Founder Profile

Melanie Stricklan

Slingshot Aerospace

The 20-year Air Force vet’s startup analyzes satellite images in real time for smarter disaster response.

Melanie Stricklan. Courtesy subject

When Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida coastline last October, Melanie Stricklan's startup, Slingshot Aerospace, sprang into action. The Austin, Texas-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images in real time, quickly determined the best places to assemble triages and the safest routes to hospitals, then delivered that information to FEMA and other disaster-response agencies. Before co-founding Slingshot, Stricklan spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, with much of that time spent as a technician on surveillance aircraft that collected reams of data. “The analysis would come back weeks or sometimes even a year later,” she says. “Faster results could have saved lives and produced very different outcomes.” Today, Slingshot’s A.I. can deliver results in minutes. The company’s insurance customers can make coverage determinations and get flood victims their money quickly; other clients include the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and--yes--the Air Force. --Kevin J. Ryan

Industry
IT Services
Year Founded
2016
Location
Austin, Texas
Industry
Science Pioneers
Co-founders
Thomas Ashman, David Godwin
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

When Hurricane Michael barreled into the Florida coastline last October, Melanie Stricklan's startup, Slingshot Aerospace, sprang into action. The Austin, Texas-based company, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze satellite images in real time, quickly determined the best places to assemble triages and the safest routes to hospitals, then delivered that information to FEMA and other disaster-response agencies. Before co-founding Slingshot, Stricklan spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, with much of that time spent as a technician on surveillance aircraft that collected reams of data. “The analysis would come back weeks or sometimes even a year later,” she says. “Faster results could have saved lives and produced very different outcomes.” Today, Slingshot’s A.I. can deliver results in minutes. The company’s insurance customers can make coverage determinations and get flood victims their money quickly; other clients include the Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and--yes--the Air Force. --Kevin J. Ryan

Read More

Holly Thaggard

Supergoop!

She's leading the mission to end skin cancer with her line of sunscreens.

Holly Thaggard. Courtesy subject

After a close friend was diagnosed with melanoma, Holly Thaggard--teacher, harpist, mom--found her true calling as a sunscreen evangelist and entrepreneur. In 2009, she founded Supergoop!, which makes mineral sunscreens (in all skin tones) and other products free of harmful chemicals. But Supergoop!’s true value lies in its ultimate goal: “I've been so laser-focused on making sure everything we do ladders up to our mission, which is to stop the epidemic of skin cancer,” says Thaggard. “I don’t think I’ve taken the time to think about much else.” And yet, she’s built the brand into a shining success, with $40 million in revenue last year, retail partnerships with FAO Schwarz, Nordstrom, and Sephora, and a recently-opened New York office in addition to its San Antonio headquarters. To further that mission, Supergoop! donated 1,000 pumps of Supergoop! to schools across America last year and works on skin cancer issues with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. --Tim Crino

Industry
Consumer Products
Year Founded
2009
Location
San Antonio, Texas
Industry
All Things Consumer
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

After a close friend was diagnosed with melanoma, Holly Thaggard--teacher, harpist, mom--found her true calling as a sunscreen evangelist and entrepreneur. In 2009, she founded Supergoop!, which makes mineral sunscreens (in all skin tones) and other products free of harmful chemicals. But Supergoop!’s true value lies in its ultimate goal: “I've been so laser-focused on making sure everything we do ladders up to our mission, which is to stop the epidemic of skin cancer,” says Thaggard. “I don’t think I’ve taken the time to think about much else.” And yet, she’s built the brand into a shining success, with $40 million in revenue last year, retail partnerships with FAO Schwarz, Nordstrom, and Sephora, and a recently-opened New York office in addition to its San Antonio headquarters. To further that mission, Supergoop! donated 1,000 pumps of Supergoop! to schools across America last year and works on skin cancer issues with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. --Tim Crino

Read More

Andrea Thomaz

Diligent Robotics

She's building robots that free nurses to focus on patient care.

Andrea Thomaz. Courtesy subject

Hospitals across the country face an acute shortage of nurses, as well as cost pressures from the move to value-based care rather than a fee-for-service model. Andrea Thomaz's Austin-based company, Diligent Robotics, has developed a robot named Moxi that addresses these problems by freeing nurses to focus on patient care rather than, say, fetching supplies. In late 2018 and early 2019, four Texas hospitals ran monthlong beta tests with Moxi, and the cute, one-armed robot will begin rolling out to hospitals in earnest early next year. Thomaz also sees potential future applications for her company’s technology “in any industry where you can imagine a robot working indoors, side by side with people and doing materials-management tasks.” --Tom Foster

Industry
Health Products
Year Founded
2015
Location
Austin, Texas
Industry
Science Pioneers
Co-founder
Vivian Chu
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Hospitals across the country face an acute shortage of nurses, as well as cost pressures from the move to value-based care rather than a fee-for-service model. Andrea Thomaz's Austin-based company, Diligent Robotics, has developed a robot named Moxi that addresses these problems by freeing nurses to focus on patient care rather than, say, fetching supplies. In late 2018 and early 2019, four Texas hospitals ran monthlong beta tests with Moxi, and the cute, one-armed robot will begin rolling out to hospitals in earnest early next year. Thomaz also sees potential future applications for her company’s technology “in any industry where you can imagine a robot working indoors, side by side with people and doing materials-management tasks.” --Tom Foster

Read More

Alexa von Tobel

Inspired Capital

After selling her financial planning company, she's backing tomorrow's entrepreneurs.

Alexa von Tobel. Courtesy subject

For Alexa von Tobel, safe havens are for fleeing. A decade ago, in the middle of the financial crisis, she dropped out of Harvard Business School to found LearnVest, a financial planning company. In 2015, she sold the company to Northwestern Mutual, which she also joined, eventually becoming its chief innovation officer. (The price: $375 million, according to a source close to the company.) After the sale, von Tobel found that she was spending every free hour outside of work making personal investments in other startups. One day, it just clicked. “I looked at my husband and said, ‘I should do this full-time,’” she recalls. In January, von Tobel launched Inspired Capital, a New York City-based venture firm focused on early-stage technology companies. Her longtime friend and mentor, former U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, joined as a founding partner. For the past six months, von Tobel has also hosted the Inc. Founders Project podcast, interviewing other entrepreneurs to uncover what makes them tick. For her, being back in the field with startup founders feels like home. She says: “I’m in my natural habitat.” --Graham Winfrey

Industry
Financial Services
Year Founded
2019
Location
New York, New York
Industry
Money Movers
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

For Alexa von Tobel, safe havens are for fleeing. A decade ago, in the middle of the financial crisis, she dropped out of Harvard Business School to found LearnVest, a financial planning company. In 2015, she sold the company to Northwestern Mutual, which she also joined, eventually becoming its chief innovation officer. (The price: $375 million, according to a source close to the company.) After the sale, von Tobel found that she was spending every free hour outside of work making personal investments in other startups. One day, it just clicked. “I looked at my husband and said, ‘I should do this full-time,’” she recalls. In January, von Tobel launched Inspired Capital, a New York City-based venture firm focused on early-stage technology companies. Her longtime friend and mentor, former U.S. commerce secretary Penny Pritzker, joined as a founding partner. For the past six months, von Tobel has also hosted the Inc. Founders Project podcast, interviewing other entrepreneurs to uncover what makes them tick. For her, being back in the field with startup founders feels like home. She says: “I’m in my natural habitat.” --Graham Winfrey

Read More

Daina Trout

Health-Ade

In 2018, her kombucha became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage in the U.S.

Daina Trout. Courtesy subject

In 2012, Daina Trout was working for a big corporation and feeling like a number. With her boyfriend and best friend, she set out to found a company--and settled on what was already brewing on her kitchen table: kombucha. An avid fermenter who’d studied nutrition, she found a niche almost immediately: high-quality fermented tea infused with herbs, cold-pressed organic juice, and spices. Breaking into the refrigerated-beverage case was no simple task, but in 2018, Health-Ade became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage brand in the U.S. It’s in 26,000 stores and has 220 employees, mostly in and around Los Angeles, where the company brews the tea in 2.5-gallon glass jugs, all in its own facility. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Industry
Food & Beverage
Year Founded
2012
Location
Los Angeles, California
Industry
Food Revolutionaries
Co-founders
Vanessa Dew, Justin Trout
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In 2012, Daina Trout was working for a big corporation and feeling like a number. With her boyfriend and best friend, she set out to found a company--and settled on what was already brewing on her kitchen table: kombucha. An avid fermenter who’d studied nutrition, she found a niche almost immediately: high-quality fermented tea infused with herbs, cold-pressed organic juice, and spices. Breaking into the refrigerated-beverage case was no simple task, but in 2018, Health-Ade became the fastest-growing refrigerated beverage brand in the U.S. It’s in 26,000 stores and has 220 employees, mostly in and around Los Angeles, where the company brews the tea in 2.5-gallon glass jugs, all in its own facility. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Read More