Satellite Executive of the Year: The Nominees
With a feel-good factor emanating around the industry, the process to decide nominees for our Satellite Executive of the Year was far from easy. However, we have managed to whittle it down to six candidates that are in the running for the award.
Last year, Dan Berkenstock deservedly won Via Satellite’s prestigious Satellite Executive of the Year award, for the great success story that Skybox Imaging has become. This year, we have six nominees ranging from a number of new players, as well as two of Europe’s most established space companies.
GREG WYLER, FOUNDER, ONEWEB
OneWeb is the new project of Greg Wyler, who previously founded O3b Networks in 2007. OneWeb is pioneering a massive new satellite constellation consisting of 720 spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The goal of this system is to provide affordable, low cost broadband Internet access to the entire world, especially to those deemed out of reach by geography or profitability.
Wyler has challenged the industry to dream big, having not only established the success of O3b, which now has 12 High Throughput Satellites in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and eight more in the docket, but immediately hitting the ground running with OneWeb. In a relatively short amount of time, the company raised $500 million in an investment round that included Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, The Coca-Cola Company, the Virgin Group, and Totalplay. OneWeb does not have satellites in orbit yet, but the company has made considerable progress toward implementing its system. Wyler’s forward momentum with OneWeb and the continued success of his previous company make him a deserved nominee for the Satellite Executive of the Year Award.
MICHEL DE ROSEN, CEO, EUTELSAT
In 2009, when Michel de Rosen became the CEO of Eutelsat, the company was a regional operator that was looking for its place in the satellite world. In the six years since, de Rosen has built the company to be a global powerhouse, which now has a strong presence in Latin America and Asia, and is now truly global. Eutelsat has been at the forefront of technology changes and has constantly pushed the envelope in areas such as electric propulsion and small satellites to name but two.
While it is sometimes easier to look at de Rosen’s achievements in a five to six year context, in his final year as CEO of Eutelsat, the company has not stood still. The operator closed what is undoubtedly one of the deals of the year by linking up with Facebook to bring satellite connectivity to Africa. It is an example of de Rosen’s determination to make a difference that was obviously a key factor to being successful in this deal. As a final calling card, it is also an impressive statement of intent.
What is also impressive about Eutelsat is that the operator does more than just capacity deals. The Facebook deal is a potential game changer. Another new partnership worth highlighting is with a company called Sigfox, which will deploy Eutelsat-developed satellite technology to further enhance service levels on its infrastructure. Sigfox provides a subscription-based communications service for wirelessly connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These two deals are examples of Eutelsat’s ability to add non-traditional customers to its roster.
One of the highlights for the company in 2015 was its ability to do deals with big name telcos. For example, in February 2015, it signed a deal with Telekom Austria to offer satellite broadband across its footprint — one out of three households have no Internet access in some operating countries of the Telekom Austria Group. Eutelsat also signed a high profile deal with Ooredoo, Qatar’s leading communications company, to deliver an enhanced Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) service for businesses called VSAT Internet in Qatar.
Eutelsat has performed impressively financially and operationally, and in 2015 it again saw net profits and overall revenues increase strongly. Besides being a highly successful CEO, de Rosen has also been a strong statesman for the industry, and worked tirelessly ahead of the World Radiocommunications Conference 2015 (WRC-15), to make sure the industry’s voice was ahead. Even though 2015 was his last full year as CEO of Eutelsat, it has been one of his most successful. As a result, Michel de Rosen has been nominated for Satellite Executive of the Year.
ELON MUSK, CEO AND LEAD DESIGNER, SPACEX
Frequently cited as a source of inspiration for many in the space industry, Elon Musk, founder, CEO and lead designer of SpaceX led this launch provider through a year of highs and lows. SpaceX started 2015 with two major highlights: a $1 billion investment from Google and Fidelity, and the closure of its protracted legal battle with the U.S. Air Force over the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Program (EELV), ending with a promise to introduce competition in national security launches. As the year continued, SpaceX gained multiple new launch contracts for the Falcon 9 and the Falcon Heavy — pushing it’s manifest above 60.
This momentum took a head-on blow in the middle of the year when the NASA mission CRS 7 failed, tarnishing the Falcon 9’s hithertofore nearly perfect launch record. This setback added further strain to a launch market already beset with the strain of an uncomfortable number of recent rocket failures.
However, the number of accomplishments Musk and SpaceX made in 2015 has not gone underappreciated by the satellite industry. SpaceX continues to prove the entrepreneurial business case for a private launch company — a concept once thought unfeasible — and despite the setback of CRS 7, continued to iteratively evolve its rocket technology, ultimately culminating in the landing of a Falcon 9 first stage booster after an orbital mission by year’s end. A truly reusable launch system has never been closer to existence than today, and with this feat, Musk demonstrated a leader’s ability to drive a company to rebound even stronger than before. Add to this NASA’s first purchase of an option for three more CRS missions and a commercial crew mission, and it is clear SpaceX has not lost the faith of even its most technologically demanding customer. SpaceX is on track to launch not only satellites and cargo payloads, but human payloads as well, which is a testament to the trust placed in the company’s products, employees and leadership. For these reasons, Musk is a nominee for our Satellite Executive of the Year Award.
