Haroldo Jacobovicz is a civil engineer and entrepreneur from Brazil and the founding leader of Horizons Telecom.
Haroldo is the oldest of four brothers, the son of two civil engineers – his mother just the seventh female civil engineer in the state where she was born – and Haroldo was inspired as a boy by their work ethic and passion for civil engineering. He spent seven years in Military College before getting a degree in Civil Engineering at the Federal University of Paraná. He then began his professional career, forgoing traditional work in construction and civil engineering in favor of information technology, which he felt was the future of not only business but the entire world. He was inspired and excited by the idea of technology that was only just emerging, and he would apply the creativity and grit that comes from civil engineering to build something other than structures.
Just before he graduated college, Haroldo convinced three of his friends to join him on a venture they called Microsystem. It was designed to be a system that would help grocery stores, pharmacies and other stores automate their inventory management and cash flow. However, they encountered the common entrepreneurial struggle of offering new technology and an approach that the market wasn’t quite primed or ready to accept. The company closed just a year after its founding. But Haroldo knew that there was a future in information technology, so he persevered.
This eventually led to the founding of e-Governe, Horizons Telecom and its companion businesses, which Haroldo continues to help lead into the future to this day.
How did you get started in this business?
Technology fascinates me for its transformative power. I studied at Colégio Militar and am a Civil Engineer from the Federal University of Paraná. My father is a Civil Engineer, he worked in the construction area and was a university professor.
In addition, I studied at Colégio Militar for seven years, where the emphasis is on Exact Sciences. I have always had an affinity for numbers and technology, in addition to being very curious. So, it was the natural choice for me.
Still in college, I opened the computer company Microsystem in partnership with three friends from the field. In one year, we closed due to lack of customers. In 1990, after going through a large multinational (Exxon Mobil) and a binational state-owned company (Itaipu), I resumed the project, this time with a focus on computerizing public agencies. Over time, I saw that the commitment to deliver the best service was occasionally affected by deficiencies in the telecommunications networks. Thus, the idea arose to create Horizons Telecom, which offers stability and reliability because it is 100% fiber-based and uses state-of-the-art equipment. The evolution towards cloud communication with Horizons Datacenter was made possible by the acquisition of the Internet service provider Onda, completed in 2020. With a line-to-wall operation, we will launch more innovative products and services for the digitalization of society.
How do you make money?
Our mission is to meet all the needs of the public sector in Health, Education, Tax and Financial Administration with integrated, complete solutions and the best technical support in the world. We have city halls all over Brazil using the services from e-Governe Group. Horizons Telecom serves companies of all sizes and market segments with internet, data, backup, storage and voice solutions. The company’s project was conceived by the former president of Anatel, Renato Guerreiro, who died in 2011, and includes a 100% digital network architecture, convergent and with multiple redundancies, which means a major improvement in the positive customer experience. Now we’ve entered the cloud communications space with Horizons Datacenter, which offers robust storage, backup and virtualization services.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I can’t say exactly when we went from simply being in a growth stage to actually being profitable, but it certainly wasn’t right away. To succeed in business you definitely have to be comfortable with reinvesting in your business, not necessarily seeing the kinds of margins you’d like to see long-term in those first few months and years. You have to be patient, and you have to have the willpower to accept losses at first if that’s what it means to grow your business into something sustainable, powerful, and long-lasting. That’s been one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the course of my career, more than anything I ever learned in school – though school was very important, too.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Handling doubts is part of being an entrepreneur and businessperson. The people that are successful aren’t the people that never have doubts, because everyone has doubts. The people that are successful are the people that can have those doubts and not let them derail their progress or productivity. Working hard is easy on the days you feel confident, in-control, and when everything seems to be going right. But when your idea or business is struggling, you’re worried about money, you don’t know what your next move should be – those are the days when it can be harder to find the focus and willpower to put work hours in. But those are the days when it’s most important that you work hard to find creative solutions.
How did you get your first customer?
The same way I get every customer – by working harder than every other competitor and making the customer feel like myself and my business is the only logical choice.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
I tend to be intuitive by nature – there are things that catch my attention without much rational explanation. I just see potential. When that happens, I look for people who are in the business to help me understand better, contribute ideas and get involved. In general, these are projects related to technology and civil construction, which I know best. I think the most unique move I made was at the first Hard Rock Café in Brazil.
In 2013, I was approached by a group of entrepreneurs and I accepted the opportunity because I loved the atmosphere, the food and the experience of this American restaurant chain. I called another friend to invest and we were just going to put money in, but the original group ended up going out of business due to external issues. The involvement got bigger, I hired a manager and started to follow the daily routine closely. I stayed from 2015 until 2018 when we sold to an investment group. At the time, I used to go there when I left the office and watch the people, the attendance at the tables, the reaction of the customers. It was such a nice experience.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
My wife loves animals and when we got married we decided to have a black SharPei, Dalila, who was a very striking puppy. She became part of the family and was always with us inside the apartment. She saw our daughters grow up. When she passed away, at the age of ten, we suffered a lot and I even thought we wouldn’t have any more dogs. But my daughters convinced me and now we have Nahla, another caramel SharPei dog, who is super docile and sweet. Dogs reinforce fundamental values like loyalty, companionship and respect.
