The Life Advice Guide: Insights For Young Adults From Stars of Business and Beyond
Interview number eighteen with Robert Wolf and Brandon Torres Declet.
Justin Higgins: “Measure, the Drone as a Service Company, launched in 2014 as a subsidiary of 32 Advisors. Robert, firstly, what is 32 Advisors?”
Robert Wolf: “After nearly three decades on Wall Street, I decided I wanted to build a small, focused advisory firm that draws from my past experiences and connects them to current trends. Hence came 32 Advisors which is a boutique firm offering macroeconomic and geopolitical insights led by former Chair of The Council of Economic Advisors — Austan Goolsbee — and our cutting-edge infrastructure advisory services led by well-known expert Michael Likosky. I also wanted to have the freedom to do venture capital and private investments in sectors that I thought would do well in the future, so I created a vehicle called 32 Entertainment. Through this platform, I have already done over a dozen investments in areas such as app gaming, drone technology, cyber security, concussion research, virtual shopping and numerous other start-ups. (Little secret, 32 was my college football number and it has always been a good luck number and Wall Street traders are superstitious by nature so thus the name of my companies).
Much of my thinking came from spending quality time around incredibly smart and successful thought leaders from both the public and private sector. I have had the good fortune of meeting many of them over the past decade during my time serving on three Presidential Councils: the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the Council for Jobs and Competitiveness and the Export Council. These appointments gave me a newfound appreciation for the incredible opportunities at the intersection of K Street, Main Street and Wall Street and our drone company Measure is the perfect example.”
JH: “As a follow-up, Brandon, how did Measure become a part of 32 Advisors?”
Brandon Torres Declet: “During my tenure in senior positions on Capitol Hill and the Department of Defense, I gained an appreciation for the versatility of drone technology and the game-changing promise that it held for the commercial sector if deployed with the proper business model. Taking a cue from the success of Software as a Service, B2B companies in the second wave of internet-enabled technology such as Salesforce and NetSuite, I realized that to maximize ROI for commercial end users of this sophisticated technology, a Drone as a Service® model would be needed. Thus, the idea for Measure’s full-stack service offering was born.
I came to Robert with the idea for Measure back in 2014 after being introduced through a mutual colleague. I pitched Robert on the idea hoping that he would be interested enough to at least take another meeting. Robert, never one to pass up a good investment opportunity, loved it. He became a co-founder and 32 Advisors served as an incubator of sorts while we honed our business model.
Surrounded by the private and public sector expertise of the 32 Advisors team, Measure molded itself into a truly professional, scalable services provider in a remarkably short period of time.
A little over a year later in September 2015, we spun out from 32 Advisors at the closing of our Series A financing round, and began operating as an autonomous entity.”
JH: “Being an entrepreneur is about breaking barriers.
With Brandon answering first, could you each describe how you are breaking barriers as entrepreneurs with Measure?”
BTD: “I’d say Measure broke barriers early on by betting on the drone industry being a services play when most everyone else was focused on building another quadcopter. But I think in the next year, we’ll see that Robert and I made a smart bet — everything is shifting to services. Just as companies value the turnkey service Salesforce provides because they avoid the high costs and complexity of building their own CRM systems, without a group like Measure to manage and operate drones, enterprises will face challenges extracting the real value that comes from leveraging drone technology. In our case, this is consistently high-quality, actionable data products.
Beyond taking SAAS models for inspiration, Measure has adopted another business model, this one common to restaurants and hotels, as a quick and cost efficient model to scale drone services — franchising. This model breaks down the barriers to rapid scaling in a hardware-intensive industry by building our business through a network of trusted franchisees set up across the nation rather than solely from a central hub.”
RW: “I’ll elaborate on Measure’s Drone As A Service® concept. As Brandon mentioned, we believe the future of the industry is not in hardware or speculating on drones as a commodity, but in being able to provide commercial end users with a turnkey solution to using drones. Measure acts as a risk mitigation service and takes the stress out of working with drones so companies can simply sit back and reap the benefits of productivity and efficiency gains, as well as enhance their imagery output and/or analytical needs. As we say at Measure — “we don’t make drones, we make drones work”.
Measure utilizes best-in-class technology to outfit our fleet of drones and highly trained pilots to perform operations. Every flight we do is safe, legal, and insured. When flights are completed, our data engineers run quality checks on the raw data and deliver actionable intelligence products. In the complex world of drones, having the right analysis and thoughtful, relevant recommendations is key to add value to our customers’ businesses.
I admit this sounds a little bit like an infomercial for Measure. And in a way, that’s because it is: we are operating a socially impactful business with a unique value that meets the challenges associated with using this disruptive technology and collecting big data in a regulated environment. It’s a considerable barrier to break down, but has potential to yield significant dividends to our customers and to society as a whole.”
JH: “I see you recently closed $15 million in funding for Measure’s series B. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience raising money and any tips for young entrepreneurs as they look to find their strategic investors?”
RW: “The raise was quite a fascinating process; Brandon and I improved our pitch each and every day. We started to get real momentum when investors began to realize how big an opportunity we were chasing; Price Waterhouse Coopers pegged it at $125B. As we did our road show, Measure hit its 1000th flight, then prospective investors and clients realized how fast we were growing and wanted to partner with us.”
