AWS Startups Blog

Fleet Co-Founder Flavia Tata Nardini is Winning the New Space Race

Flavia Tata Nardini wants to connect you to every part of the world, and her plan to make it happen is out of this world. That’s not hyperbole. Though it’s easy to get carried away when describing the former pro basketball player and rocket scientist, the wildest details of the 34-year-old CEO’s life are all true. Fleet Space Technologies, the remote connectivity company she co-founded in 2015, is quickly making progress towards their goal of deploying nanosatellites (each about the size of a loaf of sliced bread) into space to connect the fast-growing internet of things, or IoT, into a “digital nervous system” of infrastructure that could deliver fast, affordable wireless access to even the most remote parts of the world. It’s just the latest step in the efficiency evolution of space gear—and, ideally, it will democratize technology that has been available only to well-funded governments and billion-dollar companies. “[Satellites are to] nanosatellites as supercomputers are to laptops,” says Tata Nardini. “Now they are little things that you can launch into space, and suddenly you can offer connectivity to the planet, and it’s opening up solutions for everyone. I love this.”

The geographic aspect is something that’s hyper-personal to Tata Nardini, a Rome-raised transplant to Adelaide, Australia. In 2013 she left behind a gig project—managing innovative rocket developments like micropropulsion systems in the Netherlands—to join her partner Down Under. Even though the country has no national space agency (or perhaps because of it), the move turned out to be a fortuitous one. “At the beginning, everyone thought that we were absolutely crazy to launch a space startup in Australia. But they have been leapfrogging in innovation in the past four years. It’s a gigantic continent in which there are extreme customer issues [with internet access],” Tata Nardini explains. “So I’m not surprised that our IoT connectivity company was born in Adelaide.” And it’s true that Fleet is at the forefront of a new wave of scrappy, nimble, sky-reaching startups—there’s over 30 in the country at this point, many of which share information and ideas to move the entire industry forward (or upwards), faster.

Speaking of which: Last year Fleet raised over $3.8 million AU in Series A funding, a number they project will allow them to build the first two of what they hope to be hundreds of orbiting, patented nanosatellites, designed to link up with the 7.6 billion IoT devices projected to be online by 2020. But Tata Nardini is also well aware that her 20-person company isn’t just in a race to build and launch satellites by then—they’re also on a mission to make edge computing the industry standard for all IoT devices. “Before you launch a satellite into the sky, you need to know what it’s being used for, and that means bringing every app and every network on edge. It’s a gigantic issue. Amazon has done a couple of amazing IoT tools like Greengrass, which works offline. That means people can connect thousands of sensors instead of funneling everything [through a central source]. It’s an industrial revolution, and so the whole industry is transforming. Nanosatellites will bring the cost of connectivity almost to zero, opening up incredible new markets.”

With three growing offices in Adelaide, California, and the Netherlands, the sky’s currently the limit for Tata Nardini and Fleet. All the more impressive? She’s got two kids under the age of five and might be the only Italian in the world who doesn’t rely on regular cups of espresso. “When I’m with my kids, that’s my winding-down moment. The rest of the time, I work hard and I love my job. I also don’t drink any sort of coffee, so the only way to get through is to get my eight hours. I might get more sleep than most co-founders in the world!”