Who acts to mitigate disasters?

Today when disaster happens, the primary organization providing support and mitigation tends to be government departments.
Non-profit charities also play a very significant role. To a small extent private companies also play a part, particularly in
producing and routing supplies. Most of this activity is reactive after the fact.

But among private industry, one area is not known to be focused on disaster mitigation. That is venture capital. There have been many companies created by venture capital that have made the world more resilient to disasters. Companies like Airbnb and Uber have created income options for poor and working poor by monetizing their assets like cars and houses.

But we have not had venture funds with clear investment thesis focused on disaster mitigation. One exception has been Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers ( KPCB). 14 years ago, they focused on the potential disaster of pandemics and create a set of startups that are now doing really well in the COVID-10 arena. That took a lot of foresight.
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How much damage do disasters cause?

There are many types of disasters from natural disasters to human economic ones. The worst damage is the unnecessary lives lost, sometimes in the millions. And there are types of damage jobs lost, health loss, housing loss, earnings loss, poverty, and many others.

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Does disaster mitigation really help?

When a house burns down, once you check everyone is safe, the next most important question is whether the homeowners have fire insurance.   Insurance is a form of disaster mitigation. It protects families and businesses from various types of harm as the result of disasters. We cannot imagine modern society without this type of disaster mitigation.

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Why should we care about disasters?

This question should not need to be asked. Just the fact that lives are lost due to disasters, makes it a moral imperative to act. The question to always ask is ‘If my child, sibling, parent could get killed in that disaster, would I do anything?

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Disasters are so rare, why do we have to act?

Conventional wisdom thinks that disasters are rare and unpredictable. And that we cannot really act on them.

In the last 20 years, we have had three global emergencies- 9/11 terrorism-related wars, the 2008 financial crisis, and now the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Plus, one more if you count the effects of climate change. In addition, there are innumerable national and local disasters every year.  We can easily name hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, fires, nuclear accidents, etc immediately.

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If you had money to invest what problem would you try to solve now?

I watched 3 days of rains in Chennai, India take down all infrastructure including transportation, hospitals, mobile towers, ATMs and credit card machines. In a city of ten million in 3 days even money stopped working. The knock-on effects were disastrous.

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Would you like to hand out people money?

Founder Institute asked me this question, recently. Not exactly.

They asked if I would be interested in joining their brand new program to create new venture capital funds. They felt that there needed to be more innovative funds in the marketplace to fund all the startups they were launching.

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If you had money to invest what problem would you try to solve now?

I watched 3 days of rains in Chennai, India take down all infrastructure including transportation, hospitals, mobile towers and ATMs such that even money stopped working. The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say, according to the Washington Post.  9/11 and its source- terrorism, cost the USA alone $2 Trillion in unproductive expense. 


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