As our member sees it: Tom Preststulen

As Our Member Sees It Tom Preststulen

In this article, we are happy to introduce you to the adventurous, multitalented, and entrepreneurial Tom Preststulen (75). He has 50 years of on-and-off relationship with Singapore to share from. In this interview, you can read about his engagement against inequality and his mission to help war victims in Ukraine. He also presents his current business project, LAMTIB.  Furthermore, you will get acquainted with his lovely family and get his tips on how to succeed in business in Singapore. And, btw, Tom is officially a part of Norway’s intangible cultural heritage!

Tom is Managing Partner for Elkem ASA. Additionally, he runs the family investment office Preco, within global transport & logistics, and total supply-chains like biocarbon.

Moving to Singapore

The first time in 1972 for two years. The second time in 2009 after five years in China, preceded by several other international locations.

The first time was for the Torvald Klaveness Group. The purpose was to explore and execute during the early stages of developments in Southeast Asia for raw materials and maritime markets. The second time was with Elkem.  We pursued regional energy projects in cooperation with Renewable Energy Corp. REC (solar power) was then recently established in Singapore by Elkem. We were maintaining Sumatra biocarbon and developing more renewable bio-carbon sources. We also liaised with our maritime and logistics activities, especially with our rapidly accelerating operations in Vietnam (www.thoresenvinama.com).

Greta Thunberg-fibers

You are right! I am flammable.

I have lived and worked in numerous developing and developed regions worldwide. Hence, I have experienced the huge inequality gap between those who have too much and those who constantly suffer. The aggregated pursuit of capital and political greed has abandoned at least a billion people in the lower part of the human pyramid. It has also ruined large amounts of the world’s natural habitats and created excessive climate gas emissions. These are now coming back to haunt us, and instigate serious security and food issues.

As our member sees it - Tom Preststulen - at work
Tom at work

When great crises occur, the lower part will suffer even more than the privileged few on top, with many more millions falling to the lower leg. This is, of course, not “sustainable.” History repeatedly shows that it is human nature to become outraged when they fall too far down. Throughout recorded time, homo sapiens have paralyzed societies with recurring migrations and frequent revolts.

So logically, it should not be in the interest of the people on top to ignore the well-being of the entire pyramid. Furthermore, fortunes can be shared at the bottom of the pyramid by developing the correct type of under-utilized natural and human resources. A much broader collaboration would be required to enable this than we see today. To organize this is an ambitious task, but I am convinced that it can be done!

Leapfrogging Autonomous Micro- Technopolis In Boxes

A few years ago, I came up with a concept meant to contribute toward a world of “sharing and caring”. The initiative is called LAMTIB. This is a macro-collaboration between the haves and the don’t-haves. Focus: half of the world’s rural population in many developing countries live close to the oceans, which can provide protein fortunes for the world, enhancing food security; if environmentally appropriate technologies are made available and matched with under-used human resources, which will initially be led and trained.

Smart City is an excellent initiative within UN Global Compact’s 17 SDG framework. Smart Rurals should be equally important, knowing that 30 % of rural people moving to cities in developing countries end up in slums. And those who abandon their beautiful home regions where the unexploited natural resources are abundant also forego the opportunity to participate in new meaningful growth.

The leading technologies in the LAMTIB Initiative have been developed to a status of proofs-of-concept, with experience gained through two pilot projects in the Philippines and Myanmar. LAMTIB will provide multiple win/win cases, including positive cash flows starting within 4-5 years.

The initiative will empower the underprivileged through sustainable leapfrogging technologies. LAMTIB will connect remote areas and communities to global networks, providing instant solutions for clean electricity, ICT, clean water, sanitation, telehealth, e-learning, and small-scale business generation, particularly within food production.

It’s adequate to be a techy magician to get on the internet in regions without stable electricity and wi-fi connectivity. The responsible party in LAMTIB for ITC is Singapore-borne Temasys Communications (www.temasys.io), by now grown into an adolescent with some help from Norwegian friends. A few years ago, combined with a photo-voltaic “utility in a box” from REC, Temasys empowered Red Cross on Bantayan in the Philippines, following destructions by a monster typhoon. The Temasys disruptive communication platform “Skylink” has become a perfect match to Elon Musk’s new low orbit satellite communication system “Starlink”!

LAMTIB’s goal is to empower local people and businesses, drive employment growth, and create sustainable paths out of poverty while opening new profitable markets. A perfect win/win concept for all involved.

LAMTIB can also contribute to cleaning up coastal areas of plastic and educating populations toward circulating societies.  Furthermore, it can revive the growth of corals and mangroves and assist in operating large macro-algae farms. Such farms are known for sequestering 5 x as much CO2 as rainforests while delivering attractive products to the world markets.

For anyone interested in understanding this initiative, please get in touch with me through NBAS with your credentials. Subsequently, I will share relevant information with qualified parties.

I am currently looking for pro-bono advisors (I have some top-notch personalities already, but there is room for many more), a remunerated nucleus of young, talented, and motivated leadership team to co-organize and execute this initiative, and investors. It is now time to implement.

Hopefully, this initiative can be co-hosted between Norway and Singapore unless long-term, serious sponsors elsewhere will climb on board first, grabbing the leadership of this vast opportunity. The Rockefeller Foundation shows interest, declaring that LAMTIB fits well into its global resilience program.

A multi-national holding structure can be envisioned, growing multiple decentralized operations. All the relevant technologies have been standardized and are easily scalable. Still, there is room for continuous upgrades as the technologies further develop. There is, of course, also room to add complementary technologies from new partners who will then benefit from the shared revenue streams.

Mission to support Ukrainian war-victims

A special team from one of our European logistics groups started mid-March a small philanthropic transport service for 950 evacuees from regions around Kiev and further South, over the border to Moldovia. When large public transportation systems were up and running, our team switched to provide small generators and gas cookers to villages around Bucha, Irpen and Izyum.

During this operation, we soon experienced, not surprisingly, that there is a huge information gap between what is needed where of humanitarian aid and what is being provided by multiple organizations and donors. Some weeks ago, Musk committed to Zelensky to prioritize Ukraine for expeditious receipt of signals from Starlink by amending the current sequence of satellite positioning. We are now checking the status of this program. Provided that Ukraine will likely have adequate signal connectivity, our idea (spearheaded by Temasys) is to tailor-make a real-time dynamic application that can be downloaded on smartphones by authenticated good people.

Temasys’ starting point is robust. More than 3 million lines of communication codes provide the back-end infrastructure for what we need to develop in the front-end part of this new application. The project needs detailed real-time visibility of a large variety of goods to be transported and distributed over vast geography, with continuous changes in supply and demand.

We are now identifying the most critical current aid providers. We will find out their potential interest in having “cross-vertical” access to such an information portal, which they can if they are willing to share their relevant data. In particular, UN OCHA, already collaborating with numerous humanitarian partners, is being solicited. We can integrate our system with any existing information system, so there is no need for legacy systems to be changed.

We would need to outsource some of the front-end solutions. Temasys already has access to skillful ex-pat Russian, Ukrainian and other nationality data engineers who will be more than happy to work fast for a cause like this and at a reasonable cost.

To answer your question, “if others can support a mission like this,” I would reply, “yes, please”! We need first to verify the merit of the subject application and the scope of the front-end functionalities in cooperation with UN OCHA and others. We can then invite like-minded sponsors based on a sprint Gantt graph and budget. Perhaps NBAS could be the catalyst for collecting supporters?

Family life

I screwed up my first marriage after 18 years because I traveled too much. When at home, my brain continued to be preoccupied with business, macroeconomics, and geopolitics. But my first artistic wife, Bibbi, delivered three great kids. They live in Oslo with their families, two kids each, making me a proud grandfather of six.

The oldest, Kim Michelle, was born in Singapore in 1973. She is chartering manager at Norwegian Bukser & Bjerging. She also heads our family hobby of taking care of Dyna Fyr (1874). This is the main lighthouse in Oslo. She also takes care of two wooden veteran ferries, Oslo IX (1936) and Sjøbad II (1923). Our family is now part of the Norwegian Cultural Heritage Management with direct responsibility for keeping up the high operating and maintenance standards of these three assets as required by law. This is expensive, but we have, during regular times since 1993, been able to host an annual average of 200 events at the lighthouse. Thus, we have usually turned a small profit recycled into other cultural activities.

After Kim Michelle came Jon André. He has established well in finance, supporting health institutions, and the Dyna operations at night. After Jon came Tom Erik, a proficient mariner and crisis manager. After captaining B&B North Sea operations, he is now Captain of “The Swan” (1915), owned by the Norwegian Maritime Museum. The Swan is is the only three-masted schooner from the Norwegian merchant navy still sailing.

As our member sees it - Tom Preststulen med familie
Siri , Theodor, Sebastian og Tom

In 1992, I married Siri, born in Phoenix with plenty of Cherokee blood. Her Norwegian mother brought her to Oslo as a young kid. There she grew up to become a great Norwegian patriot. Her education as an architect and her natural entrepreneurial talents resulted in, among other developments, a fantastic beach resort in Bali (www.sirimendirabeachvillas.com). This is currently a boutique hotel with 22 employees, just coming out of the recent hard lock-down.

Siri gave birth to two magnificent boys, Theodor Alexander (25) and Sebastian Emil (20). They are both focusing on Industry 4.0 / data science. Teddy started his own business in Rotterdam three years ago, www.mavisoft.com, with 15 full-time employees and several large customers within maritime- and airports. Look at the Rock-Star Team that he has assembled if you open his website! Sebastian has about one year left at the University of Groningen before getting his second important degree, a Bachelor in Data Science. Perhaps he will join his brother. Or maybe he will start a business independently, or maybe he wants to get into Preco and get a Master’s degree?

Tips for doing business in Singapore

The starting point for answering this question is for those interested to define the business well. This includes having a good idea of how competitive and relevant this would be for Singapore and, eventually, the region. Many correctly perceive Singapore as a convenient hub for South-East Asia. For some, a hub also for South and North-East Asia, with multiple complex markets to execute business profitably. The “cut-throat competition” syndrome is normally extreme in Asia, except for a few “last frontier” green-field markets.

It might be good to start with the relatively small but sophisticated Singapore market to test the Norwegian offerings’ appropriateness, then gradually look at the surrounding regions. Finding a top-notch partner in Singapore could prove valuable if this partner can contribute with networks and other resources to build the markets. On the other hand, finding the right partners in other markets may also prove efficient and perhaps less costly.

Suppose you are coming to Singapore to look for complementary technologies to your own. In this case, I would recommend starting with a thorough search of what the many innovative hubs Singapore can offer.

Regardless of the case, take time to build constructive networks and friendships before you can expect tangible results. Get to know the Innovation Norway team and join NBAS. Learn the history of Singapore and the region, and engage in local cultural events.

How can NBAS best be of use for you?

Continue with your current constructive contributions. Always drive onward/upward with never-ending time-relevant topics of mutual importance and matchmaking, including regional associations.

What do you love and not love about Singapore? 

I love Singapore for the ability to provide a secure and efficient Asian Hub for multi-races. The stability of Singapore is bespoken. Customers have voted Changi Airport as the world’s best airport for five years. An efficient yet appealing infrastructure, despite the crowded island. I think that I saw a comparison recently that Singapore has 8019 persons per km2 versus Norway’s 15! Despite the island’s area constraints, I think the authorities have been able to find the right balance between high-rises, heritage, culture, and nature. Well done!

As for not-so-much-in-love aspects, I prefer to be pragmatic. In my view, the government copes with this their way. I am just a guest on this incredible island. I have heard people opposing some rules and regulations in Singapore as being too strict. Nevertheless, I have no problems with this, especially as I have no intention of misbehaving!

Book on your nightstand?