In a strange way, they make you want to be better in your life, more genuine, more compassionate. The whole family loves dogs and we have already adopted some mutts, too. Sometimes we help to find a new home for abandoned puppies. My daughter, Val, who is a lawyer, plans to specialize in animal law.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
We have been able to identify real problems and create innovative solutions to solve them. In public management, we have created an unprecedented level of intuitiveness in software rental, maintenance and operation services that provide security and peace-of-mind to the customer during a four-year contract. They know that their systems will be running and updated, and their computer maintenance will be up to date. They know the staff will be properly trained and everything will be in its place. In the case of Horizons Telecom, we also address a real pain in the market: in peripheral regions of cities such as Curitiba, Osasco and São José dos Campos, there is a shortage of telecommunications providers and some of them serve only by wireless transmission, via radio. When taking the 100% fiber network to these areas, the market was receptive. Horizons Datacenter began in the Coronavirus pandemic when the logic of the whole world changed in 2020. It was the biggest qualitative leap in the digital age in recent years and the issues of backup, cloud storage and virtualization have become a priority.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Creating the next innovation, having ideas, and making them become something concrete when developing projects is what motivates me the most. I see that much of what I have done has helped in the daily lives of people, companies and public agencies. I’m in the business of technology that is the basis for the transformation of the world, and I want to do more. Leaving a better world as a legacy, that’s what satisfies me most about the work I do.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
In college, I read a thesis that pointed out the way of providing services with monthly fees as the most promising business model of the future. The author, Morris-West, said that selling meant having only one-on-one contact with the customer – the thing was to keep the link for as long as possible. We can all see now how prophetic that message was for the business world today. Today I see technology giants like Microsoft and Amazon moving towards the monthly fee model. I believe it is beneficial for those who provide the service and for those who use it: the provider needs to maintain the quality of delivery and the customer only continues to use the service as long as he or she is satisfied. Everyone wins.
What business books have inspired you?
I tend to be more interested in the current news of the moment than books, which in a fast-paced business world tend to be dated the moment they’re published. I often read several international and Brazilian magazines daily, such as Veja and Exame, Harvard Business Review, Forbes, as well as a mix of national and international newspapers like The Economist, Financial Times, Valor Econômico, InfoMoney, O Globo, Folha de São Paulo, in addition to my local newspaper, Gazeta do Povo.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell him to study more. When I left college, being the eldest of four brothers, I felt pressure to make money soon, to start working. So, I prioritized this and stopped spending the time necessary to continue studying. Today, I see that I could have done both and that ideas for business models would probably arise while working or inside a school. I would also encourage myself to study abroad, invest in an MBA and learn new languages, on top of having fluent English.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Study hard, get ready, stay sharp before entering the market for real. The world today is very different than when I started – it has a lot more competition, things happen faster and you can get run over. Even if you have a brilliant idea, if you don’t have the money to put it up, someone else will buy your idea and push you out of the picture.
In addition to a college degree, it is worth doing an MBA, studying abroad and learning at least English and one other language, perhaps one less obvious than the standard go-to language options, such as Arabic.
People say you need either hard work, talent, or luck. I say that you need all three. I don’t believe anyone who says that just working hard is enough. Without luck and talent, it is not possible. Others try to be very talented and wait for things to happen effortlessly, which is also a recipe for failure. Relying only on luck doesn’t work either. Success depends on a lot of dedication, well-defined talent and applying yourself to reach your goals, day in and day out, in addition to luck.
I consider myself a superstitious guy and I try to understand what attracts good energies: objects, colors, words. And when I see that it works, I repeat. I respect luck, which I consider the phenomenon of deliberately positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time as much as possible for good fortune to meet you there. It’s like meeting the love of your life. Stumbling into them at a coffee shop is a result of chance, but that good luck can’t happen to you if you’re sitting at home all day, never venturing out into the world. You can’t change your luck, but you can put yourself in a position for good luck to impact you.
Finally, I would say to never set aside the things that make life truly meaningful. Very simple things like having a coffee at the mall, having family meals with my wife, my daughters, sons-in-law, my brothers and other close family members. These are the things I treasure most. I also love to travel. I go to Israel every year and whenever possible I go through New York and Paris. To keep our eyes open to the new, every two years we put a different destination on the vacation itinerary. New experiences aren’t just fun and enjoyable, they expand your mind and spirit and make you a more aware person when it comes to the other people and cultures of the world. It makes you a more loving person and a more shrewd businessperson.
Family for me is above all. It is the most precious asset and the reason behind all of our actions, everything we do each day. I respect my parents a lot – Alfredo and Sarita – and I dedicate everything I do to my wife, who is also called Sarita, and to our two daughters – Karina and Valéria. They’re my reason for doing what I do.