WeatherSphere, a small Mountain View-based startup founded by former eBay engineer Raghav Gupta in fall 2012, is focusing on developing mobile applications that look at the weather space from the technology point of view. Today, the company has a handful of paid applications in the Apple App Store, which consistently rank in top charts in the Weather (paid) category.
Gupta stopped by TechCrunch’s office hours at the Disrupt SF 2013 conference this week, to talk about what his company has been working on lately. He explains that the idea to do something in the weather space came to him in 2011, after the deadly tornado in Joplin, Missouri. “At that time I was building and releasing free location-based social networking apps, and one of those apps was for alerting users to nearby bad weather,” says Gupta. “One day, that app suddenly got a massive burst of downloads that overloaded my servers, and I had to successively increase the price to $4.99 to staunch the tide of new users. Turns out, nearly everybody in that area desperately wanted to get real-time information about the location of the tornadoes, and to get alerted when they were asleep at night.”
As he began to research the space further, he found that most of those looking at weather technology tended to be either the government (via NOAA) or older companies like Weather Channel – an app, in fact, that WeatherSphere’s apps now outrank in the paid weather app chart in the iTunes App Store.
Today, the company has six weather applications in the App Store in total, four which are fairly popular, including Hi-Def Radar ($0.99, #1 in paid weather apps), RadarCast ($1.99, #3), LightningCast ($3.99, then subscription), and Snow Forecast ($1.99).
RadarCast currently shows where storms are moving in real-time, provides rain start and stop times and shows weather radar data as an animation from past to future at street-level resolution, among other things. Gupta tells me that they’ve updated the app this week to offer a feature users have been asking for: overlaying driving directions on the weather map, so they don’t have to switch between apps all the time.
This feature, called “TurnCast,” can now provide safe driving directions by taking into account the storms that could impact your trip – even if the storms aren’t in the area yet.
“For example, lots of people drive from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe every year during winter, and many get stuck on the highway due to heavy snowfall,” says Gupta. “The benefit of using TurnCast is that when you are planning your trip in San Francisco, it will show you an alternate route if snow is expected to start falling on the highway two hours after you start driving.” Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and others can also use TurnCast to avoid heavy rain or patchy rain.
A standalone app for navigation called “TurnCast” will break out this feature into its own application in around four weeks’ time in the iOS App Store Navigation category, where it will include turn-by-turn voice navigation functionality and voice alerts like “heavy snowfall 5 miles ahead, re-route?”, or “wildfire across roadway 3 miles ahead, re-route?”
Across all WeatherSphere apps, the company has 1.6 million paid downloads and 450,000 paid active users. Gupta says they’ve turned down some funding offers from local VCs are currently profitable. The company is now looking to license its data to interested partners.