An Interview with Steve Orlando

Editor’s Note: On October 1, Steve Orlando became the new CEO of Seaborn Networks (see announcement here).  Recently, SubCableWorld had the pleasure to speak with him about the company and his strategic vision

SubCableWorld: Can you tell us something about yourself and what attracted you to Seaborn?

Mr. Orlando: My experiences include 27 years in the telecom world, focused on sales leadership around core assets, mostly in North America.  It’s been about creating partnership and solving problems for the wholesale, hyperscale and enterprise side of the house. 

I think the exciting part about Seaborn is that I’ll be running an organization with a strong operations group.  I inherited at Seaborn an efficient operations group that I believe is proactive in capacity planning and service assurance and can turn-up capacity in 24 hours or less to meet the dynamic needs of the customer base.  That’s unique.  Typically it’s the opposite, with a lot of sales velocity and marketing muscle and you sort of limp through on the operations side.  Here it’s different.  Seaborn has world-class operations.  Andy Bax [Seaborn’s COO] and his team have done a really good job of guiding the operations through from the vision of cable in the water all the way through to where we are today.  We’re going to try to use that as a differentiator in the marketplace.  We are a small and agile company able to meet the dynamic needs of our customers. 

That to me was a big piece of it.  Seaborn always has been known for this and I’ve been impressed by their commitment.  They have the architecture and when you wrap in the security and the quality of service, I think they have impressive credibility in the building and operating of a system.  They’ve done a good job in launching new products and services such as the IP services that we have in Brazil.  So you take the unique balance of ecosystem enablers, and as a partner for construction around OTT and wholesale providers and you wrap that together with innovation and the direct relationships with enterprise customers.  I believe this is pretty unique in the industry.  And that’s what we’re homing in on. 

SubCableWorld: Can you tell us something about the relationship with Partners Group?

Mr. Orlando: Partners Group is Seaborn’s owner and I spent some time there.  I’ve been impressed with their commitment to infrastructure in their investment portfolio side of the house, their strategic direction and obviously the return to the shareholders.  I view them as a great industry visionary and I wanted to lead the company with their ownership and their guidance.  That’s also what attracted me to the job. 

SubCableWorld: What is your vision for the future of Seaborn?

Mr. Orlando: I see Seaborn as pioneering change through connectivity and technology innovation that enables communities to realize their potential and for us to improve the world.  It’s a broad statement but that’s the vision as we progress into the future.  Certainly the unique infrastructure that we have connects global organizations across the Americas, delivering the speed and capacity that’s needed for the digital transformation.  And I think it comes down to our people, our expertise and our commitment to this consistent execution and we do it so that companies can focus on their core business while we handle the connectivity. 

In terms of demand, we still see heavy demand from Brazil to the United States, as well as demand for interregional capacity.  IP typically stays down in Latin America so the connectivity between some of the major markets is going to be really important.  We see a market opportunity in Northeast Brazil – Fortaleza and Recife – that opens the door for us for a lot of things, whether it’s data center connectivity, branching units or high-frequency trading.  The low-latency piece is such an important part of our business.  As you get close to Sao Paulo, you can pick up speed with branching units.  You can use that to your advantage and deliver something to the market that’s low latency.  That’s a game we play in and one in which we want to maintain our customer relationships and grow it in the future.

Another aspect of what we do is enabling partnerships within the ecosystem.  We think there’s a solid opportunity to augment partner networks with the OTTs in the marketplace.  You think about their position.  Inter-region is really important to them.  I think there is the ability to leverage co-build partnerships and capabilities within organizations where possibly in the past they were seen as a threat.  I think it’s an open ecosystem and do you want to build on top of each other?  The answer is “No.”  You both have an opportunity to monetize an asset and you both have an opportunity to bring diversity and differentiate experience to the end-user customer.  I think there’s more strategy up front with the OTTs.  It’s less reaction and more pro-action about where they’re going to invest in the future.  And it make sense.  They’re all going to anywhere from 2-to-5 year capacity planning exercises.  They know where they’re going to go.  They also know that when they see demand it’s going to take two years to build out so they have to stay in front of it.  The best thing that we can do is be with them in the same conversation and talk about both of our needs.  They are potential competitors, they are enablers themselves, but they’re also customers.  That’s why the ecosystem is very engaging. 

SubCableWorld: Earlier you talked about “improving the world.” Could you elaborate on that and how you see your work having an impact on society?

Mr. Orlando: For the last three years, I had experience at Zayo running P&L for a region across products and I think that was the first time I realized the impact we were having on communities.  I’d think about E-Rate [the FCC’s program for connectivity for schools and libraries] and how that improves educational opportunities.  I’d think about the North America wireless providers and their push for 5G and how it enables small businesses in the community.  That whole piece showed me that wireless and local metro fiber have big impacts in communities that have limited choices but want to upgrade their technology.  When you get in front of the community, it’s not just the price tag, it’s about the impact of the technology.  It’s about what you can do for the community and what you can do for innovation.  Especially now in this COVID environment where it’s hit or miss with online classes and trying to get the in-school experience.  You’re seeing this on the local and metro level.  We’d like to think that we could do the same thing between regions through subsea architecture and connectivity.  We impact that environment and the entire eco-system.  The eco-system is evolving and we all need to evolve as well.  Together, we can go a long way.