Michael Buckwald, CEO and co-founder of Torch Sensors, is on a mission to revolutionize early-stage outdoor fire detection with the company’s innovative, low-cost solar-powered sensor system.
With a background in entrepreneurship that includes co-founding Leap Motion and earning recognition in Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 – Technology list, Buckwald brings extensive experience and expertise to the helm of Torch Sensors.
Designed to serve a wide range of users – from consumer landowners and the agriculture sector to utility companies and government organizations – Torch’s stand-alone wireless IoT device continuously monitors outdoor areas for any signs of fire, offering an unprecedented level of accuracy.
Buckwald’s unwavering commitment to the company’s mission and his focus on building a passionate and skilled team have played a key role in its success.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Michael Buckwald: I am Michael Buckwald, CEO and co-founder at Torch Sensors, the makers of early-stage outdoor fire detection with unprecedented accuracy. For half a decade, I have faced the challenge of building a hardware device for fire detection.
Through my leadership, fundraising and recruiting expertise, I have has helped strengthen Torch’s capabilities as a stand-alone wireless IoT device which features a low-cost solar-powered sensor system that continuously monitors an outdoor area to detect any signs of fire, and is intended for a wide range of users: from consumer landowners, to the agriculture sector, to utility companies, to government organizations, and beyond.
Previously, I was co-founder and CEO of hand-tracking sensor technology Leap Motion, and led the startup to become valued at $300 million – with 100+ employees. My entrepreneurship expertise has been recognized in Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 – Technology list.
If you were in an elevator with Warren Buffet, how would you describe your company, your services or products? What makes your company different from others? What is your company’s biggest strength?
Michael Buckwald: Torch Sensors is the world’s earliest-stage distributed fire sensor intended to detect fires ultra-early in the outdoors. Similar to an indoor smoke detector, which detects fire early enough that the user can extinguish the fire themselves, we believe detecting fires early is beyond critical.
In truth, early detection is probably the only way to prevent conflagrations and wildfires. Unfortunately, by the time outdoor fires are detected today, it is often already impossible to prevent them from becoming a wildfire.
We sell a $299 device that saves properties, lives and the environment across ten acres.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle keeping talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are adapting to the current shift we see?
Michael Buckwald: I believe employees are happiest when they are passionate about their company’s mission, but somewhat counterintuitively, it is almost more important that their co-workers also be passionate and brilliantly capable.
Ultimately, if a person is surrounded by co-workers who are in the top percentile in their field and who share a sense of mission and purpose, it creates energy and contentment in my experience.
However, as an employer, it takes tremendous discipline to hold yourself to this high bar in all cases but the result is well worth it in my experience.
Here is a two fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Michael Buckwald: I’ve been most influenced and gift most frequently Ron Chernow’s Titan, a biography on Rockefeller.
The lesson I cling to the most is that any business is an endless roller coaster of highs and lows which most people expect (correctly) when a company is starting out but Rockefeller faced this not only countless times during the early part of his Standard Oil journey but when already a titan he was confronted with what could have been his darkest hour, the complete dissolution of Standard Oil, after which his net worth actually quintupled leaving him the richest person in history.
This has certainly been my experience practically every day as a CEO and co-founder for the past 13 years.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Michael Buckwald: I believe the gravest challenge to humanity and the greatest opportunity is without question the inevitable rise of automation and AI, which will with absolute certainty replace the vast majority of jobs.
Obviously the companies building this technology will profit, but there will be a need and incentive for companies to think about also empowering this now stagnant 70% of humanity as well.
2020, 2021, 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Michael Buckwald: My advice would be that even though it is extremely easy to be distracted by headlines and macroeconomic timing, ultimately these are a relative tiny fly on the great wall of company building, which is of course incredibly hard always regardless of cycle.
In fact, a stunningly disproportionate percentage of the world’s most successful companies have been created in the worst possible macroeconomic times (Microsoft, Google, GE, and GM areas just a few). It’s in this spirit we started Torch back in 2020 in the depths of the pandemic.
What does “success” in the year to come mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Michael Buckwald: We want to have seen a sufficiently broad adoption of Torch Sensors that we have made a material impact on the death and destruction, environmental and otherwise, caused by fires.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Michael Buckwald for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Michael Buckwald or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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