BTD: “Investors not only saw our speed of growth, they also came to realize that we sat in a unique position with our platform-agnostic approach toward technology and services-focused business model. So I’d say it’s important to create your niche and truly understand the distinct value your company brings; justify this with data; and effectively communicate this to investors in a compelling format.
Second, focus on finding the right investment partner. Not all money is smart money. Each one of our investors is strategic; some accentuate our business development efforts while others aid us with their facility in technology integration. For example, we were fortunate early on to cultivate a business relationship with Cognizant. When we started the raise and met with their venture group, it became apparent that Cognizant’s unparalleled information technology expertise could help our customers maximize the value they receive from our data products. So in addition to Cognizant’s monetary investment, the company brings a lot to the table with their knowledge, experience, and trusted brand that will help Measure consistently innovate and improve upon our data services.”
JH: “Prior to Co-Founding Measure, you both previously had successful careers working for established organizations, Robert on Wall Street and Brandon in consulting and legal roles.
With Robert answering first, what drove each of you to move out of your comfort zones and become entrepreneurs?”
RW: “After being at only large, global financial services firms with best-in-class resources to leverage, I now have the utmost admiration for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Launching a new business has been an incredibly different experience than anything I have ever done. People ask me what’s it like after running a firm of tens of thousands of people in over 25 countries, and I tell them it is humbling, hard, liberating and exciting all in the same day.
I always believed that to be successful one needs to take prudent risks and have ambitious stretch goals. And as a person who has always walked that fine line of confidence and arrogance, pursuing new challenges is always something I wanted to tackle head on.
The pace of technological change is exponential, and I’ve turned part of my focus to technology and big data. I believe it’s supremely important for any business person to keep abreast of these developments, especially because technology drives some of the world’s most powerful and profitable firms. As a capitalist at heart, I had to put myself in the mix — as we say, it was time to teach this old dog some new tricks. So, looking to the future, this overlay of technology and big data remained a priority to me and led me to invest in a new business: unmanned aerial vehicles.”
BTD: “Moving out of one’s comfort zone is about one thing: taking risks specifically for something that you believe in. Hindsight is 20/20, but if you don’t move quickly to seize opportunities they will pass you by and you will always be left wondering “what if?” Missing out on something that inspires me scares me far more than failure.
With Measure, I saw an opportunity in a new industry that no one was addressing. Collecting high-quality data with drones requires a level of skill, expertise, safety mitigation infrastructure, and organizational complexity that not all large companies want to invest in. Measure’s Drone as a Service® model offers the perfect, packaged solution to these challenges.”
JH: “You both have a wealth of life experiences.
Accordingly, with Brandon answering first, what life advice do you each have for young adults?”
BTD: “Be bold, take risks, and never be complacent. Your future will be much more exciting and fulfilling if you do.”
RW: “I would tell young people: always do your homework, be prepared, be dynamic and keep your eyes and ears open to the future — you never know where it will take you.”
Robert Wolf is Chairman and co-founder of Measure, a company offering Drone as a Service® and Founder and Chief Executive Officer of 32 Advisors, a company focusing on economic advisory services and developing infrastructure projects.
Prior to forming 32 Advisors, Robert spent 18 years at UBS, a global financial services firm. There he held several senior positions including Chairman and CEO of UBS Americas and President and Chief Operating Officer of the Investment Bank. He joined UBS in 1994 after spending approximately 10 years at Salomon Brothers.
In addition to his role at 32 Advisors, Robert has held three Presidential appointments under President Obama; as a member of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2009–11, the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness from 2011–13 and the Export Council from 2014–16. In 2012 Robert was on the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Border Infrastructure Task Force.
Robert serves on the Board of Directors of the Barack Obama Foundation, Undergraduate Executive Board of the Wharton School, on the Athletics Board of Overseers at the University of Pennsylvania and as Vice Chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. Robert also sits on the board of the Partnership for NYC, the Leadership Council for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a graduate member of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy. From 2002 to 2013, Robert was on the board of trustees of the Children’s Aid Society and on the Board of Directors of the Financial Services Roundtable from 2007 to 2010. Robert was named to Worth Magazine’s 100 Most Powerful People in Finance in 2013 and in 2012–13, he hosted the show “Impact Players” on the Reuters Channel on YouTube TV. In December 2016, Robert joined Fox News/Fox Business as a TV contributor and as a member of the Advisory Board of Fox’s show Wall Street Week.
Robert is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a B.S. in Economics. While at UPenn, he played on the varsity football team that won IVY League Championships in both the 1982 and 1983 seasons and was an honoree into the Ivy Football Association in 2013. In May 2014, Robert received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Wharton School. Robert currently resides in Purchase NY and grew up in Marblehead, MA and is in the town’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Follow on twitter @robertwolf32.
Brandon Torres Declet is the CEO and Co-Founder of Measure. Prior to founding Measure, he established and managed the Defense and Homeland Security government relations practice at McAllister & Quinn, served as Counsel on Capitol Hill to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Jane Harman, advised the NYPD Counter Terrorism Bureau under Commissioner Ray Kelly and held senior positions at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Brandon also served on the UAS Registration Task Force Aviation Rulemaking Committee in November 2015.