An Interview with AerisWeather’s Co-Founder, Michael Vaughan
In October of 2022, the Vaisala Xweather product suite was launched, bringing with it changes in the way the weather data, hardware, and software space functions. Xweather Marketing Manager Anastasia Manner recently interviewed AerisWeather co-founder Michael Vaughan about the history behind Xweather and how, exactly, we got here. Are you curious? Read on to learn about the Vaisala acquisition of AerisWeather and the birth of Xweather.
AM: Tell us a bit about the state of things for AerisWeather prior to acquisition.
MV: Years ago, we recognized that while there were numerous weather data providers in the industry, few were utilizing IoT technology to ingest new data sources to diversify and enrich the data. We decided to invest in this concept with Weather or Knot, LLC, and even obtained several patents. However, after some time it was clear we needed more capital if we were going to take the concept to the next level. After serious consideration, we started looking for strategic investors to enable that – not just from a financial perspective, but also as a strategic partner, contributing with expertise and capability.
We’d received a number of compelling offers and had negotiations with several interested parties, but Vaisala’s offer of a strategic acquisition stood out as the most compelling right from the start.
AM: Were you familiar with Vaisala before? Why did their offer appeal the most to you?
MV: I knew of Vaisala before as a leading measurement hardware provider and specifically their weather sensor and lightning detection offerings. Right away, we thought, “It’s a smart move from them to incorporate subscription-based data-as-a-service offerings”. It made perfect sense.
Part of the reason Vaisala’s offer appealed to us was Samuli (Samuli Hänninen, BU director) being totally open and sincere about his vision. They needed a foundational tech stack that would bring the capability to seamlessly ingest, productize, and deliver this data to customers globally. We also appreciated the prospected business set-up – being a part of a separate business unit with a start-up approach and entrepreneurial mindset – which meant we’d sustain the ability to be nimble, effect change, and steer the strategy. Both Jarkko Sairanen and Kai Öistämö flew in from Finland to meet the team and reinforce that message. Vaisala’s solid financial performance, along with their stellar reputation in the global hardware market, made the decision even easier.
"Vaisala’s solid financial performance, along with their stellar reputation in the global hardware market, made the decision even easier. We already knew that Vaisala had a number of science-backed technologies and offerings, from air quality and lightning to road weather models, that would be attractive to the AerisWeather audience – that we could include in our subscriptions – and today, our users are already seeing the benefits of that."
AM: And how did you celebrate when you signed the deal?
MV: Honestly, there wasn’t much of a celebration as we had been up all night finishing the closing documents, with signatures happening around 3 am. We then hit launch on the press release button just before the markets opened. Personally, I drove to South Dakota that afternoon for the final weekend of the pheasant season!
AM: What's the story behind Xweather? How was the brand born?
MV: Xweather is a concept that the AerisWeather team first came up with in 2016. The idea was to ingest non-traditional data sources, such as sensors from passenger vehicles, and allow data owners to generate revenue from their own data. We believed that these non-traditional data sources would augment and complement those sources already available in the marketplace. The team created some brand sketches anticipating they’d be part of something game-changing in the future – and that’s how Xweather was born, years before its official launch as part of Vaisala.
When it comes to the name – Xweather – our thinking was that “X” implies a certain precise location. It’s “right there”. Yet, it can mean pretty much anything and depends on who you are talking to, which is the fun part of it. This notion became part of Xweather messaging – What’s your “X”? What are you going to solve with all this weather data?
What’s your “X”? What are you going to solve with all this weather data?
In 2022, when Vaisala’s new business unit needed its own brand, we pulled Xweather out from the archives, and I believe it is a perfect fit for what the company stands for.
AM: How are Xweather and the AerisWeather business model fitting into the Vaisala enterprise?
MV: It’s both smooth and bumpy all at once, really.
I am very appreciative of the fact that we were given the opportunity to keep the AerisWeather brand alive, allowing us the time to launch a new brand without unnecessary hurry. Furthermore, we are not constrained to follow the traditional “Vaisala way”, but rather encouraged to lend our agile start-up culture to the greater Xweather mission. This is humbling, exhilarating, and taxing at the same time, as steering change in a large organization, especially across continents and time zones, is no easy task. And of course, learning and ingesting immense amounts of new knowledge from Vaisala and our new teammates makes it even more challenging.
