to the motivation to improve community flood preparedness and response. FloodMapp started as a passion project in late 2016 and started attracting interest, so I co-founded FloodMapp with Ryan Prosser, who is a full stack developer and also my partner. In February 2018, we incorporated the company and went full-time on the venture. It has grown a lot since – we are now a team of six talented engineers, developers and designers.

Can you describe your business or startup?

FloodMapp has developed a proprietary technology for large-scale, rapid predictive flood modelling. Our innovative flood models take in real time rainfall and river height data, then leverage hydrology, hydraulics and machine learning techniques to produce predictive mapping, and visualize the expected extent of flood inundation on a live and interactive map. We are working with insurers, utilities and other businesses to provide interactive mapping and more warning time to improve safety and prevent damage when it comes to flooding. In the longer term, we hope to work with governments to deliver on their vision of resilient cities. Our vision is to be able to help people on a global scale to evacuate safely, with their loved ones and valuables.

FloodMapp offers two core products:

  • Predictive flood mapping; a flood mapping forecast service for approaching flood events. This product provides businesses, their staff and customers with more warning time and location-specific flood forecasts; empowering them to improve safety and minimise flood damage.
  • Large scale flood hazard/risk mapping; which uses probabilistic data to capture future flood risks. This product is useful for insurance companies looking to offer flood insurance to those not currently covered.
    Both products use our proprietary flood model. Our innovative approach makes our predictive real-time mapping product a world first.

What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced to date? And how did you solve this?

The biggest challenge that we have faced is talent sourcing. As a lean team, we allocate most of our time and efforts to product development, sales and marketing. During the growth phase, we began putting more focus on team expansion, with a particular focus on core competencies and delivery enablers. Startups tend to experience an additional recruitment challenge because they are brand new identities. To get around this, we leveraged on social media and our networks to organically reach out to talent with an emphasis on culture fit. With a clear vision, our team was able to connect with passionate and talented individuals that have contributed enormously to our team’s successes, without compromising on fun!

How do you plan to scale your business locally, nationally and internationally?

Our team has entered several competitions, participated in events, and applied for grants locally and internationally to gain visibility in the startup ecosystem. In October 2018, FloodMapp was named a winner in a global Insuretech competition, and since then we have attracted quite a bit of interest in the US insurance industry. We are using this momentum to roll out our product in the US insurance market. The Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur Program grant will help us attend and showcase our product at Insuretech Connect, the biggest US Insuretech conference.

Recently, we have been accepted into the Plug and Play Insuretech program in Silicon Valley. I attended the first week of the program in Silicon Valley and had some more great meetings with large reinsurers and their investment team. Participating in the selection day has already provided us with a great deal of exposure, validation and lots of leads. We had companies from Germany, the Netherlands and Canada request meetings to discuss pilots. It has been very exciting!

What impact will your product have on the Brisbane community?

Brisbane is built on the Brisbane River floodplan and so the built environment can be exposed to flooding. We can’t prevent floods but we can become more prepared and more resilient. We’re currently working with both insurers and utilities in Queensland to improve safety and minimise damage for future flood events by providing location-specific alerts and interactive mapping in the lead up to a flood.

Do you have any advice for a business that is starting out?

Before you start building a product, an MVP or a prototype, do as much research as you can to understand if there is a real market demand for what you are selling. Do as many customer interviews as you can with potential customers. This is probably the most important thing that I learned when we were just starting out.

How do you plan to use the funds from the Lord Mayor’s Global Entrepreneur Program?

Winning this grant means that we can increase our presence and marketing efforts in the US this year. We plan to use the funding to travel to and speak at the Insuretech Connect conference in Las Vegas in September. Insuretech Connect is the world’s biggest insurance technology conference. We attended last year and connected with people who later became customers. So we’re hoping to increase our presence at the conference in 2019.

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