Wash, rinse, repeat: Paul Douglas’ humble tech journey

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Paul Douglas

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” says perennial tech entrepreneur Paul Douglas.

To those who were around the Twin Cities during the 80’s & 90’s, Paul Douglas became a household name for his on air personality covering some of Minnesota’s most watched news: the weather.

Born Douglas Paul Kruhoeffer in Pennsylvania 1958, he has spent nearly his entire professional media career as a Minnesota meteorologist — 12 years at KARE and 11 at WCCO-TV.  Dozens of winters later, Douglas remains in the weather business, his pursuits and predictions more ambitious than ever.

“I’ve always had an itch that a scratch won’t reach,” he says from a state-of-the-art custom weather studio in Excelsior. “All of my ideas have been born out of passion and frustration.”

Douglas’ entrepreneurial journey dates back to 1978 while attending Penn State University where his passion for weather and business combined with Total Weather, a consultancy providing weather services to a network of radio stations and construction companies.  Ten years in, the company maintained operations, although Douglas was ready for something bigger.

In 1989 he founded Earthwatch to package and license 3-D weather graphics to location specific TV broadcasters worldwide.  Spielberg used it in Jurassic Park and Twister (where he had a cameo). “Having our graphics appear on the big screen really validated our company,” he says.  More scalable than consulting but still limited in annuity,  Earthwatch sold to Kavouras for “$2 to $3 million” in 1997 off a $500k investment.

That experience let to the formation of another venture in 1998, Digital Cyclone, which used proprietary computer models to generate location-specific forecasts for consumers and business. While they found that competing with the National Weather Service wasn’t exactly working, Digital Cyclone went mobile as “The first company to have an application on a [Nextel] cell phone in 2001,” he suggests.  Customers and margins increased as the venture raised $8m+, peaking at 55 employees before Garmin stepped in and acquired it in 2007 $45m.

Throughout the years of Earthwatch and Digital Cyclone, Douglas maintained his moonlighting, investing into his startups through w-2 earnings.  Eventually in 2008, he was forced to leave the safety net that local TV had provided him over the years after being laid off by WCCO/CBS due to financial turmoil.

Now, the timing was ripe, for shortly after that he crossed paths with Todd Frostad, a technology entrepreneur in his own right who happened to be employee #1 at Digital River (next to founder Joel Ronning).  Douglas described walking into Frostad’s office on the premise of commercial real estate, inquiring about a lease on the building that Frostad owned at the time.

MediaLogicGroup

“We immediately began vetting each other,” He chuckles. “Let me say it bodes well for your venture if you can convert your passions into a viable business model,” he explains in describing how the formation of that relationship lead to more than he would have ever imagined.

Together they’ve formed Media Logic Group as a holding company for what would become multiple complimentary subsidiaries humming along five later:

  • HAMweather: subscription-based business providing graphics graphics data and tools to build websites and forecasts.
  • Aeris: a product of HAMweather providing a developer centric API product.
  • Broadcast Weather: provides white label video content from 15 meteorologists and studios to new media (web sites, apps) and legacy media (local TV stations and cable systems).
  • WeatherNation TV: a joint venture with Denver-based partners launched a new, national weather channel in early 2011.
  • Singular Logic: “A reinvention of advertising,” patent=pending software that creates “A perfect match for advertisers and consumers,” tapping the power of user-choice technology that lets consumers choose ads they view over Internet and mobile.
  • Smart Energy: provides forecast models so businesses can better manage and optimize wind energy production in multiple sectors. The software is licensed to wind farms and agriculture, HVAC markets, utilities and energy traders with the goal of making wind energy more reliable, predictable and profitable for all participants.
  • Data Direct: weather intelligence, tapping sensors and hardware for a variety of market verticals.
  • Alerts Broadcaster: catalyzed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, this man/machine subscription service monitors global weather and briefs corporate clients about weather hazards and risk mitigation protocols.

“Entrepreneurship has always been a humbling pathway for me. It’s with great people, experimentation, serendipity and some lucky breaks that I’ve consistently been able to maintain, grow, and exit with positive results.”

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