Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Benchmark Labs

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched in Summer 2020 in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based employers with fully subsidized interns. This program targets small employers with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Spring business internship experiences, EDC has rolled out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the third cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted. To date, ASD has placed 93 student-interns in local businesses, with $455,000 in total wages and support services paid. 

In this feature, we sat down with Carlos Gaitan, CEO and Co-Founder at Benchmark Labs. As part of the third cohort of host companies, Benchmark Labs is a leading provider of IoT-based weather forecasting solutions for the agriculture, energy, and insurance sectors.

Read on for more about ASD intern host Benchmark Labs.

Tell us about your company?  

Benchmark Labs provides asset-specific environmental forecasting for the agricultural, energy, and insurance sectors. We do so by incorporating in-situ IoT sensor data, machine learning techniques, and weather information to provide actionable forecasts tailored to specific locations and sensors. We recently moved our headquarters from San Francisco to San Diego with the help of EDC, and our main office is at UTC, courtesy of The BlueTech Incubator.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

We founded Benchmark Labs to improve operational margins of farmers by bringing state of the art environmental forecasting technologies to farmers all over the world. We understood that although microclimates create substantial environmental differences between farms, those differences are not reflected in the weather forecasts available to asset managers, as the current generation of weather models divide the world in grids and everyone inside a grid box receives exactly the same forecast.

How did you find out about Advancing San Diego and how your experience has been? Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.  

We became aware of Advancing San Diego thanks to the great team at The Maritime Alliance and the Bluetech Incubator. ASD’s Internship Program aided us in finding local talent in the areas of software engineering and business research. From the company perspective, we believe in giving back to the community and in providing those first training and work opportunities to local students, and we couldn’t be happier with the human and technical capabilities of our current and past interns. Our interns have made us a better company by bringing new voices and experiences to solve our technical challenges.

What does growth look like over the next few years?

We are excited about future opportunities for Benchmark Labs and for the region. We were recently awarded a highly competitive National Science Foundation Small Business Research Grant to further develop our forecasting technology and to bring it to market. We will soon have job openings in market research, software engineering, data science, marketing and sales.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

As a result of the pandemic, we expanded our forecasting capabilities beyond traditional weather variables like temperature and relative humidity, as we were involved in a project, in collaboration with NASA scientists, to understand the effects of COVID-19 in the upcoming forest fire season.

Tell us about your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego. 

We are very grateful to EDC for their support during our company relocation and with the internship program. Benchmark Labs has been fortunate to find great mentors, organizations, and local resources during the last few years. We want to highlight the support of Cleantech San Diego, the Southern California Energy Innovation Network, The Maritime Alliance and the The Bluetech Incubator, and the services provided by Connect and the San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center.

What is special about San Diego’s business community, and the talent that drives it? 

San Diego’s business community is special as there is substantial collaboration between founders, government, and academia. We strongly believe that San Diego’s workforce can support cutting-edge research in environmental science and that the academic programs offered by local institutions provide skills that are directly transferable to work in the private sector.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Company contact info and additional information:

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