First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Melanie Stricklan: We are very fortunate to have not experienced COVID in our family. We are practicing the state and national recommended guidelines.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Slingshot Aerospace.
Melanie Stricklan: I am the Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer for Slingshot Aerospace, a leading situational awareness technology company, where I lead the strategic vision and growth strategy. As a child, I was infatuated with space and aircraft as early as I can remember, and I was determined to be in the air one day. I ended up enlisting in the U.S. Air Force and proudly served for 21 years. It was during that time I met Slingshot Aerospace Co-Founder Thomas Ashman, who is also an Air Force veteran.
Together, we recognized that satellites, airplanes, drones, and ground-based sensors generated petabytes of data every day, but it was impossible to quickly analyze and use the information in a meaningful way. We knew that advanced analytics and machine learning could be applied to data and imagery to unlock the power of data intelligence to save lives, time, and money.
We invited serial entrepreneur David Godwin to join our mission, and together we created Slingshot Aerospace. Each of us brings a unique background to the table: I developed top-secret space capabilities for national security. Thomas was an expert space intelligence officer, and David is a seasoned entrepreneur and big data architect.
How does Slingshot Aerospace innovate?
Melanie Stricklan: Slingshot Aerospace is a leader in situational awareness technology. We create products that provide a customizable solution to quickly navigate, analyze, and leverage data from earth and space. The products bring together data from different sources—such as satellites, airplanes, drones, and ground-based sensors—and apply advanced analytics, machine learning, and collaboration tools to provide clarity in complex environments.
This means that government, commercial, and emergency management customers have the information they need in order to make an impact: Armed Forces can safely and strategically navigate critical missions; emergency management teams can dispatch aid quicker than ever; insurance companies can detect damage and process claims at a record pace when families need it most; satellites can avoid collisions with space debris, and agencies can more accurately provide space traffic management to ensure long term space sustainability.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Melanie Stricklan: Thankfully, the pandemic has not negatively impacted our business, but it has motivated us to think about how our technology can be leveraged to help those in need. Earlier this year, we partnered with 211 LA County to create a custom mapping tool that enables Los Angeles residents to quickly identify food resources in Los Angeles County during the COVID-19 pandemic. The online tool is a customized version of our Slingshot Earth product, a collaborative mapping solution that visualizes and analyzes data and imagery to make faster, better decisions. We designed a tool that aggregates foodservice and benefits data from multiple public and private sources. Hence, LA County residents have the right information at the right time, all in one place.
It was really important for our company to find a way to support those who are impacted by the coronavirus, and it definitely boosts team morale, knowing that we are making a difference in our local community.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Melanie Stricklan: As I mentioned earlier, coronavirus has not negatively impacted our business, and we thankfully didn’t have to make any difficult decisions due to the pandemic. The biggest lesson we’ve learned as a company is how to quickly transition into full-time remote work and maintain our family-like culture. Our company values are the heart of Slingshot Aerospace’s operations, including integrity, transparency, curiosity, family, stewardship, and trust. Although we don’t get to sit together for team lunches or have company outings, we still get together for virtual happy hours and water cooler talks.
The lines of work and home life have been blurred, and it’s more important than ever to check in on one another and offer additional support when it’s needed. Our mission is to bring clarity to complex environments with our innovative technology, but this goal has transcended business operations and now applies to our team members’ everyday life.
What is next for Slingshot Aerospace?
Melanie Stricklan: We recently announced $8 million in Series A funds, which will be used to further develop Slingshot Aerospace products for commercialization, enable the company to expand into new industry verticals outside of aerospace and defense, and grow the team. We will continue to gain more traction as we grow and scale, and we are excited about our business’s future.
Your final thoughts?
Melanie Stricklan: Slingshot Aerospace was founded on the idea that information is power, especially in complex situations. The COVID-19 pandemic is uncharted territory for all of us. We are happy to do our small part in navigating these tough times by providing essential information to those who need it most within our local community through our partnership with 211 LA County.
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