It’s good to see the number female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies on the rise. Kathy Warden at Northrup Grumman, Safra Catz at Oracle, and Mary Baron at General Motors are just a few who’ve claimed the top jobs. The 2019 Fortune 500 list boasts 33 women CEOs, up from 24 in 2018. There’s still room for improvement however.
Another area that could use more female participation is the tech startup community. Is it just me or are most tech startups led by men? I’ve attended and marketed many pitch competitions and seen very few female entrepreneurs on the stage pitching for investment. Things appear more equitable at the university level where women are definitely on the rise as researchers whose tech is being licensed or who are launching startups of their own.
I recently had the opportunity to profile an inspiring startup CEO, Rita Hansen of Onboard Dynamics, for VisionTech Angels’ Pitch Week August 26-29. Six years ago, Rita and her colleague Jeff Witner licensed technology developed by Dr. Chris Hagen at Oregon State University and founded Onboard Dynamics. While Jeff was a serial entrepreneur, founding and leading a startup company was something new for Rita, whose previous career was largely with established companies.
What drew Rita to become an entrepreneur was her interest in green technologies and the huge potential of Onboard Dynamics to clean up America’s and the world’s vehicle fleets. The company has developed a mobile natural gas compression system that allows commercial and municipal vehicle fleets – think school business, garbage trucks, delivery services – to convert from diesel fuel (very dirty!) to compressed natural gas (squeaky clean!). What’s exciting is the company’s compressors don’t emit dangerous particulates as diesel does and are carbon neutral, something even electric-powered vehicles can’t claim. An Onboard Dynamics’ system costs about $150,000, which is much cheaper than a fixed natural gas fueling station that costs upwards of $1 million. Fuel costs for fleet owners are also lower.
While interviewing Rita, we discussed the Green New Deal, which would require significant societal changes and countless billions of dollars to implement. On the flip side, Onboard Dynamics’ GoFlo® CNG80 compressor is practical, easy, and affordable for smaller companies and municipalities to adopt, disrupting the status quo of dirty fuels as a green solution without disrupting the fleet industry and improving life for all of us. (Think no more diesel fumes and particulates from garbage trucks in your neighborhood.) Already, fleets in California, and soon in Canada, plan to use GoFlo units. Rita is also looking to expand in Mexico, Latin America, India, and other countries that would benefit from affordable green energy technology.
We laughed a little about the Green New Deal’s goal of eliminating farting cows. Then Rita explained that methane from animal waste is a source of renewable natural gas and already large dairies, pork, and poultry producers are capturing the methane at their operations, compressing the gas and using it to fuel their vehicles. Fair Oaks Farm in Indiana is one example of an early adopter of compressed natural gas vehicles. Rita hopes to offer dairies and livestock producers the option of using Onboard Dynamics’ GoFlo system in the future.
One other cool thing about Rita: she started a company with the potential to change the world at an age when many women are winding down their careers. As someone who has lived her life as an entrepreneur and can’t imagine retiring (yet), I truly appreciate what Rita is doing and look forward to hearing her at VisionTech Angels Pitch Week in Indianapolis.
Hopefully, we will see more entrepreneurs like Rita soon!
I invite you to read my blog featuring VisionTech Angels Executive Director Ben Pidgeon and Rita Hansen, CEO of Onboard Dynamics that previews her participation in Pitch Week. If you are looking for a content marketer-freelance writer to bring your blog to life, Lux-Writes is your go-to. Let’s connect.