And TUM lived up to its promises. Thomas Grübler became significantly involved in two space projects. He was able to write his final thesis on the experiments conducted there. As a bachelor’s student he was part of the REXUS (Rocket Experiments for University Students) program at the Institute for Measurement Systems and Sensor Technology. As a master’s student, he got to know the former astronaut and professor at the Chair of Astronautics, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Walter. Under his leadership, Thomas Grübler worked on small satellites in the student research group WARR. He realized that he could build these CubeSats for more than just research. And he wanted to develop them further by launching his own start-up. “This is how I found my career path,” he says. “I turned my hobby into my profession.”
Already as a teenager, Thomas Grübler got a taste of entrepreneurship. As a freelancer, he designed websites, offered IT solutions and released his own apps. “At the time, I just didn’t know about venture capital and that goals didn’t really have a limit,” he recalls. “It wasn’t until I went to TUM that I learned that you can also start something really big.” Already in his second semester, Thomas Grübler attended the lecture ‘Innovative Entrepreneurs’. In 2014, he was one of 20 students selected for the Manage&More program, designed for students who are particularly active and have an entrepreneurial mindset.
FINDING HIS CALLING
Thomas Grübler started his company OroraTech in 2018 together with TUM Alumni Florian Mauracher (Master Informatics 2019) and Rupert Amann (Bachelor Electrical and Computer Engineering 2016, Master 2019) as well as Björn Stoffers. TUM and UnternehmerTUM assisted them with start-up consulting, support through the Initiative for Industrial Innovators, office and lab space, marketing and the extensive network they have.
While the four founders knew that they could very cost-effectively launch a large number of satellites into space and thus obtain a huge amount of thermal imagery that did not yet exist, they had not decided to which of the many use cases they should apply this potential. Many discussions with customers and the experience Thomas Grübler had gained in the volunteer fire department and during his civilian service at the district fire department in Villach helped shape the future of the company. The team of young entrepreneurs wanted to specialize in the early detection of forest fires.
Today, customers worldwide use OroraTech’s global early warning system, among them fire departments and authorities in Canada and Australia, forest owners in Chile and Brazil, as well as insurance companies and NGOs. The start-up’s app draws on satellite images. This allows for forest and bush fires, as well as illegal fire clearing, to be detected and targeted more quickly than by people on the ground, planes or drones. In January 2022, OroraTech sent its first small satellite into space.
And the next mission is already scheduled for the end of 2023. Thomas Grübler and his co-founders are planning to launch the first constellation of nanosatellites. With this network of small satellites, they hope to be able to detect forest fires even more quickly and deliver high-resolution thermal images of Earth every day. By 2026, this should be possible every hour. “It’s really fun to have the chance to make an impact,” Thomas Grübler says. “I want to make a lasting difference in the world.”
Bachelor Electrical and Computer Engineering 2016, Master 2017
After completing his master’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at TUM, he co-founded the start-up OroraTech with TUM Alumni Florian Mauracher and Rupert Amann, as well as Björn Stoffers. In doing so, he turned his hobby into a profession. In 2019, Forbes included him in the 30 Under 30 list, and in 2021, Capital named him one of the Top 40 Under 40 – Young Elite. In his free time, Thomas Grübler can be found in the mountains, backcountry skiing, hiking, on a racing or mountain bike.