Before becoming the CEO of Prescient Weather Ltd., a data-focused company developing products to assist climate-impacted industries, Dr. Jan Dutton worked for a number of years in the commercial weather industry. Growing up, Jan’s father, John Dutton, was a Professor of Meteorology at The Pennsylvania State University Department of Meteorology. So, meteorology and climatology have always been in his blood. After earning his undergraduate degree, Jan decided to pursue his doctorate in meteorology as well as a Master of Business Administration at The Pennsylvania State University, with the goal of delving into the commercial side of climate change.
The Journey to Prescient Weather
Jan initially decided to put his graduate degrees to work by starting his own company focused on weather risk. But soon after, he joined WeatherBug (now called Earth Networks) as a product manager. He eventually left to join a New York City based startup called Storm Exchange, along with his current co-entrepreneurs at Prescient Weather – John Dutton, Jeremy Ross, and Richard James. Unfortunately, Storm Exchange did not survive the economic downturn.
John, Jeremy, and Richard went on to start Prescient Weather, while Jan joined a company called DTN. But when it was recently purchased from Schneider Electric by a private equity company, Jan left DTN. The natural next step in his career was to join his father, Jeremy, and Richard at Prescient Weather as CEO. His primary focus for the foreseeable future is to lead sales and marketing efforts while also searching for new opportunities for the company.
Jan’s personal motivation is closely associated with Prescient Weather’s, which is to help companies and organizations address the risk associated with climate and weather variability. As a kid, Jan always had an entrepreneurial side ingrained in him. For example, he had various jobs including mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and delivering newspapers. Because of his interest in entrepreneurship, it was an easy choice to become an entrepreneur as an adult and an even easier one to join Prescient Weather.
The Business of Weather Intelligence and Climate Innovation
Prescient Weather focuses on products that enable climate analysis and forecasting, concentrating on better understanding impacts beyond the typical 14-day outlook. Prescient Weather’s mission is to help companies either mitigate the risk associated with climate and weather variability or to maximize the potential opportunity that such fluctuations afford.
Just as any other business, Prescient Weather has had its own obstacles. For one, the climate analytics industry is highly competitive. Much of the data is openly available to the public, meaning barriers to industry entrants are low. Thus, Prescient Weather seeks to create unique, exceptionally valuable climate data analytics products and models that are hard to replicate.
Products to Manage Weather and Climate Risk
Prescient Weather’s flagship products include:
CropProphet is a corn, soybean, and winter wheat yield forecasting system that forecasts at the county level. It is a statistically based system that analyzes historical climate and county crop yield information over the past few decades to determine the relationship between climate and crop yields.
The World Climate Service provides sub-seasonal (two-week to six-week) and seasonal (one-month to six-month) forecasts based on the best science available.
Whereas, the World Climate Service provides information about future climate in the coming weeks and months, ClimBiz provides information about future climate scenarios over the next several decades in easy to consume formats. The mission of ClimBiz is to enable companies to assess their associated risks with climate change.
Prescient Weather uses a variety of climate and weather information and sources to create its products, including:
- Weather reanalysis products
- NOAA’s Climate Forecast System version 2
- Model projections of future climate
- Data from the Canadian Meteorological Center
- Various observational and gridded climate datasets
Prescient Weather also recently incorporated data from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, which is widely understood to provide the most accurate weather forecast model available. And, Prescient may include climate forecast information from Copernicus.
Advice for Future Meteorologists
Looking back, the one piece of advice Jan offers is to take more risk. Jan explains that it seems meteorologists are by nature risk-averse individuals and that can cloud business thinking. Additionally, Jan notes that it is useful to focus as much on sales and marketing of science-based products as on the science itself. While science and its application are greatly important to Prescient Weather so is obtaining feedback provided by customers.
If he weren’t with Prescient Weather, Jan might be a commercial airline pilot, which he dreamt about as a child. He often looks up to the sky to see airplanes flying over and frequently thinks about aviation. Although he doesn’t fly commercial planes, Jan obtained his single engine land pilot certification as a teenager, so he no longer has to merely dream about flying!