Kacific Founder and CEO Christian Patouraux Retaining the Founders' Culture as a Company Grows

Founder and CEO

Kacific Founder and CEO Christian Patouraux Retaining the Founders' Culture as a Company Grows

Leadership Monthly: Thanks Christian for Taking the Time to Speak with Us About Leadership in the Space Industry, and Congratulations on Negotiating the SpaceX Deal

Christian Patouraux: Thanks, it’s certainly a milestone for us, and it’s a relief that we’ve successfully reached it. Actually, we’ve been in a kind of execution mode since the start of the year, when we closed all of our financing and placed our satellite order with Boeing. Right now, we’re particularly happy to be moving on to the next milestone of placing insurance for the satellite and its launch, and, of course, continuing to sell its capacity. The team is really holding together well, and we’re growing it.

Leadership Monthly: Take Us Through Kacific’s Formation?

Christian Patouraux: I didn’t start Kacific to generate cash or for the excitement of launching a satellite, I started it because I had a business plan that made sense.

I had previously worked for the big operators like SES and O3b Networks, and progressed into a role as a consultant. I was at a crossroads in my career, and I wanted to explore the idea of starting my own business. I did an initial analysis of what is today Kacific’s market, and it showed me that there was an opportunity to enter the market with a real value proposition and sustain a profitable business. I told this to a friend in private equity, and he was sure that I would secure financing for it, and he wanted to help. I actually ended up financing the project a little differently, but the conversation did result in my friend’s colleague, Cyril Annarella, joining the team as COO as he had previously worked for ESA and wanted to work in space again. We then spoke with Mark Rigolle, another friend, and the ex-CEO of O3b Networks. He offered to put some money in, and this encouraged me to make a few more phone calls, which resulted in more investment.

We didn’t want to immediately launch our own satellite so our next step was to secure a condosat partner. We shopped around and found a wonderful partner in SKY Perfect JSAT. After accomplishing this, we continued to reach out to friends. Bob Perpall, who had been a colleague at SES, decided to join us, and Michael Alex, who was then at SupremeSAT did too. So, essentially, we’re a group of friends that started a business together that’s developed into a really transparent and flat organisation. Everybody wakes up in the morning knowing why they are going to work and what they going to do. The level of communication between us has been great since the formation of the business, and that’s where the culture of Kacific comes from.

Leadership Monthly: How Will You Retain This Culture as You Grow?

Christian Patouraux: That’s a good question. You can argue that we are still a startup in terms of culture but in terms of structure we’ve moved on. in fact, since the beginning of the year we’ve gone through quite a transition in corporate governance and reporting. We are now, in fact, a public company in Singapore due to the number of shareholders we have attracted. So, the challenge today is juggling between the robustness of the new corporate structure, and the culture of the company that has existed since its formation.

What I am doing to retain this culture is to dedicate time to making sure everybody involved in the business asks why we doing this. As a company, we feel that there is a great opportunity to generate cash and offer the returns our shareholders expect. That’s the business case. The social case is that our service addresses the demands of remote communities. They want to benefit from telecommunication services in the same way that more advanced economies have. These services will provide a variety of opportunities for these communities to grow in economic and infrastructure terms, and no company has ever targeted this segment of the market with a realistic value proposition.

We will directly and indirectly positively affect the communities in the regions we will cover. Our service will help to save lives and provide opportunities to make a sustainable positive difference for the people of these communities, and for me, from a personal point of view, seeing an antenna on top of the main building of a remote village is extremely satisfying.

In an organisation, when you know what you are doing as well as why you are doing it, you can interpret the organisation’s culture more readily. I can share my vision with people through spending time with them at the weekends, and during the trips we make together to the places that are already benefiting from our interim Ku-band service. I give them the chance to see the end result of everything we are doing from the perspective I have experienced, and I hope this approach helps to retain Kacific’s unique culture.

Leadership Monthly: Tell Us a Little More About Kacific’s Market

Christian Patouraux: It’s a competitive market, but we feel that the solution we are offering is the best value proposition for its users. Actually, there’s no other provider that can currently connect the remote villages of Papua New Guinea or the Pacific Islands. Even, for example, in the Philippines, it’s hard to connect their rural island communities with anything other than what we are bringing to the market.

We actually already have a Ku-band system deployed. It can do the job but, over the long term, it’s not going to generate a reasonable or sustainable margin. It is breaking even, but deploying ka-band makes a lot more commercial sense.

In the future, a new entrant may introduce an innovative technology, and we may lose some market share to them, but as of today, and for the foreseeable future, I don’t see how any technology or alternative proposition could have superior value to ours or be more attractive to our target segment.

Leadership Monthly: What's Your Vision of the Market in 7 to 10 Years?

Christian Patouraux: In regard to the competition, my opinion is that fiber-optic will start creeping into some of the regions we cover and compete directly for our satellite’s market share. Although, in my opinion, this direct competition should actually stimulate demand for our satellite’s service in areas that fiber-optic providers will not cover, that is, areas on the outskirts of the densely populated areas that get fiber. Actually, an analysis of the market would show that it’s unlikely fiber-optic will ever cover more than 50% of the regions we will cover. It would just be too cost prohibitive, that is, the population density just isn’t there to support a business case for doing it.

There is another perspective to the answer to your question too. How is the Internet going to develop? One thing, which I am conscious of, is that there is only one way of using the Internet. What I mean by this statement is that there is no alternative way that people, in regions which lack an advanced level of infrastructure, will use the Internet. For example, people develop software like Skype and YouTube in countries where they have immediate access to a lot of bandwidth. This will always be at their disposal. Regions around the globe without this access will still use these applications, and if they cannot use them because they don’t have the bandwidth, they will simply not use the Internet. They will not revert to the sort of Internet usage of 10 years ago, they will just not use the Internet. For example, when I got the first version of Skype, I made a call on a 56K GPRS signal. Today, I’m struggling if I’m not on 4G, even for just a Skype voice call.

I need to consider these issues, and ensure that as a business we are not blindsided by them. For example, what will one page of Internet media consume in 7 to 10 years? What will one short HD video on YouTube consume? In our market, our service needs to keep pace with the demands of the applications in order to enable us to provide users with the use of them as they would expect.