This week we have interviewed Svante Hjorth, SACC-GA Board member and Founder & CEO of Arycom, an operator and provider of satellite connectivity solutions in the Americas, as well as Southpartner, a local partner for foreign tech companies wanting to set up and manage new business ventures in South America. Read on about Svante’s background, how he came up with the idea of his companies, what he thinks is behind their success, and much more. Enjoy!
Svante was born and raised in a small town outside Jönköping, Sweden. After Senior high, he served as Second Lieutenant in the Swedish Artillery, and worked briefly as teacher and engineer before he attended the Institute of Technology at Linköping University where he received a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering and Management. Throughout university Svante did internships abroad, and after writing his Master’s thesis in New York he also spent six months in Chile. When returning to Sweden, he worked as Management consultant but it didn’t take long until he left abroad again.
- I was offered a job that changed the direction of my life - a position as Market Consultant at the Swedish Trade Council (now Business Sweden), helping Swedish companies to establish and grow their business in Brazil! So three months later, I was on a flight to São Paulo, and have lived on this side of the Atlantic ever since.
Southpartner & Arycom
Shortly after the big move, Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor was looking for an Area Sales Manager in Brazil. Svante was offered the position, and he later advanced as Business Development Manager, being responsible for setting up Telenor Satellite Services'subsidiary in Brazil and establishing a distribution channel in Latin America. It was through Telenor he got into satellite communications, and also how he came up with the business idea of his first company, Arycom.
- While working for Telenor I identified a need on the market. The local partner that Telenor was looking for in Brazil simply didn’t exist, so I created it – Arycom. Arycom is a provider of satellite voice and broadband data solutions for customers on land, at sea and in the air. During my time at Business Sweden, I also noticed there was a need for local partners to the foreign companies that Business Sweden assisted getting in to the Brazilian market, so I created a second company – Southpartner. Southpartner is a local partner for foreign tech companies that want to set up and manage new business ventures in South America.
However, shortly after having started his first business, Svante got one of those offers you cannot refuse. Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the satellite operator and pioneer of mobile satellite communications, wanted to set up its Latin American operations in Miami and was looking for a Regional Director. Svante got the job, and later became Vice President of the Americas. In the meantime, his business partner was running Arycom and Southpartner. In 2008 however, Arycom received an important license to sell satellite services in Brazil, and with the license in place, Svante decided to step off the corporate life and take over the leadership of his companies.
- I felt it was a “now or never” chance to try my wings and see if I could turn my companies into what I had dreamt of. I definitely think I am more of an entrepreneur than a corporate person. I love to create things, and have a strong vision of what I want to accomplish which is sometimes hard to combine with a corporate job. I had been working in the corporate world most of my career, but ever since I jumped off the corporate ladder I have not regretted it. Arycom grew its business from a start-up to one of the leading operators and providers of mobile satellite communications in Brazil, and now, in the Americas.
Despite having an entrepreneurial spirit, starting his own business on the other side of the world has not exactly been challenge-free.
- You know when people say “that’s not rocket science”, well, our business actually is, so I guess I didn’t make it easy for me. Also, even though Brazil is a vast country with huge potential, it is a jungle of bureaucracy, complex legal structures and credit risks, so it is not an easy market to start your business in. Besides my own companies, I have helped many foreign companies into the market over the last twenty years, so I have learnt a lot along the way.
Both companies have done well, and besides Brazil and South America, they have now launched Arycom in the US as well, focusing initially on providing connectivity solutions to customers in business aviation and agribusiness. They also plan to launch Southpartner in the US in 2019. Svante explains what he thinks is the reason for the companies’ success.
- People! I have had the luck of having very skilled and smart people in my team. That’s our main differential. Also, compared to larger companies, we are more agile and support our customers really well.
Ever since Svante moved from Sweden twenty years ago, he has maintained a strong bond with the Swedish community in all countries he has lived. Last year, he won the prestigious “Swedish Excellence Reward”, a reward given to a person or company with Swedish connections that has made a tremendous impact within the Swedish-American Community in Georgia.
- I always had a strong connection to Sweden both business wise and personally, even though I’ve lived abroad for twenty years. I am proud and happy to be Swedish, and I always wanted to maintain that connection. Therefore, it felt natural to join SACC-GA when I moved to Atlanta, and then accepting the opportunity to join the Board of Directors. I’m happy to be able to contribute to the Swedish community and to trade with Sweden, and if I can help SACC-GA race the bar over the next few years it would give me great satisfaction.
Within the next few years, another connection to Sweden is on the radar.
- We are planning to establish both Arycom and Southpartner in Europe, not necessarily within the next few months but in 1-2 years, and Sweden would be a natural base. We started our international expansion a few years ago by setting up a subsidiary in the US, and the next step will definitely be Europe. Sweden would be a good location, as conditions for start-ups and SMEs are very favorable, and it would enable us to support our customers in Latin America, North America and Europe. A lot of fun ahead!