102 A Case for Entrepreneurial Meteorology

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Antoinette Serrato, Yarker Consulting, Cedar Rapids, IA; and M. B. Yarker, M. D. S. Mesquita, and B. Mateika

Meteorology students and early career professionals are acutely aware that the field of available career options is currently undergoing a significant transformation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2016), available jobs in atmospheric science is projected to increase over the next 10 years, however it is also stated that “competition may be strong for research positions at colleges and universities because of the limited number of positions available. In addition, hiring by federal agencies is subject to budget constraints. The best job prospects for meteorologists are expected to be in private industry.”

The majority of university meteorology programs prepare students for careers along three major paths: research/academic, forecasting (typically NWS), and broadcast. While private industry may be discussed, it is usually as an alternative branch to one of the major paths. With private industry meteorology careers expanding so rapidly, it is imperative that we better prepare students for careers in this industry.

One approach is simply to provide a more in depth education about the various career opportunities in private industry as well as appropriate elective courses, such as business and economics. Much in the way broadcast meteorologists benefit from the BCM, many companies also value the CCM, thus it is important that students are aware of its requirements and how it can support them in private industry careers. However, there is one aspect of private industry that is often overlooked, but will be invaluable knowledge for many early career professionals. That is how to startup your own business.

Many meteorologists come up with brilliant ideas, products, and services that would greatly benefit our society, but these ideas often go undeveloped because meteorologists do not have the knowledge required to even consider how to turn their idea into a viable business. Whether it is new technology, an app, or even a consulting business, figuring out what is required to form a company (let alone budgeting, marketing, and selling the product) can be a huge barrier.

There are resources available to help startup companies become successful. There is even a community of AMS CCMs who have founded a wide range of companies and who are incredibly supportive and helpful to those who seek them out. Knowing that these resources exist and where to find them is the first hurdle towards empowering professional meteorologists with a great idea to become entrepreneurial.

Business experts now utilize an innovative and robust approach to forming viable startup companies, called The Business Model Canvas (Strategyzer, 2018). While it is an extremely useful guide for any kind of businesses, the needs of meteorology-based companies are fairly specific and can be generalized into a more fitting approach. Specifically, meteorology products almost always involve several customers that must be considered when exploring the viability of a new idea. At a minimum, these are: the purchaser of the product and the end consumer of the product. For example, if the product is an app that help farmers make irrigation decisions for their crops, the farmer is the purchaser. However, the farmer ultimately decides to buy the product based upon how they believe the app will impact their own customers (i.e., sales). This is the product’s end consumer and their needs must also be carefully considered.

When utilizing The Business Model Canvas, customer discovery (i.e., identification, interview process, and data analysis) is vital to determining how viable a potential product/service is. Yet in its current form, the model can become convoluted when there is a dynamic relationship between more than one customer. Such is the case for meteorology products and services. We will present a modified version of The Business Model Canvas designed specifically for meteorology startup companies, which will support entrepreneurial meteorologists during the first (and most difficult) steps. Ultimately, while we hope that current professionals use this information to support their own exploration of a potential new product or service, we believe that it is important for meteorology and atmospheric science departments to consider including an introduction to business education, or even approaches to entrepreneurial meteorology, as part of their career preparation programs.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner