Through shared “solar gardens,” she’s bringing solar power to those who can’t afford or aren’t set up for their own panels.
Most Americans can’t access solar energy: They live in apartment buildings, their roof faces the wrong way, or they just can’t afford to install the equipment. With Solstice, Steph Speirs’s Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup, people sign up for a piece of a “community solar garden” in their area, and receive a credit on their energy bill for the power its panels generate. For the average customer, this results in a 10 percent discount, or $150 to $200 in savings per year, according to the company. Solar garden developers pay Solstice to sign up customers for them and handle billing. Solstice's revenue grew fivefold in the past year, Speirs says, and the company is planning expansion into more states. “The way we’ve gotten our electricity hasn’t changed in over a hundred years, but it will change in the next ten,” she says. “Ultimately, our obsession is: ‘how do we make this so easy and so affordable that everyone can do it?’” --Sophie Downes
The 20-year Air Force vet’s startup analyzes satellite images in real time for smarter disaster response.
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
She's building robots that free nurses to focus on patient care.
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
She’s making robots to tackle the tedious warehouse jobs that humans don’t want to do.
From manufacturing to delivering a product to a shopper’s doorstep, the race for ever more efficiency is fierce. Melonee Wise’s autonomous, mobile robots make it easier to find, track, and move items in warehouses and factories. When they’re hauling things, the robots also gather useful data about everything around them. “We use that data to tell people about the inside of their facilities,” Wise explains. Understanding where there’s congestion, for instance, is powerful information for a warehouse manager. A mechanical-engineering PhD and founder of a previous robotics company, Wise has led San Jose, California-based Fetch Robotics since shortly after its founding in 2014. In July, Fetch raised $46 million in venture capital, bringing its total funding to $94 million. This year, it also landed a major new client, Universal Logistics, which uses Fetch-designed robots and cloud-based software to move car parts around the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, the largest auto factory in North America. Fetch has several hundred robots deployed in 11 countries, and Wise says she's looking to expand in Europe. --Brit Morse
She saw the need for an intimate club custom-made for people of color. It opens this year in Brooklyn.
Naj Austin had tried out many different co-working spaces and private clubs--and found them all the same. “At the end of the day, it’s people working--on couches that are different colors,” Austin says. She kept waiting for a space to open for people of color, like herself—and nothing did. She launched an Instagram page to gauge interest for what she dubbed Ethel’s Club in January of this year and within months, she had a 4,000-person waitlist for membership. She located a space in Brooklyn and decked it out with furniture suited to different body types and art that she thinks will speak to people of color. The soon-to-launch community will have a tiered-fee annual membership based on financial need. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin