In the Forecast
Weather disappointments inspired a prediction app of his own.
How many times have you cursed the weather as it spoiled a vacation, wedding, or freshly waxed car?
Top among Jay Ciccarone's weather disappointments was a soggy golf trip to California's legendary Pebble Beach with his father 21 years ago.
"I booked the trip and did not know January was the rainy season in Monterey," he said. "Had I known this prior, I would have continued with our plans, although I would have been better prepared with sturdier umbrellas, waterproof rain gear."
Since then, Ciccarone, of Wayne, has started a few businesses (golf club manufacturing, novelty gifts, wine video) and has worked at others - including this one, as a director of national advertising and business development from 2005 to 2010 for what now is Philadelphia Media Network.
But that dampened West Coast outing so many years ago is what motivates his latest entrepreneurial undertaking: WeatherPlanner.
Using licensed technology derived from a process using algorithms, climatological factors, and more than 100 years of historical data, WeatherPlanner provides customized, year-ahead weather outlooks covering the United States and Canada for implementation on websites, apps, and other tools that people use to manage their lives.
It brings to the average person a forecasting instrument historically available only to corporations and governments for such weighty matters as optimizing advertising spending and planning wars.
With WeatherPlanner, a vacationer could know a year in advance which days of a two-week trip to Paris were likely to include rain, and thus book indoor activities, such as visiting the Louvre.
"What's important to us is making weather relevant to what you have going on," said Susan Steinbrink, cofounder with Ciccarone and chief marketing officer of WP Intelligence, the company behind WeatherPlanner. She formerly was director of strategic marketing at local travel-management titan Rosenbluth International Inc.
Seeing no need to create an app, the company's founders have opted, instead, to embed technology "in places where people already are," Steinbrink said. That includes the websites of AAA Mid-Atlantic and Schuylkill Valley Sports, a Pottstown-based retailer with 17 stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
WeatherPlanner also has been integrated into the platform of 24me, creator of the Next Generation Personal Assistant, named "App Store Best of 2014" by Apple Inc.
The 24me app enables an array of events and tasks to be loaded on digital calendars, from appointments to bill-payment reminders.
Adding a long-term weather forecast "was so natural for us," said Liat Mordechay Hertanu, 24me's cofounder and chief marketing officer. "Weather affects our lives so much, from the things we wear to trips that we do, to other plans in our life."
After beta testing for 18 months, WeatherPlanner officially launched May 28. It does not charge for placement of its technology. Instead, it collects some revenue it helps generate on those sites.
"For example, if someone types in that they want to know the weather for Oct. 3 and 4 in Ocean City, New Jersey, when they are on a retailer's site, our database knows that's when the MS City to Shore bike ride is," said Ciccarone, WP's CEO. "We connect specific advertisers to those riders, and that's how we make money along with our partners."
For most users, the WeatherPlanner experience is too new to yield meaningful results.
"It definitely hasn't hurt," said Ryan Kistler, e-commerce manager at Schuylkill Valley Sports, reporting "a little bit of a pop" from WeatherPlanner for an apparel promotion.
Hotel bookings should be another strong revenue source, Ciccarone said. While declining to discuss projections, he expects profitability "this time next year." About $3 million in venture capital is being sought to build out Europe and improve databases.
Among WP's investors are Steven Rockefeller, chairman of Rose Rock Group, and his wife, Kimberly.
"We are very excited about WeatherPlanner's disruptive capabilities that allow people to plan events and book reservations around weather," they said in a statement, "and are putting together a group to invest in its future."
Terry Rubritz, chief marketing officer at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the 3.8 million-member automobile club signed on early with WeatherPlanner because:
"We have all sorts of technology behind our roadside assistance, including positioning trucks around rush hour. When weather happens, that means we have to have more resources readily available."
"One of the things people check on a regular basis is weather."
"Whenever we want to reach people who are not AAA members, this is a great way to reach them."
"By us knowing what the weather patterns are, we can actually serve our members better."