Haroldo Jacobovicz is an entrepreneur and civil engineer, who has a passion for information technology. He is also the founder of e-Governe Group, Horizons Telecom and Horizons Datacenter. These companies were developed to bring together the best strategic resources, human talent, and technical expertise to help solve information technology problems using the most innovative solutions available. The impact of these companies, in both the private and the public sector, has been instrumental in transforming markets all over Brazil. Horizons boasts a 100% fiber network, multi-point redundancy and the most advanced equipment available anywhere on the market. It’s grown from its founding in 2010 to become one of the most respected telecommunications suppliers in Brazil. This led to the launch of Horizons Datacenter in 2020, an extension of the Horizons Telecom mission to bring cloud capabilities, connectivity, and more to organizations everywhere.
Haroldo Jacobovicz was born in Brazil to two civil engineers. His mother, Sarita, was only the seventh female civil engineer in her state at the time, and Haroldo was inspired as he watched her and his father create value and physical structures where once there had been nothing. While he initially followed directly in their footsteps, attending four and a half years of civil engineering school at the Federal University of Paraná, he eventually found that he was more interested in emerging information technologies. He then saw his parents as more spiritual inspirations, inspiring him not to follow directly in their footsteps but instead to follow their vision of creating something from nothing in order to serve the greater good.
With a curiosity about the transformative innovations that shape the world, Haroldo began reading everything he could get his hands on about the future of technology in newspapers and magazines. Meanwhile, he recognized that while luck was an important factor in business, hard work and well-developed talent were essential for creating something lasting. He didn’t waste any time diving into the world of information technology, convincing three friends with deep knowledge in that field to form a company called Microsystem just before they all graduated. While their product, a solution designed to help businesses automate their inventory and cash management, would be widely used in today’s world, at the time it fell on deaf ears not yet ready to adjust to the future of automation. Microsystem would close down just a year later. But this early failure had no negative effects on Haroldo’s vision. If anything, he felt even more sure that while the world at large may not be ready to accept the future of information technology at the time, a day would soon come when it would shape the entire world.
In fact, Haroldo quickly found that the small businesses he was pitching on automation were the wrong audience. Larger corporations were already seeing the writing on the wall when it came to the future potential for these technologies, and Exxon Mobil (then known as Esso) saw massive potential in the ideas of this Brazilian engineer. They hired him from a group of over 200 engineers and he quickly rose through the ranks to become a market analyst and head of commercial tactics and new business at the company’s Brazilian headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.
But Haroldo’s dreams always lay in entrepreneurship, and he knew that there was even more he could be doing to usher in the future of technology. 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. In this interview, learn about what inspires and motivates Haroldo and how he continues to innovate after over 30 years in the business of IT and entrepreneurship.
Where did the idea for Horizons Telecom come from?
When I was still in college, I started a company called Microsystem with three friends who had deep knowledge of the Information Technology field. It was designed to help businesses improve and simplify their inventory management and other tasks with automation. It ultimately failed because the small companies we were pitching weren’t ready for it. But I still believed that there was a future in innovative computing and IT work. I didn’t want to give up.
My career took lots of curving paths from that point, but they eventually led me to develop business in the software for management segment focusing on public agencies for 20 years. When I figured out that the quality of these services were impacted by the quality of the internet and the telecommunications networks, that was the very beginning of my work launching Horizons Telecom.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
For me, creating effective habits is one of the most important things. Being present in what I do is fundamental. A productive day is one in which I dedicate my full attention to everything that occurs from sunrise to sunset. I wake up at six in the morning and connect with my body through a series of physical exercises. Then, I have a light meal and read the most recent news from newspapers and magazines on my tablet. Next, I’ll take a shower so I’m ready to go to the office. The routine of decision making, phone calls and meetings normally continues throughout the morning and afternoon. But it is at lunchtime that I get to have the best conversations with the team. I always like to invite someone to lunch in order to create closeness, to get to know more about their life outside the company, such as their family and hobbies. In a relaxed chat, many innovative ideas and projects also emerge.
How do you bring ideas to life?
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.
What’s one trend that excites you?
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 is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I read, read, read. While I do love great books, what I read tends to be the most up-to-the-minute magazines, newspapers, and journals surrounding my industry and the world in general. I’m a huge believer in staying constantly informed and learning as much as you can about the world as it is now. I believe my habit of voraciously reading everything I can get my hands on in terms of relevant magazines and newspapers is one of the secret weapons that’s been able to help me have a very successful career as an entrepreneur and businessperson.
What advice would you give 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 earn an MBA abroad and learn different languages. Besides English, I would say something less obvious like Arabic, for example.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I only consider a person as “practicing a sport” if that activity is frequent, regulated, has defined objectives and continued evolution. People play football, tennis or cycle on the weekend and say they are playing a sport. That is not a sport, that is a hobby, a recreation, or a pastime.
A real tennis player sees the sport as a metric to achieving high performance. It is the exercises of strength, conditioning, sweat and focus that is required to perfect technique and make a real tennis sportsman. The game itself only shows its good conditioning and technique. To achieve high performance, it is necessary to establish goals, define strategies, focus and dedication. The same goes for business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Everyday I wake up at 6 am and do an hour of physical activity in the building’s gym, with a personal trainer. I am disciplined, I follow the training logic and the results achieved to have positive reflexes in health and disposition. This is one thing that I know for sure has a deep impact on my daily energy and disposition to go through a busy day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I made sure that I knew what I was doing as much as possible before I dived into the business. Obviously, you can never predict exactly what will happen, and there’s a lot of learning that happens as you go. But the fact that I was able to make some mistakes and learn with them at the very beginning of my career, having experience in big companies – private and public ones – before flying by my own helped me grow the business at a good rate rather than facing more stumbles than necessary early on.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When Microsystem failed, I wanted to make sure I learned the right lesson from it. Sometimes we learn the wrong lessons from our failures and successes, and it derails our progress. What I learned from Microsystem wasn’t that what I was offering didn’t have value, it was that I would have to find the right audience who was ready to appreciate it. We learned that small businesses weren’t ready, but large enterprises were. That was how I ended up at ExxonMobil initially.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The membership model is what I always advise entrepreneurs to look at. Ongoing revenue, ongoing engagement with your customer base. I don’t give specific advice about what businesspeople should go into, because it’s so personal to their interests and skills, but I always say that they should start with a membership-based pricing model.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My daughters convinced me to adopt a dog named Nahla, a 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. The money we spend caring for these dogs is always worthwhile.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Horizons Data Center technologies! In a sense it’s the tool that makes me more productive than anything else. I use it to help transform the world. Does that count?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
It’s not technically a book depending on how you define a book, but 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 is your favorite quote?
It’s hard to name just one, but one of my favorites is: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” It’s commonly cited, but it’s just so meaningful to me because of what I’ve seen in my life. My mother, for example, was one of the very first female civil engineers in our state. She faced all kinds of challenges, obstacles, unfair disadvantages that had nothing to do with her talent or hard work. She just kept going. Kept working. Kept at it. That has been one of my greatest inspirations, and it’s also keen business advice. The companies that succeed are those that keep trying after the others have given up.
- Staying up to date on the most current journals, newspapers, and magazines is an essential way to inspire innovation, follow the trends that are shaping the world, and spark creative solutions to problems that are affecting people and businesses around the globe.
- It takes a combination of hard work, talent, and luck to succeed. Luck can’t be created out of thin air, but it can be encouraged by putting yourself in the right place at the right time.
- Perseverance is an essential skill in business and life. Those that succeed are the ones who are willing to keep trying after others give up.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.