The transition is going full speed ahead, and surely there are challenges, but that’s a natural part of the process and our entire team is looking forward to the future and being part of Xweather.
AM: What kind of opportunities has this acquisition opened?
MV: Data is the new oil; the commodity of all commodities. Together with Xweather, we are now like a finely-tuned engine that collects, productizes and distributes some of the most valuable data on Earth. It’s as if we listen to the heartbeat of the planet every single day and translate it to actionable insight. We’re committed to pursuing an ambitious goal, which is to help businesses adjust to and overcome the challenges posed by the natural world around us with weather data. We’re helping them turn this data into action.
Luckily, now we have an unbeatable advantage to achieve this goal – Vaisala gives us the unique ability to collect highly-accurate ground-truth observations to enrich our data streams and algorithms. This is like having the ultimate ground-truth in our back pocket, and with that we will change the status quo of the weather industry.
AM: Are you excited about officially becoming part of Xweather?
MV: I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel nostalgic and sentimental. I surely do. Change is always hard, that’s a given. Yet, I do recognize that the opportunities we have with the Xweather brand are nearly endless, and this makes me genuinely excited. Now, amid this transition, we’re working to help our customers and followers understand that AerisWeather is not “sailing away”; it’s being taken to a new level. This is a planned, strategic move to multiply our capabilities, which is a great thing. It’s like being reborn into something much more advanced.
AM: How do you see Xweather fix years from now? What impact do you hope the most for?
MV: I might sound overly confident, but I have no doubts that five years from now Xweather will be the leading high-quality weather solution provider for business globally.
I firmly believe that we will power a long line of consumer-facing and business applications that require weather data to succeed. We will also shake up the industry with software solutions leveraging proprietary data generated from world-class sensor hardware – that’s a game changer. We will also continue investing in new and exciting data sources, some of which may not even exist today.
We will also play an undeniable role in solving climate change: Our job is to get our data in the hands of the people with the brains to come up with and enable solutions that will improve our current environmental situation and reduce the impacts their business domain has on the natural world around us.
AM: And finally, how will this transition affect AerisWeather customers?
MV: Other than a brand change down the road, we’re focused on rolling out a robust suite of new datasets to our customers that reflect the synergy of our acquisition by Vaisala.
We recently released all-new air quality offerings through our API and Mapping subscriptions. Users now have access to individual pollutants in the atmosphere across the globe, plus air quality index. What I’m really excited about is our new mapping layers as they are visually stunning. There’s a new demo on our website showcasing some of this with our new MapsGL layers.
Vaisala’s renowned as the global leader in high-quality lightning data, and as a direct result of our acquisition, we are now the primary delivery vehicle for that data to subscribers. We have lightning/flash and density data accessible right in Flex subscriptions, and our Lightning Add-On unlocks lightning, lightning/summary, and lightning/threats – which shows where lightning is likely to occur in the near future. It’s ground-breaking.
A few weeks ago, we released our new maritime endpoint, which brings wave, swell, and tide data to the table – when you pair this with the rest of our powerful data, between historical and forecast, you’ve got everything you could need from a weather perspective to optimize any maritime-based operation.
Road Weather, our next launch, will provide real-time and forecast road condition data and layers throughout North America, Europe, and Japan – and we’ve been able to bring components of this data to our always-expanding Flex subscription. The advanced datasets, like specific road condition and analytics data, will be available with our Road Weather Add-On.
Renewable energy datasets – both historical and forecast – are in our product launch pipeline and we’re working with the Xweather Renewable Energy Team to build out these endpoints and layers. We’re really excited for what this solution will offer solar and wind energy projects – everywhere from site planning on new projects to maintenance, operations & load forecasting for operational power stations.
It’s a lot – and you can bet that there will be a lot more where this came from. We’re excited for the future of Xweather and to see what we can accomplish as a powerhouse in weather solution providers.