EP 04 – Ivan O’Neill – Wuuii – The Admitted, Regulated Market in California is Disintegrating


Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 130 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Ivan O'Neill

Ivan is the Co-founder and CEO of Wuuii where he also leads the Product and Ops teams to create software solutions that make it simple for property owners to mitigate their climate perils, starting with wildfire. Prior to co-founding Wuuii, Ivan had several successful careers in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry and deployed service offerings for Southern California Edison, iControl Networks, and Comcast. He previously served as a director on the boards of multiple international IoT technology standards organizations. Ivan is also an NFPA Certified Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, a board member of Safer West County, a 501c3 organization that builds wildfire risk reduction capacity in western Sonoma County, and has assessed the wildfire risk of over 60 structures since September 2021.

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InsurTech Amplified spoke with Ivan O’Neill, the co-founder and CEO of Wuuii to discuss the many challenges that communities face when trying to adapt to climate change, particularly those prone to wildfires. The conversation delves into the numerous societal, economic, and political complexities that impact the path to building more resilient communities in wildfire-prone areas.

The first topic tackled is the significant resistance they often encounter from local communities and property owners. This pushback is rooted in concerns about personal freedom and skepticism towards government regulation. This issue calls for increased dialogue, education, and efforts to cultivate trust between community stakeholders, policy-makers, and scientific experts. Although managing these perceptions and apprehensions can be complex, it is critical to ensure that protective measures against wildfire risks are adopted.

There are profound economic disparities that exist within these communities. Often the residents most vulnerable to wildfires are also the least equipped to invest in wildfire mitigation strategies. Ssystemic changes are necessary to rectify these disparities, emphasizing the role of local governments and institutions in this process.

With WUUII Ivan developed software, which aims to assist fire agencies, property owners, and communities in understanding their wildfire risk and implementing necessary measures to mitigate it. The software is designed to actively engage users, creating an interactive, user-friendly experience that promotes awareness and proactive action.

Despite the technological advances and the potential of WUUII to contribute significantly to wildfire risk management, the duo discusses the puzzling disconnect between the insights provided by the software and the insurance industry’s response. Specifically, they note that despite the valuable data the software can provide about an individual’s or a community’s wildfire risk, these insights have yet to noticeably impact insurance premiums.

Drawing parallels from the early days of the rooftop solar industry, Ivan advocates for the creation of effective incentives, such as tax credits and rebates, to motivate property owners to invest in fire-resistant adaptations. He believes that these economic encouragements could significantly increase the adoption of these strategies, ultimately enhancing the overall resilience of communities at risk of wildfires.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Community Resistance: Local skepticism towards government fire regulations.
  • Necessity of Dialogue: Trust-building via conversation between stakeholders.
  • Economic Disparities: Challenges for vulnerable residents in wildfire mitigation.
  • Software Role: Utilization of software to comprehend and reduce wildfire risk.
  • Insurance Industry Misalignment: Gap between risk data and insurance industry response.
  • Incentives for Adaptations: Need for rewards to motivate fire-resistant modifications.
  • Climate Adaptation: The role of trust, inclusivity, and tech in resilient communities.

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