Software Company Geospiza Switches Focus From Climate Disasters to Public Health

Friday, May 8, 2020

By Megan O’Brien, finance and business editor
5-minute read

Featured imageGeospiza changed its mapping software to model neighborhoods' vulnerability to coronavirus instead of natural disasters.

In short: 

  • Geospiza, a software company dedicated to improving natural disaster outcomes through data, has temporarily shifted its offerings to its emergency management roots.
  • In response to client demand, Geospiza is using its expertise and proprietary software to help companies navigate the spread of the coronavirus.
  • The company and its offerings are now a top resource in a major coronavirus preparedness kit for cities.


Geospiza is looking a little different nowadays.

The software company out of Denver normally builds tools to help big organizations, including cities and corporations, deal with disasters directly or indirectly caused by climate change such as floods, droughts and hurricanes. Its software platform and the specific tools within it were built to analyze and visualize risk for businesses so that leaders can make data-driven decisions during such disasters, some of which are becoming more severe.

In light of the coronavirus, though, Geospiza has temporarily taken on a new mission of helping organizations track the virus’ spread in their communities.

Most notably, Geospiza has shifted its web-based exposure mapping to provide companies with a visual sense of coronavirus risk vs. climate disaster risk. 

The mapping tool places a company’s physical locations on a map and shows a 50-mile radius of coronavirus cases around them using case trackers from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and John Hopkins University. The maps allow company leaders to make decisions based on detailed, personalized information.

That, among other coronavirus-specific offerings, has landed Geospiza new customers and a spot on an esteemed list of resources for businesses grappling with COVID-19.


Changing gears

At its inception, Geospiza was an emergency management company, developing software to help government-controlled organizations identify the most vulnerable people during disasters of many kinds, from hurricanes to terrorist attacks. In the past year, however, the company started focusing on a software tool specifically for the type of disasters that climate change is likely to make more frequent and severe.

Geospiza is especially suited to respond to COVID-19 given its roots in public health. CEO Sarah Tuneberg has a master’s degree in public health and served as an emergency manager at a private firm specializing in public health prior to founding the company. During her tenure in emergency management, she responded to more than 50 presidentially-declared disasters.

In late March, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed Tuneberg as the director of the Innovation Response Team in the state’s response to COVID-19. Along with its founder, Geospiza itself shifted focus.

“[In the past], we have focused our efforts on climate but really feel that right now, assisting in the COVID-19 pandemic is really where we need to be spending our time and effort,” said Sarah Hamma, director of product management.

GEO spizaGeospiza's software can track a given region's risk of climate disasters and now the coronavirus.


New offerings

Geospiza’s transition to address the coronavirus started when the company published a blog post regarding the risk COVID-19 posed to businesses’ future operations. Organizations inquired about getting more guidance on the topic from Tuneberg given her expertise in emergency management, said Hamma.

“We decided we were well-suited as an organization to help people with this, so we did a bit of targeted outreach offering our services,” she continued.

In addition to mapping the virus’ spread, Geospiza began offering other new solutions that can be implemented together or independently:

  • Its new COVID-19 Quick Start offering is a mix of software and consulting services that helps companies quickly create a support structure for employees. 

It’s a riff on Geospiza’s pre-virus product, which helped clients make and track decisions that accounted for the uncertainty inherent in natural disasters. For customers that purchase the new COVID-19 Quick Start plan, Geospiza experts create, update and implement a continuity of operations plan (COOP), action plan and disaster communications plan related to the virus.

  • Geospiza is also adjusting its proprietary Swift software platform, which was originally created to enable government-related organizations to gauge their communities’ vulnerability to natural disasters. 

Geospiza has adapted the Swift tool so all organizations can use it to identify, at a neighborhood level, communities that are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The software amalgamates information from sources like transportation sensors, social media feeds, census data, COVID-19 case maps and healthcare system data to provide a snapshot of an area’s current susceptibility. This intelligence could, for example, help city officials appropriately allocate stocks of preventive protective gear and medical supplies.

  • For organizations less sure of what they will need in the face of the rapidly-shifting situation, Geospiza is providing ad-hoc subject matter expert (SME) consulting for the first time. 

Geospiza opted to offer this service to ensure that it can address any urgent developments (such as, say, the closure of a given city’s public spaces) and requirements (including government regulations around factory openings) for its clients.


Adjusting the payment model

To ensure accessibility for companies, Geospiza also shifted its payment model. The Swift platform is usually billed on an annual basis, but Geospiza adopted a month-to-month, no commitment subscription with no cap on the number of users per company. Similarly, its new ad-hoc consulting services are available at an hourly rate.

“We don't want organizations paying for software or services they don't need once this crisis is behind us,” said Hamma. “We want to enable organizations to make the best decisions they can right now.”

screenshotThe Geospiza team adjusted its payment model for customers in the wake of COVID-19.


Client cases

The first three organizations to take advantage of Geospiza’s coronavirus-focused offerings were vastly different, exemplifying the need for help across industries.

  • One, a manufacturing company with 43 factories within the U.S., was struggling to support its hourly workers without benefits while trying to stay afloat. The company purchased Geospiza’s COVID-19 Quick Start offering, as well as some consulting, to help.
  • Another organization, a startup incubator with programs around the world, brought on the Geospiza team to ensure it was able to give timely, region-specific guidance and communication to each of its programs.
  • Even an emergency manager out of California used Geospiza’s consulting option to aid in comprehensive emergency efforts in the region.

In terms of its services, Geospiza is trying to remain fluid for clients.

Now, in the third month of the response, “the needs of our clients have shifted,” said Hamma. “We have had one client that we worked solely on preparedness with for a week, and they are operating their own response now. For others, we are still working with them daily on response and recovery. The needs of organizations vary greatly.”

Now, in the third month of the response, “the needs of our clients have shifted. We have had one client operating their own response now. For others, we are still working with them daily.” 


Looking forward

Geospiza’s coronavirus-focused portfolio has been included as a top resource in the coronavirus preparedness kit for cities from urban development platform Cities Today.

Yet, like those of many companies, Geospiza’s path forward isn’t necessarily clear right now.

“We have been happy to shift our focus to emergency response and help organizations where they need the help the most. And we are going to keep doing that as long as organizations need the help,” said Hamma.

“But with that said, we are eager to get back to our work on climate change. Maybe we will keep doing both, but we will have to see how society and the economy react to this new level of uncertainty that we are all facing.”


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