Founder Q&A

#50Startups: Better Firefighting Through Technology with Firewhat

On average more than 100,000 wildland fires burn 4 to 5 million acres a year in the United States. But FireWhat, a new startup in town, aims to limit some of that destruction by mapping fires, developing technologies to track responders, and ultimately make the fire fighting process more efficient.     Unless you are kicking it old school with a handwritten dead-tree map, most of the maps we use today on smartphones, computers, and even printed, are a result of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). We can use a GIS like Google Maps to find our way around, but there’s an advanced level of the field that can do much more. GIS basically makes the world a complex quilt of data that can be analyzed and put to good use in decision making and planning. BendTECH sat down with FireWhat CEO Sam Lanier to learn how they are applying GIS and expert-sourced information to improve fire fighting and why they’re expanding in Bend.   Startup: Firewhat Started: Jan 4th, 2011. =&0=&Sondra Suazo, Jeremy Orozco, Ryan Avila, and Sam Lanier =&1=&6 Fulltime Employees, and 4 Seasonal Staff. Preparing to add a few developers and administrative staff in the coming months. =&2=&Dunsmuir, CA, and a desk at the BendTech coworking space. We’re looking to expand operations in the coming months. =&3=& We’re a technology company that provides custom tools to map and track assets in and out of the field. We aim to correct the antiquated delivery of information to our nation’s first responders. =&4=&FireWhat came about after several road trips around the world. We all worked in different areas of Emergency Response throughout the Western United States and realized there had to be a better way to share information so the same mistakes weren’t repeated amongst responders. In 2011, the company made a major shift in development, and focused it’s attention on the need to provide better wildfire information to the public. We launched our first mobile application, a Google and WeatherUnderground-based app fed by our information. Then in 2013, we acquired the rights to, the largest database for expert-sourced wildfire info, and started our relationship with Esri. Our main goal is to geospatially enable wildfire data on the web so it can be used by anyone. Can you talk about your Esri partnership? Shortly after the purchase, we were fortunate to be selected as an Esri Startup Partner and began the rapid revamp with a full integration of Esri’s ArcGIS Online GIS platform. The online mapping platform provides measurable success in the wildfire community. =&5=&We garner revenue from a several places including ad space on, mobile application development, and contracts with the government for our GIS mobile labs for emergency response to natural disasters. We’re also contracting wildfire data distribution to other types of companies including media, weather and timber businesses. =&6=& Yes, FireWhat is in the process of starting its next round of financing. =&7=& Being based in Dunsmuir has been a godsend for the team. We are able to keep our costs way down. But to the contrary, we are limited on finding local tech developers. This is a big reason we are expanding our reach into Bend. How you making use of Unmanned Aerial Systems? We worked closely with our city to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test unmanned aerial systems for wildland firefighting and search and rescue. Our request was approved last August. Now we’re working to partner with a UAS platform that flies at high elevation, for long periods, and has extended range. This is extremely important for our industry and will be an evolutionary change in wildfire management. =&8=& We are in a rapid growth phase. With growth comes increased demands on the team, and the need to raise additional capital to meet contract requirements. We’re working on technologies that speed the process of mapping emergency incidents with the use of GIS and looking forward expanding to Bend.

#50startups: PrestoBox First to Automate Branding Process

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If your small business was a pair of shoes, would it be more like hiking boots, loafers or pumps? If your business was a vehicle, would it be an old-fashioned wagon, speed boat or an adorable scooter? The questions may seem far-fetched, but answer a dozen of them using PrestoBox’s Brand Genie tool and you’ll end up with a brand personality, business logo, business card and even website to call your own.

#50startups: PulsedLight Helps Drones Fly Safely


Bend-based PulsedLight’s first product is LIDAR-Lite, a small sensor that makes high performance distance measurements at low cost. If you’ve heard of LIDAR before (it’s short for “light radar,” a method of measuring distance by illuminating a target and analyzing the reflection), it might have been as the robust mapping sensor on the top of Google’s self driving cars that cost as much as the car itself, or as an often used tool at NASA.

#50startups: Can The Handsel Change How You Sell Things Online?

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Molly Scofield made a last minute decision to enter the pitch contest at the unConference last month and handily won the wildcard spot at the Bend Venture Conference. Her polished pitch for The Handsel, a mobile app that aims to improve how people buy, sell and swap used goods online, didn’t win the $10,000 concept prize, but it did garner some significant attention from the audience and investors alike.