Danielle Fong: The Future is Now

May 6 - On The Dot

It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: Focus on the Future

The Internet went wild during 2015, the year Marty (aka Michael J. Fox from the cult-classic Back to the Future II) visited. News articles juxtaposed the movie’s fictionalized world next to the real one to see how it sized up. (Hint: pretty well. Drones, video glasses and hands-free video games currently exist). We’re obsessed with knowing what comes next, and rightfully so. After all, we’ve got future-thinking individuals to thank for some of the coolest technology already. What are you looking forward to in the future?

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: $13,700 Billion

$13,700 billion: That’s the cost of electric-infrastructure upgrades across the globe in the next couple decades. So here’s what that means: lots of cables, software and general management going to necessities like precious air conditioning and Internet. We have a dependence on the reliability of electricity. Duh! When the power goes out for even an hour or two, if you’re like me, you’re bored within no time. But imagine if something could be done to meet our electricity needs without having to spend those billions.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Danielle Fong, Founder of LightSail Energy

Nova Scotia-born entrepreneur Danielle Fong isn’t trying to impress anyone. She’s genuinely trying to make a living at saving the world. Fong founded a groundbreaking clean-energy company that everyone’s buzzing about. At the age of 12, Fong tested above 99 percent of students entering college. She attended and graduated from a Canadian university, then entered the Princeton Ph.D. program at age 17. She dropped out after observing high-ranking professors gained little funding to pursue their projects, while startups like Facebook thrived.

Between September 2 , Fong was mulling over what to do with her life. (Been there, done that.) By September 4, Fong knew one thing: She wanted to make a difference. So as a bright-eyed 20-year-old, she moved to Silicon Valley and co-founded LightSail Energy. Forbes named her one of its 30 Under 30 as a standout in the energy group. LightSail Energy aims to make renewable energy more commonplace by producing cost-effective and clean-energy storage systems. It involves something that has to do with compressed air, and the rest is way above my head.

You don’t need to know physics to understand the magnitude of what Fong’s brilliance has developed. With LightSail Energy, that $13,700 billion number I mentioned before will significantly reduce, helping our wallets and our planet.

Fong has her cynics, of course. What woman doesn’t? The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency turned down LightSail’s grant application, thinking the company wouldn’t succeed—both in how it’s managed and the energy-storage concept itself. I guess they were scared of a badass, brilliant woman.

Fong doesn’t need those Debbie downers, though. LightSail has received at least $25 million in funding (in part, from Bill Gates), and the company will soon pilot its energy-storage units.

She cites Ada Lovelace (dubbed the world’s first programmer) and Virginia Apgar (an American anesthesiologist who reduced infant mortality) as a couple of the inventors who gave her motivation to create greatness.

We can assume the next generation of 20-something women will look to Fong as their own scientist muse.


I’m sure Fong would agree with Malcom X, who said:

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us.

To learn more about our conversation, check us out at OnTheDotWoman.com and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

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