Why did Helios Wire Sell to EchoStar?

Artist rendering of a Helios Wire Pathfinder satellite. Credit: Helios Wire.

Just over three and half years after its formation, Vancouver based Helios Wire has been sold to EchoStar. It’s an exit for the founders, though one in which it’s hard to gage how the company was performing when it sold.

Scott Larson, a co-founder of Helios Wire said in a post on LinkedIn “I am very happy to announce that we have successfully completed our sale of Helios Wire to Echostar Corp. We incorporated Helios here in Vancouver just over 3 years ago and were able to get our first satellite launched in about 15 months from startup, which might in fact be a global record. We proved our business model, signing $100 million of annual LOI’s with customers around the world and put together a world class team. Many thanks to our employees, investors, consultants, believers, Echostar, and numerous other stakeholders.”

EchoStar, a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ exchange (SATS), describes itself as a “premier global provider of satellite communication solutions. Headquartered in Englewood, Colo., and conducting business around the globe, EchoStar is a pioneer in secure communications technologies through its Hughes Network Systems and EchoStar Satellite Services business segments.”

No details were released on what EchoStar paid. However, we may learn more when EchoStar, a public company, reports its earnings on November 14.

What we know about Helios Wire

What we do know is that Helios Wire launched its second satellite, Pathfinder II, December 3, 2018 on the SmallSat Express mission launched by SpaceX. The satellite reached orbit and has been operating since.

Helios Wire’s first satellite, Pathfinder I, was lost when a Russian rocket carrying several satellites failed to make it to orbit in November of 2017.

Helios Wire plans to build a constellation of 28 machine-to-machine (M2M) small satellites serving the Internet of Things connectivity market. The company announced in mid-2017 that it had raised $4M.

Why buy Helios Wire

In the press release from EchoStar it made note that Sirion Global, an Australian subsidiary of Helios Wire made up of Sirion Holdings Pty Ltd. and Sirion Global Pty Ltd., known collectively as Sirion Global, “holds global spectrum rights for S-band Mobile Satellite Service.”

For Helios Wire, acquiring the spectrum rights from Sirion in 2016 was critical in getting the company to where it is now. And this appears to be one of the key assets EchoStar was after.

Anders Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer, EchoStar said “this acquisition advances our strategy and further lays the foundation for a global S-band solution for the future. Our aim is to develop S-band technologies that will dramatically reduce the cost of satellite IoT, including machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) and other end-to-end services worldwide.”

Raghu Das, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Helios Wire said “Helios’ shareholders are pleased to have concluded the sale of Helios and the Sirion subsidiaries to EchoStar. EchoStar has a wealth of S-band experience in the United States and Europe and is the perfect operator to take this project forward and accelerate the build-out of the Sirion constellation and deployment of global IoT services.”

Why sell now?

At this point we don’t know why Helios Wire chose now to sell. By Larson’s comments, Helios Wire should have been poised to build out its constellation without having to exit so early. Was Helios having problems raising capital?

There’s also been no word on when the next batch of Pathfinder satellites will launch. As well, Helios Wire, which used to provide news updates on its website and social media, went quiet in December of 2018 with no public updates this year.

All signs seem to point to an exit by the founders that wasn’t quite what they might have hoped for.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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