As a third-generation entrepreneur, Demetrius Gray always was being groomed to lead a company. He just didn't know that it would be a tech startup.WeatherCheck
Gray is the co-founder and CEO of WeatherCheck, developer of an online platform used to monitor housing properties for damages caused by hail and other major weather events. He launched the company 3 1/2 years ago, after working in an operations role at a roofing company specializing in insurance-related losses.
"I saw there was a real challenge for policyholders who didn't understand what was going on when weather events impacted them," Gray told Ach5 in a phone interview. "Once I saw that insight, I thought, maybe I could use technology to remedy some of these issues."
Gray said he took after his grandfather and great grandfather, who also were entrepreneurs working in various sectors. His family taught him many lessons about launching his own company from the time he was young.
Name: Demetrius Gray
From: Western Kentucky
Favorite game: Snake.io, which he only plays on commercial flights.
Key quote or motto he lives by: "Never be ruled by fear."
How WeatherCheck Works
The WeatherCheck platform does three things:It finds and reports damaging weather events.It funds claims to make repairs faster for policyholders.It helps facilitate repairs by guiding the rebuilding process.
Gray said he's able to seamlessly serve customers because many steps required to get to the repair stage already are ingrained into the claim-filing insurance process. His primary focus is on speeding up damage repairs to help homeowners get back to normal.
"Where the average claim time takes about 45 days in the United States, we can shorten that to seven to 10 days, so that folks can get back to life as usual," he said. "There's a lot of technology that's helping predict what those next steps are."
WeatherCheck's technology is a robust platform that creates prediction models showing the likelihood of damages to properties.
He said the platform's tech stack monitors every weather event taking place throughout the continental US around the clock. That includes watching over about 80 to 100 million addresses and infrastructures across the nation.
WeatherCheck's interface is straightforward for users. Consumers can type in their home address on the company's website, see a listing of significant weather events that could have impacted their property in the past, then enable free alerts for future events.
Once an event has occurred, WeatherCheck starts the communication process with users to facilitate claims and share resources.
"What's been great is that we have a whole team of folks that are sitting there waiting to take people's messages," Gray said.
"Where the average claim time takes about 45 days in the United States, we can shorten that to seven to 10 days, so that folks can get back to life as usual."
"During the wildfires, for instance, some of our users in Northern California were wondering where the nearest shelters were. All of those things that would otherwise be incredibly stressful to figure out, now you have someone in your phone, acting as a resource."
WeatherCheck has general managers and staff in each market who support the company's users. On the software side of the business, Gray leads a group of 11 employees.
A Pivot Turned Into A New Business
The claims management component of WeatherCheck came as a result of the company making a pivot last year due to the pandemic, as well as a slew of damaging weather events in 2020.
"Originally, we were in the business of selling data to insurance companies," he said. "Since then, we are doubling down on the claims management component of our business and see a future there."
As far as growing this new part of the business, Gray said he's faced challenges, but none that have been any different than any other minority tech founder.WeatherCheck
"I don't think my challenges have been atypical to anyone else's," he said. "Raising money is difficult, and so is finding customers. I think we've had a competitive advantage in having come from the industry, and knowing what product we're building has given us a head start in a lot of ways."
Gray said WeatherCheck made most of its claims last year in North and South Carolina, but he's looking to move into more markets. This year, the company is rolling out its services in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as Denver and Chicago. Gray said he's looking to hire five to 10 team members in each area this year.
Coming from Y Combinator's winter 2019 cohort, where he raised $150,000 in seed funding, Gray has since secured investments from several venture capital firms, including Anorak Ventures and Dragon Capital. He said he now plans to focus on landing more major venture capital in the months ahead.
"The thesis is to continue to raise. We're fortunate in that we have a very strong business model," he said. "What we're looking for is those growth moments that are very clear and that investors can get behind. We have a little work to do there."