Meet the weather entrepreneur who thinks weather is boring

A Prospect Heights entrepreneur went from bird identification to online gambling to weather, with an app, Poncho, that keeps forecasting fun.

Kuan Huang, founder of Poncho.

(Photo courtesy of Kuan Huang)

We’re in that weird time of year when the weather keeps alternating all over the place. One day it’s cold. The next it seems strangely warm. And then there’s this whole wind situation.

So what do you do if you want to know what to wear but generally can’t be bothered with thinking about something as dull as the weather?

Prospect Heights’s Kuan Huang has a new service for you. Weather isn’t his thing, either.

Poncho is Huang’s second startup. It’s an email and SMS-based weather app that gives you a quick rundown, once or twice a day, of what to expect when you make the mistake of going outside.

It does it in a sentence or two, and not in an easily ignored rundown of stats. “High of 45, low of 39. Winds out of the SW with a 30 percent chance of rain.” I just ignored all of that and I wrote it.

Poncho does it differently.

Here’s a recent weather report this reporter received from the app:

Cause this is chiller! A cooler day with temps hitting the high 50s. Grab your red jacket & cue the zombie dance break. http://poncho.is/s/vgbsg

Poncho is now available in nine cities.

Try it out

Each message tries to hold your attention long enough for you to absorb the information, and maybe get you to click. Huang told us via email, “I was not interested in weather at all before Poncho. I often forgot to check weather and found weather is such a boring thing to talk about.”

Huang cofounded his first startup with Kai Bond. It was called Cash Island, and it was backed by IAC’s now defunct Hatch Labs (the same shop that launched Tinder). Cash Island gave people a way to make real money for playing online slots.

Huang also helped build an iOS app to help young people identify birds in the wild. It was called The WildLab and it was backed by the MacArthur Foundation. He started the effort with two other alums of NYU’s ITP program, which also gave rise to the entrepreneurs behind PowerClip and W EAR.

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Poncho takes a bit of a departure from most apps by not trying to take up real estate on your smartphone. You get the updates via text, largely on Poncho’s schedule, not yours. Huang said, “For me, email and text are the quickest and cheapest ways to test the concept of Poncho. Building a mobile app that I’d be proud of showing to my friends would probably take 3-4 months.”

Poncho is part of Betaworks, where Huang first served as hacker-in-residence. Like Cash Island, he’s working once again inside a sort of long-term accelerator. This time, he says, he’s better prepared to run a company.

“First time being a founder was a little bit overwhelming — by the level of stress and the amount of freedom that comes with this title,” he said. “Second time, I am much more prepared for that.”

People: Kuan Huang
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