Business

Aug. 26, 2014 8:00 am

Sickweather completes Kansas City accelerator, pursues funding

Sickweather predicts illness outbreaks using social media. The company is busy raising capital — which, cofounder Graham Dodge says, may push it out of Cockeysville for good.

The Sickweather team.

(Photo courtesy of Sickweather)

Graham Dodge has been crisscrossing the country, flying from Baltimore to Kansas City to Silicon Valley and back. Along the way, the Sickweather founder has been making use of his app.

“One of the things I noticed this summer were outbreaks of [hand, foot and mouth disease],” he said. “So one thing I made sure of was to wash my hands throughly when I was around anybody with kids.”

Sickweather maps disease outbreaks.

If, say, you’re flying to Los Angeles tomorrow, you can track things like allergy issues. It’s basically a Doppler radar for maladies.

(Sickweather screenshot)

(Sickweather screenshot)

In addition to an online map, Sickweather also has an iOS app. An Android app is in development and the company’s widget is now included on all Sprint Android phones, Dodge said.

A Bloomberg News article in April noted efforts by the U.S. government to better predict disease outbreaks using social media, while also explaining how Sickweather and its competitors work:

Companies such as Sickweather and Boston-based Epidemico Inc. are trying to get past the noise on the Internet. They rely on computer algorithms to scan social media and news articles for references to disease like “whooping cough.” They try to screen out unrelated posts that might use “sick” (when they mean cool or insane) or “Bieber fever” (obsessed with pop star Justin Bieber).

In June, Dodge and his team wrapped a three-month stint at the Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator in Kansas City.

“We’re still working on closing stuff, but things are going well,” Dodge said. “We’re raising an angel round right now and we expect that to close in September. We’re also in diligence for a Series A round which will close in November.”

But before having raised a single dollar, Dodge said, the forecast for Sickweather is pretty healthy. The move to include the Sickweather widget on Sprint phones gave the service its biggest-ever surge of unique traffic.

In March, Dodge told us one of the reasons that Sickweather went to the accelerator program in Kansas City was that he was having trouble finding interested lead investors in Baltimore. Indeed, Dodge said that since then, no lead investor he’s been in contact with has been Baltimore-based, and that could determine whether the startup, founded in Cockeysville, leaves for good.

“That’s going to be largely dependent on the lead investor of the Series A round,” Dodge said. “One of the conditions of one of the leads that we’re talking to is that we would relocate to Kansas, so we are open to that. There is still a possibility we could stay in Baltimore.”

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Tyler Waldman

Tyler Waldman is lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. A Towson University graduate and former local editor for Patch.com, Tyler has also written and photographed for publications including the Baltimore Brew, Howard County Times and Towson Times. He lives in Charles Village.

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