Come rain or shine, the weather is in good shape

At Bonduelle Traiteur, the clouds gathered at the start of the year. No sun, no picnic. On the other hand, take-out salads and grated carrots remain on the supermarket shelves. Unable to move the stratocumulus, the king of vegetables had only one thing to do: limit the damage. So he turned to Climpact-Metnext, a Parisian SME whose specialty is measuring the impact of time on business. Plan ahead to limit waste. Almost to the tray of tabbouleh.

To tell the truth, hundreds of companies are requesting this little French champion, born from the December 2012 merger of Cimpact and a subsidiary of Météo-France, Metnext. “We are a leader in Europe in the field of climate intelligence”, explains its head, the doctor of climatology Harilaos Loukos. Understand, “expert in statistical cross-referencing of economic and meteorological data”. His company invoices millions of euros (he does not disclose his revenue) to clients such as Coca, Unilever, Lactalis or even GrDF to help them better manage the impact of weather on their activity. By analyzing sales history and weather data over several years, the company’s twenty-five employees provide both sales forecasts for the coming weeks, but also risk analyzes for the season. A golden market as “80% of the economy is weather sensitive”, according to Harilaos Loukos, who founded his company ten years ago, amid the climate change debate.

This first semester, the entire economy could well suffer under the weather, so much did the bad weather weigh on consumer morale. To find a spring as cold as 2013, we have to go back more than a quarter of a century. It’s easy to imagine the damage to ice cream vendors, whose business is down 17% compared to seasonal norms. When it’s 15 degrees, the vanilla-chocolate ball doesn’t melt, of course, but it doesn’t sell either. We guess at the pale face of the sunscreen traders (- 20% since the beginning of the year), without suspecting the same depression in the trade of insecticides (- 28%). But bad weather also hits unexpected places: “In the women’s underwear department in a hypermarket, a degree less results in a 7.5% drop in turnover. So with the 6 degrees missing in the spring, the losses are around 40%”, explains expert Gabriel Gross.

This HEC is not a specialist in briefs, but rather in the register of belts and braces: Meteo Protect, the company he founded eighteen months ago, actually offers companies to insure themselves against this cursed weather risk. He got the idea when he was responsible for turning around companies in difficulty. Thus, he had noticed that a manufacturer of car batteries saw its sales collapse because the excessively mild weather did not adequately test the accumulators. His new business is off to a flying start: he already works in five European countries, but also in Korea, and aims to break even in 2013. “The seasons have not been normal for three years in a row, the boss almost seems to offer himself even welcome. As with currency risk, companies can no longer assume weather risk alone.” Unfortunately, a failed sale of garden furniture in the spring cannot be made up for in the summer.

Climpact, Meteo Protect… these start-ups aren’t the only ones converting Mother Nature’s whims into business. On its own, the public institute Météo-France collected 38 million euros last year by selling customized forecasts to companies. Sniffing out the right vein, others specialize in unsuspected niche markets. Like Noveltis, an analysis company that has so far drawn its 4.3 million euros in revenue from the use of satellite data to advise space agencies. Since then, its president, Richard Bru, a doctor of physical sciences, has developed a tool to predict rogue waves, the 100-foot-long walls of water that on the high seas overcome most container ships and cause several shipwrecks each year. “We have been marketing our solution to shipping companies since July,” says the head of this SME based in Labège, southeast of Toulouse. Count 3,000 euros for a one-time forecast and more than 100,000 euros for a very complete subscription. Richard Bru also knows how to identify the most suitable locations for installing wind turbines and expects these two new services to generate an additional €1 million.

The Open Ocean niche is just as sharp. Two oceanographers, Jérôme Cuny and Renaud Laborde, created this weather research company specializing in predicting ocean currents and waves for tidal turbines. “It’s the oil of tomorrow,” says Jérôme Cuny, who analyzes and models currents and waves to choose the best possible location and plan equipment maintenance operations. “One of the significant variables is the strength of the wind. It affects the current up to a depth of 10 to 20 meters,” he explains, happy to have signed his first contract in December. With five employees in Brest and Paris, the young shot aims for 250,000 euros in turnover this year and one million euros within three years.

Even the general public is ready to put their hands in their pockets to go beyond the TV bulletin. Meteo Consult, a direct competitor to Météo-France, had a turnover of 9 million euros last year between its various websites, its Audiotel service and La Chaîne Météo. “In the beginning we were aimed at companies, but very quickly we offered our services to yachtsmen in particular”, recalls Eric Mas, its founder and current technical director of the company. Subscriptions, from a few hundred euros a month to 1,500 euros a day for the most demanding, such as the navigator Michel Desjoyeaux, provide 60% of revenue, against 40% for advertising. This market for amateur meteorologists makes the eyes of many entrepreneurs shine, including Frédéric Potter. This web professional has just developed Netatmo, a weather station connected to the Internet, which allows you to measure the quality of the air inside your home and the weather conditions outside and to consult them on any smartphone or tablet. The entrepreneur has just raised 4 million euros and has managed to place his toy in all Apple Stores in France at a significant price: 169 euros. If the weather continues to play tricks on us, there’s always someone to rub their hands with.

Jerome Cuny (Open Ocean)
250,000 euros in research on currents He sells research on ocean currents to manufacturers of tidal turbines.

Harilaos Loukos (Climpact-Metnext)
50 groups subscribe to its statistics. He studies the impact of weather on business and helps his clients adapt.

Gabriel Gross (Weather Protect)
10 insurance contracts under negotiation. It offers its services to highly weather-sensitive businesses.

Frederic Potter (Netatmo)
169 euros to afford his mini weather station. Well done, its Internet-connected station is distributed in Apple Stores.

Guillaume Séchet, BFMTV weather host and savvy internet businessman

We know Guillaume Séchet weather host on BFMTV. A little less the cozy little company he set up in 2003: Together with four other meteorologists, he runs 19 websites covering as many places: major French cities, but also mountain towns (Chamrousse, Chambéry, etc.) and the cities of London, Brussels and Geneva. All this brings together 200,000 unique daily visitors, plus 130,000 connections via smartphone applications. Guillaume Séchet insists on this: he works as forecasters based on data provided by international organizations. “A forecast with small onions”, he asserts. Advertising revenue is significant: 300,000 euros per year.

Sebastien Dumoulin

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