Making the pivot from pilot to climate tech startup founder, Onvol’s Molly Fullee is flying high after winning the 2023 Startup Daily Best in Tech Awards’ Best New Founder award, sponsored by Tank Stream Labs.
Becoming one of the youngest female airline captains for a major airline back in 2010, Fullee knows what it’s like to soar on the winds of change.
That unique perspective fuelled the idea for Onvol. Over a decade as a captain for Virgin Australia Fullee had a bird’s eye view of changing weather patterns while sitting in the cockpit. Flying over floods, bushfires, storms and heatwaves more frequently, she knew something needed to change.
When COVID hit, so did the aviation downturn that grounded Fullee. So the Melbourne-based entrepreneur turned her attention to an idea she’d been ruminating over many years: wind-sensor technology that can help accelerate the transition to net zero.
“It prolongs the longevity of wind farms,” Fullee explains.
“Whether it’s being hit by a bird or lightning, the sensor technology will pick up a new fault, and we’ll make sure that the turbine is constantly operating at its best capacity.”
In early 2023, Fullee and co-founder Clinton Hopkins launched Onvol, which powers smart sensors for wind turbines.
On winning the Best New Founder award at the inaugural Startup Daily Best in Tech Awards on September 6, Fullee said she and her team were “stoked” at what it meant for climate tech and women.
“It’s a few factors – I would say initially putting climate technologies at the forefront and being a woman-founded climate tech startup. There’s not a lot of us. So I was really happy that the spotlight has been shone on this, so that other aspiring founders wanting to make the jump into climate tech, hopefully this will inspire them to do the same,” Fullee said.
Onvol’s Volone Kinetic Energy Harvesting Electrical Generator is a wind turbine blade sensor that provides reliable and efficient monitoring without the need for external power connection.
Her goal is for Onvol to become the leading provider of environment-powered IOT systems reducing waste, pollution and advancing the future of sustainable energy, transport and technologies.
“The technology is something I’ve been playing with for the last 20 years in my previous career,” Fullee said.
“And just transferring all that technology that already exists for NASA and aerospace into the climate space and monitoring really expensive equipment that’s moving.
“We started with a problem – how come they’re not monitoring all of that? Whereas on a jet airline, everything is monitored. The engineers know there’s a problem before it even flags. So having all that monitoring on clean energy has been a game changer.”
As well as keeping a close eye on the climate from the skies, she also been examining it under the seas as a scuba diver, with fond memories of the sea life from her birthplace of Mauritius.
“As a little girl, I grew up and saw the rich sea and coral life over the years,” she said.
“I go back every few years and seeing how it’s just been deteriorating is gut wrenching. It’s the same in the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve been lucky enough to have snorkelled and dived there a few times, even in just a short period of time, to see the difference. It’s a big change.
“People do not see what’s actually under the waves or under the sea. Once you dive down, you’re like, ‘Whoa, the bleaching’.”
Fullee hopes that Onvol’s innovations can play a role in cooling the climate for future generations. The technology has already attracted US investment, which has helped enable Fullee to grow her team to eight engineers and counting.
While wind turbines have been a key go-to-market sector for Onvol, Fullee said she’s looking into other avenues whereby “anything that moves” can harvest energy through 24/7 sensors.
“So if you’re thinking of something like a container on a ship, the Onvol technology can be applied to it and keep the monitoring going,” she added.
Other finalists in the Best New Founder award category were:
- Nikki Cali, who has been developing WISDOME, a SaaS e-learning platform for the modern-day content creator to make, share and manage membership courses.
- Michael Kambouridis, founder of TaxLeopard, tax management and accounting software for sole traders, with a focus on gig workers.
This article is brought to you by Startup Daily, with the support of Tank Stream Labs.