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Exclusive: Wildfire startup Rain raises $9.7M led by DBL

A Rain autonomous aircraft tests out fire-retardant spray. Photo: Courtesy of Rain.

Rain, a startup building aerial firefighting tech, has closed a seed round of $9.7 million led by DBL Partners, the company tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Wildfires are a massive and growing climate problem across the globe, and fire agencies need better tools to stop them more rapidly.

Details: The Alameda, Calif.-based startup, which equips autonomous aircraft with firefighting capability, said other participating investors include VoLo Earth Ventures, Kapor Capital and Convective Capital.

  • The company's list of participating angel investors in the round include: lean startup entrepreneur Steve Blank, Stripe co-founder brothers John and Patrick Collison, Sunrun co-founder Edward Fenster, and SpaceX exec Brian Bjelde.
  • DBL are the investors behind Tesla, SolarCity and Nextracker.
  • Rain, founded in 2019, will use the funding to deploy pilot projects for its systems, which pre-position autonomous aircraft in wildfire-prone regions and leverage data from early fire- and lightning-detection systems.
  • Rain co-founder and CEO Maxwell Brodie said he was inspired to develop the technology after a large portion of his hometown of Kelowna, British Columbia, was destroyed in a catastrophic wildfire in 2003. The fire was started by a single lightning strike.

Big picture: Climate change is leading to more active, more intense and longer wildfire seasons. This summer, firestorms blazed across Maui, Canada, Algeria and Tunisia, among other regions.

  • Computing technology — from faster chips to smarter algorithms — can enable new technology for firefighting like Rain's autonomous aircraft.
  • The Biden administration and the state of California have signaled support for new computing-enabled wildfire tech.
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