As winter approaches, Baltimore-based startup Sickweather is getting ready to forecast a different sort of cold front—and hoping to turn runny noses, coughs, and fevers into a healthy revenue stream.
Part disease-tracking data collector and part social network, Sickweather follows in the Google Flu Trends, which uses aggregated search data to estimate flu activity. But Sickweather is taking that logic a few steps further. By culling data from an array of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, the startup hopes to build an audience of users who want to know what ailments are striking in their area—the perfect space for marketers of health-related products to place ads. Think of it as Facebook for hypochondriacs.
“Fever, nausea, and chills are going around in 21218,” reads a sample forecast on a screenshot of a Baltimore map on the Sickweather site, which launches in private beta by Oct. 16.
The ideal audience? Suburban moms, business travelers, and other people actively dodging illness, says CEO Graham Dodge. As for brands, “We provide them symptom-targeted advertising.”
Sickweather will host healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers for free as it seeks feedback on the system during its beta testing phase. In the meantime it’s banking on the viral potential of viruses.