STÉPHANE ISRAËL, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, ARIANESPACE
In a year where rocket failures and their lingering effects made headlines a troubling number of times, Arianespace instead shone brightly. The launch market has seen dynamic change in recent years, with SpaceX emerging as a major competitor, regional launch providers maturing their systems and numerous small satellite launch startups vying for a new piece of the market. It is in the midst of this setting that Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël led the company to record new launch contracts, a record manifest, and a record number of launches in a single year.
In 2015, Israël guided Arianespace to launch 12 rockets — six Ariane 5, three Soyuz and three Vega — and signed 19 new contracts for 33 launches, which was also a record for the company. Arianespace’s manifest is at its strongest with 56 missions in the queue. Under Israel’s leadership, Arianespace inked one of the largest launch contracts in industry history with OneWeb for 21 Soyuz missions valued at more than $1 billion. This is undoubtedly one of the deals of the year and showcases his ability to close high profile, high financial contracts. He also guided the Vega rocket through its development phase and secured the light-light launcher’s first fully commercial agreement with Google+Skybox.
Israël is also leading Arianespace during a time of evolution. With every major launch provider updating or recreating their vehicles Arianespace is no exception. Israel laid the groundwork with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the Ariane 6 and Vega C, slated for 2020 and 2018 debuts. The modular launch system streamlines cost compared to today, and includes room for future developments such as reusability. Israel has also sculpted Arianespace’s governance structure, and augmented the company’s industrial supply chain to ensure competitiveness today and in the future.
In 2015, Arianespace had a strong operating performance, a strong financial performance and, thanks to Israël, is well positioned to build on this success still further. Even given Arianespace’s rich history, 2015 must go down as one of its most successful ever. As a result, Stéphane Israël has been nominated for Satellite Executive of the Year.
MASOOD SHARIF MAHMOOD, CEO YAHSAT
Yahsat continues be one of the top performers in the Middle East, and thrillingly is moving beyond just the UAE government market, which has been the operator’s staple for the first few years of its existence. Under the ambitious leadership of Masood Sharif Mahmood, the company is moving out of its comfort zone and is set to play a key role in new markets and verticals going forward.
Under Mahmood’s leadership, Yahsat’s new market approach is already paying rich dividends. The operator gained its first In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) contract in 2015 with Etihad Airways, a connectivity agreement with the Square Kilometer Array project in Southern Africa, and progressed on the new Al Yah 3 satellite that will introduce the company to Latin America. Yahsat is much more a commercial operator than ever before. The operator’s performance in Africa, and the success of its YahClick product are good examples of its ability to gain new customers and markets. YahClick has more than 34,000 subscribers for its satellite broadband service and has now been rolled out in 15 countries. It is an impressive achievement for a service that provides connectivity to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Small Office, Home Office (SOHO), healthcare and education providers, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), oil and gas companies, etc.
Yahsat could have played it safe and relied on a steady stream of UAE-government business, but instead is diversifying impressively. The operator is now one of the top 10 satellite operators globally and has moved sharply up the list in recent times. It is without doubt one of the fastest growing Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) operators right now, and Mahmood has taken the company up a number of levels in recent years. In 2014, Yahsat achieved revenues of close to $300 million and has achieved around 15 percent cumulative annual growth in net income since the start of its operations. Its financial performance has been really strong.
Mahmood is leading an evolution of the operator. In a few years, Yahsat could have a 50/50 split between commercial and government revenues, which is a pretty lofty goal but one that now seems well within reach. With the success of services such as YahClick and YahLive, as well as a strong financial performance, Masood Sharif Mahmood is a nominee for Satellite Executive of the Year.
STEVE COLLAR, CEO, O3B NETWORKS
2015 is the year when O3b really came to the party. The company has long been seen as one of the most ambitious in the sector. It now has 40 live customers spread across 31 countries. O3b started commercial service in September 2014 and has wasted little time making a huge impact. By September of 2015, O3b had 25 Gbps of contracted capacity — a great performance however you wish to look at it — and is looking more and more like one of the best investments SES has ever made. O3b Networks CEO, Steve Collar has been instrumental in the success of the company and signed off on many deals in 2015.
The company has overcome early setbacks of glitchy satellites to be one of the most formidable new players to have emerged in recent years. In 2015, O3b signed a number of deals to underline its position in the market. For example, the operator signed a multi-year strategic framework agreement to provide IP trunking services to Bharti Airtel for Timor-Leste. O3b also signed deals with three operators in Somalia: Hormuud, Telesom, Golis.
To end a busy year, O3b closed its third round of financing with another $460 million. Additionally, the company has ordered another eight satellites, as it looks to keep up with the growing demand for its bandwidth.
There is little doubt that O3b has been one of the major success stories of the satellite industry over the last few years. While Greg Wyler had the vision, Collar has executed magnificently well. Doing deals with telcos and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in emerging parts of the world is no easy thing to do, yet Collar has made the difficult look easy and put O3b on a path to high future growth. Its first year in commercial operation could not have really gone any better and for these reasons Steve Collar has been nominated to be Satellite Executive of the Year. VS