Former Disney TV star Bridgit Mendler co-founds satellite 'data highway' startup


On Tuesday (Feb. 20), after a relatively long hiatus from the public eye, Bridgit Mendler announced the launch of her new satellite data startup, Northwood. Beyond introducing quite an interesting company — one that aims to make satellite technology more accessible by mass-producing data-retrieving ground stations on Earth — there’s another major reason the launch has been making headlines.

Once upon a time, Mendler was a Disney Channel actress.

The 31-year-old space CEO is probably best known for her role as Teddy Duncan, the delightful older sister of Charlie Duncan in the Disney TV series “Good Luck Charlie,” which ran from 2010 to 2014. However, her acting repertoire holds far more, as does the road that led her to the space business sector.

Related: UK startup readies new satellite that will make semiconductors in space

I, for one, associate Mendler most with her role as Juliet Van Heusen, the teenage vampire who dates Justin Russo, a boy-next-door wizard in the Disney TV series “Wizards of Waverly Place.” That show ran between 2007 and 2012. She’s also played some non-Disney parts, such as a role in two episodes of Season 5 of the TV series “Nashville” in 2017, and another in the 2018 comedy film “Father of the Year.” According to IMDB, her most recent acting experience came in 2019, with eight episodes of the TV series “Merry Happy Whatever.” Plus, somewhere in between all this, Mendler had a brief, but notable, singing career.

However, in the meantime and behind the scenes, Mendler was also pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California, which she attained in 2016. She then went on to complete a master’s degree followed by a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020 and 2024 respectively, the latter of which was associated with MIT’s renowned Media Lab. Furthermore, in conjunction with her Ph.D, she went to Harvard Law School and graduated with her J.D. in 2024. At Harvard, she was also co-president of the Harvard Space Law Society.

Which brings us to today.

“Expect the unexpected!” Mendler wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “So excited to be able to finally share what I’ve been working on with my two favorite ground nerds — Griffin Cleverly and Shaurya Luthra. At Northwood, we’re rethinking infrastructure for satellite backhaul from the ground up.”

Cleverly is Mendler’s husband and CTO of Northwood, while Luthra is the company’s Head of Software; together, per the Northwood website, they wish to create a sort of “data highway between Earth and space.”

Basically, after a satellite in Earth orbit collects a bunch of data — whether it be climate data, deep space data, or even data about how its own systems are functioning — that information must eventually get “downlinked” to scientists waiting on Earth. Such downlinking happens through what’re known as ground stations.

The Northwood trio say they’ve identified an issue with these ground station mechanisms; namely, the fact that “many key aspects of ground architecture haven’t changed much since the 1960s. The industry standard is bespoke manufacturing processes, lengthy construction and fine-tuning, only to deliver a system with limited capacity and frequent failures.”

So, to combat the issue, the team is embarking on a quest to mass produce those ground stations and, in turn, make satellite technology more efficient and accessible. “For me, why the ground-side matters is because it actually is about bringing the impacts of space home to people,” Mendler told CNBC.

Though it’s still in its early stages, Mendler says, Northwood has attracted some high-profile investors and garnered about $6.3 million in initial funding.

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We’re already building a killer team,” Mendler wrote in her LinkedIn post, citing members connected to companies like SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and Palantir Technologies. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s the fun part. If you like building quickly and seeing your work deployed in locations around the globe with real impact, we want you at Northwood.”

And perhaps because she’s now in the limelight again, Mendler also took to the internet to announce a lovely personal life update.

“I’m a mama to a sweet 4yo boy,” she wrote in an X post on Monday (Feb. 19). “Started fostering in 2021 adopted near Christmas of 2022. I’m so lucky — being a parent is the biggest gift and most defining experience there is.”





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