On September 28, 2018
Floodmapp is an Australian startup that provides real-time flood mapping and intelligent flood alerts in order to improve safety and reduce flood related damage.
The company was founded by Ryan Prosser and Juliette Murphy after they recognised that technology has the potential to mitigate the disastrous impact flooding can have on the lives of millions of people across the globe each year.
Originally operating as a hobby project both Ryan and Juliette went full time on the project in January of this year and were later accepted into the River City Labs accelerator program.
Juliette is a Chartered Professional Engineer with 10 years’ experience specialising in flood engineering and hydrology. She also has first hand experience seeing the impact that flooding can have on the community when her friend’s houses were devastated by the Brisbane floods of 2011.
It was during this time, and other periods of high rain, where Juliette would be inundated with messages from people trying to figure out if they were in an area likely to be affected. Recognising that responding to individual messages was not a scalable solution Juliette teamed up with Ryan to develop a tech solution for communicating flood data.
The first product released by the team was a mobile application that they presented to Brisbane City Council and were invited to tender an innovation proposal. While the presentation went well the council needed the application developed in iOS, as well as Android. As a result Ryan and Juliette got to work chasing down funding grants to extend their capabilities across both the iOS and Android operating systems.
It was during this time however that mentors within the startup community convinced the team to aim higher to set their gaze higher than building one app for one council.
Immersing themselves into the startup community Floodmapp were initially accepted into the H2 Accelerator Program which they graduated from in June 2018. Following this the company was also accepted into the River City Labs program, which they are currently participating in.
One of the major learnings during this time was to “let go of what we thought we knew” according to Ryan. As he went on to say “we needed to ask more questions, and not fill in the blanks”. Taking this data driven approach they focused in on one key question. With the average annual price tag of flooding in Australia being $9 billion we wanted to know whose problem it really is.
As Ryan went on to explain, “It is the government’s responsibility, but their mandate is prevention of loss and life, and they do a great job at that. But insurers, mining companies and farmers were still paying billions of dollars on average every year. So we thought about what we could do for them”.
This led to a lot of prototyping and testing. The company looked at things like property risk reports, to peer-to-peer disaster management coordination. However “what stuck was trying to solve everyone’s core problem, floods are hard to predict and even when you do the information is hard to understand. Everyone needs to know sooner, and they need to see where and what is going to be affected”.
As a result the team settled on building a flood alert service which includes a visualisation on the flood inundated area. Or put another way it’s like a google map for flooding.
To achieve this goal the company is using Machine Learning models to use rainfall to predict inundation areas. As Juliette outlined, “the models are coarse, but they’re fast. I’d rather know now what the 80% confidence area is going to look like tomorrow, then be shown the 100% after the fact, when my house is flooded.”.
As Juliette went on to further detail, “the advantage this approach has, is the more data we are able to acquire and feed it we can continue to refine our models and continue to improve our results.”
As the team continues to embark on their journey through River City Labs they both pointed to the network and camaraderie as being on of the biggest advantages of the program. As Ryan mentioned “people think modern founders are brave for having a go of things. I can’t imagine what it was like before they’re were programs like this and spaces like RCL. Seeing other people putting in the hard yards and putting themselves out there day after day makes your efforts feel like you’re not the only one who is crazy.”
In addition to that Floodmapp have also found the advice of their fellow startup founders incredible helpful. In particular, they recalled a story from their time at H2 where Joel Robbie the CEO of Nod, another H2 alumni, said “sales at this size is like politics, unfortunately one person liking you isn’t enough. Find out who gets to vote, find out what their needs and values are how you can help them, and when it comes time you need to make sure more than 50% vote for you.”
Looking to the future the Floodmapp are looking to expand their current models to cover all of QLD and NSW. Within 6 months they will cover the whole of Australia and after that they will look to pull in and parse data from North America.
In addition to this they are seeking to do more market research into the agribusiness vertical. In particular, they will seek to determine how many farms beyond our pilots suffer losses from flooding, and what appetite for alerts they have.
To learn more about Floodmapp you can visit their website here www.floodmapp.com