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Space Café Israel by Meidad Pariente: Arie Halsband – Moving from the classical space industry to New Space

By Meidad Pariente

In the Ninth episode of Space Café Israel, Meidad Pariente is in conversation with Arie Halsband

Can you share something personal that isn’t written in your LinkedIn profile?

Well, I’m not sure that nobody knows. But I’m enthusiastic about history, and read history books, as a hobby. And I think that history may teach us a lot about events, stressful situations, and how people behave in such situations. So it’s kind of a hobby, but I enjoy it and try to take lessons to my real life. I don’t think my hobby affected my carrier, but I never know what makes an impact.

Only a few people retire from a defense company and embark on a new adventure as a founder of a new space company. What were the reasons that made you make that change?

Well, first of all, this was a situation in Israel in 2011, when I retired from my role, the ecosystem was very small. And I think I was the only one that retired as a manager and established a space company at that time. But during that time, and meeting many people aboard, many in the UK, I saw that people are moving very quickly, from one position to another, I met many entrepreneurs, coming from big companies like SSTL, and others that establish their own companies. So I’m not alone, but maybe I’m alone in Israel for that. Regarding my personal reasons, firstly, I was always looking for new areas, and even at IAI, I didn’t stay in the same role. All the years that I have been at IAI. Some people that started with me 40 years ago, were stuck in the same position. I always moved from one position to another and I was always looking for new areas and new things to do. And I wanted to find my way after reaching saturation, although I manage the space business for almost a decade, I still reached saturation. So I wanted to experience the pace of doing things in the private industry, how it is done without the need to put too many hierarchies above you, and all the regulations in a big company. And think that I achieved it in the new space sector.

I must say that I more bothered of what will be in the few years with our space ecosystem, if it will be isolated, because of the atmosphere here. Space is a global industry, and space needs to be a global industry. We need strong connections with our colleagues overseas, and if we will be isolated we will not flourish. 

Later on, and before you became the general manager of MBT space, you spent three significant years managing the AI subsidiary in Singapore. What are the top three things you’ve learned from this experience?

So the first lesson was related to my preparation for the job and during the job. I was acquainted with the vast amount of technologies and systems that IAI is developing and setting because this is part of the job. So I was going from one division manager to the other and to the marketing teams, and learning for each division (about 18 or 20 at a time), what are they doing. What are the technologies, what are the products, and what is unique? This gives you a very good view of different technologies like radar, resize UAVs, and everything you can think of. And this will give you a very good, let’s say, an overview of technologies that you like to use or had the privilege, to know. Second, working very closely with the customer in his own country, not visiting them occasionally, but meeting the customers over and over again. You learn to know the customer sensitivities, and you develop more intimate relationships with the customers, so they’re more open. So you learn the way things are done, and how to approach customers, this helped me later to approach customers in Effective Space Solutions (Astroscale Israel – m.p.) to sign a significant contract and also to deal with investors. Investors can also be regarded as customers because they have their customers to bring money. So you need to think of them as customers to understand their way of thinking and what edge you want for them. It is exactly like selling something to a customer. I think this was another point. The third is to learn and know and appreciate other business cultures. This helped me later to negotiate with customers. And also to deal with Astroscale, which is a global company that has many cultures. Japanese, US (Astroscale IL is a subsidiary of Astoscale US), Israeli, and more. So I think that this is quite out of the box of the Israeli ecosystem, and working abroad is very important to someone that wants to work in the global industry.

What did you discover something that you didn’t expect or prepare yourself, to in this new space realm that required a mindset change, leaving your old way of thinking and adopting a new way of thinking?

I’m not sure, I think at the end of the day, even in a big company, if you want someone to follow you. There is a way to speak to your employees and to build a team. At the end of the day, you work as a team. As a big manager, you work with the major management team and then your managers have a team and so on. So you have a layers in the company. You need to work with your team and to convince them that this is the right way, to hear them and to make decisions after open negotiations. This is the way of leadership, it doesn’t change if you are a manager of a big team or a small team, a big company or a small company. I think that this way of managing, which I always wanted to do and try to do, doesn’t change, actually, and this is the most important factor in managing people. It is also very important in any organization to keep an open-door policy.

Shoutout time: which Israeli new space company do you think the audience should pay attention to?

Well, as you know, I would like to refrain from answering directly this question, because there are many companies, many of them (the founders and managers – m.p.) are personal friends. So I don’t want to recommend someone. I think there are many new companies in this world. And many people are coming in with new ideas, and this is great. When we started in 2012, there were less than five new space companies in Israel. Now there are many many more. If someone opens up, a company and wants my advice. I’m open to anyone that needs advice, you can contact me.

What do you think the Israeli space industry will look like in 2050?

This is very difficult to predict, I must say that the pace of advancement in technology today, mainly in artificial intelligence, is so fast, that nobody can say what will be in five years from now. We just had acquainted with GPT, and now, they already have a new version of it. And of course, AI will come into space and nobody can predict what will be in the 30 years. I must say that I more bothered of what will be in the few years with our space ecosystem, if it will be isolated, because of the atmosphere here (in Israel – m.p.). Space is a global industry, and space needs to be a global industry. We need strong connections with our colleagues overseas, and if we will be isolated we will not flourish. This is for sure. We need to see what happened to the once glorious Russian space industry. After being isolated from the world,it is actually declining. So I hope that the atmosphere here will continue to encourage good connections with the world, that will allow us to continue and develop the space ecosystem in Israel. This is my wish for us.

Arie Halsband: Arie is one of the founders of the Israeli Space Industry. Arie joined Israel Aerospace Industry (IAI) newly formed space entity in the mid 80’s and made his way from a team leader to manage this business line as a director and later as IAI’s Space Division General Manager. Arie left IAI in late 2011 to found a “New Space” startup, and in 2013 incorporated Effective Space Solutions to develop and sell In-Orbit Servicing and space logistic offerings. Arie led the company as its CEO from the concept phase to mature its services, raised a 7 digit USD amount and signed commercial agreements in the $100m range. In 2020 Arie merged Effective Space into Astroscale, a leading global New Space company focused on space sustainability, headquartered in Japan with office in the US, the UK and Israel, and till recently led the company as its Managing Director. Arie is now a senior advisor to Astroscale.

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