Currently, I am in-between reading “The New Empire of Debt – The Rise and Fall of an Epic Financial Bubble” by William Bonner and Addison Wigging, published in 2009. When I read in bed, I soon drop out, but I am eventually getting through this one. Sometimes, I dig into “old” books to benchmark postulations with the current situation, and I believe that these guys got it pretty much right. The context is the rise and fall of nations having a temporary “pole position” as an “Empire.” History is flush with how and why, getting on the top and falling from the top. Most of the time, falling has been about huge debts, euphoric expansive ambitions, wars, and wild inflation destroying values, while runners-up advance their positions towards the pole.

This time around, the USA has already passed or is about to give up its pole position. Then comes significant turbulence before the next “Empire” will emerge if we get that far.

I also recommend studying the famous Russian macro-economist Nicolai Kondratiev. Stalin shot him in 1938 because of his views that capitalism could have something to do with long-term cycles. I believe that we are now in a “Kondratiev Winter”; partly saturating markets, emerging high inflation, interest rates have to follow, or we will see hyper-inflation, then falling stock markets, stagflation, and recession (pandemic and war are, of course, boosting such a scenario).

After a few years of “washing-up,” spring will emerge. Industry 4 technologies will bring new growth and “prosperity” to the world. Sooner or later in this current cycle, USA will probably implode by its tremendous debt. Before that point, the USA may continue to expand the fiat funding for some time, given its “semi-ambitions” to continue to “rule the world.” Such an implosion will, of course, negatively affect the entire world until alternative means of trading emerges (and these are already on their way). China is also in some trouble, so who knows what and who will represent the next empire, if any. Perhaps the world’s proletarians will take charge?  I think that I can see some signs, but there is currently, of course, a lack of strength and coordination.

Best tip for leisure- and family activities in Singapore?

The tourist brochures are flush with great choices. There should be more than enough leisure activities on this island. And now that it has become practical again to travel, the options are everywhere. My personal favorites include champagne brunch at the Colony (Ritz-Carlton), hawker centers for lunch, the Botanic Garden, Gardens on the Bay, the Zoo, the Bird Park, and all of the museums, including Maxwell Street’s show-case of how Singapore will look like going forward, China-Town, sailing, diving, and much more.

What makes you happy – and mad?

It doesn’t take much for me to feel happy despite frequent challenges. My philosophy is to brush challenges aside, sometimes converting these into opportunities. Then carry on and keep smiling. Or I kill a challenge, still trying to smile. Each day is different. I think positively, circumvent negativism, tolerate, and say I’m sorry when I goof.

It takes a lot for me to get mad. There are frequent reasons why I should be angry, like watching Putin & his butcher team of reckless idiots (that was an excellent steam-out!).  But do I achieve by getting mad? I like the Buckingham Palace slogan “Keep Calm & Carry on.” Concentrate on finding constructive solutions to whatever foul issue, and down-play the drama. This way probably also enhances good health.

Affected by the pandemic?

I followed all the recommendations from the health authorities. In Norway, the Netherlands, and Singapore. I got triple vaccines in Singapore, which were very efficient, and I have not suffered anything. Siri likewise. The rest of the family in Norway got infected, despite vaccines, but retrieved relatively quickly. Most of the businesses continued to do well, except for some smaller units which needed support.

My best tip is to hold the head up high and look for better times. Lower the shoulders and breathe calmly in and out of the nostrils. Even if irritating at times, it is better to follow the directions from authorities than to become upset that this could be an exaggeration of personal invasion by the rulers. It is what it is. What can little me do anyway? With the current situation in China, people experience gross trespassing of personal freedom and their proclaimed rights to take individual responsibilities for this “special” threath which rarely results in death. What about the extensive collateral damages as a consequence of these strict rules?  Anyway, I will rest my case before this gets too lengthy.

Singapore forever… or?

Singapore will always be in my heart! I wish this could be forever. If I succeed in landing a critical project within the “circular economy,” where a Singaporean pilot at sea is warranted, I would be able to justify keeping our wonderful SERENDIPITY moored in One15Marina. The main business, and the large family, are drawing attention to Europe. But at least coming back sporadically would be great, both for Siri, myself, and the rest of our family.