Monday, June 22, 2009

Interview with Henrik Blomgren

For years, I've unsuccessfully tried to get many friends to start blogging. One of them is Henrik Blomgren, software consultant and small business owner.

Henrik and I go way back. At the turn of the millennium, we were both leading software teams at Swedish Framfab. As the IT bubble burst, and our hopes with it, Henrik built his own software firm and his journey has now taken him all the way to Zurich, Switzerland. Below is a short interview I did with him a while back.

Me: What motivated you to jump off the corporate bandwagon and start your own business?
Henrik: Two factors, the first not being in a position to influence or change things at Framfab, the second was a number of ideas I had back then that was not possible to realize as an employee.

Me: As a business owner, you currently focus on providing services over products. Was that a conscious decision and which do you think is the smarter strategy?
Henrik: Initially, my focus (this was 2002) was on creating niched software products, but before I got started I was offered a few short-term contract offers which I accepted - primarily in order to build up some capital. After a year, the market conditions got better and there were a lot of interesting contract jobs out there so I continued, with longer contracts and better rates.

I would not call it a smarter strategy, but much less risky and a much more predictable way to earn a monthly income.

Me: After running your own company for a couple of years you moved everything to Switzerland. How come?
Henrik: Again, multiple reasons. Compared to Sweden, Switzerland is a much more business-oriented country and offers considerably lower tax rates on both personal and corporate levels. This combined with providing equal or higher quality of living was an important factor. Being centrally located in Europe was another, both for business purposes and if you like to travel around. However, being close to the Alps has turned out to be the greatest bonus, especially during the winter.

Me: You introduced me to the book the 4-Hour Workweek. Are you there yet?
Henrik: No, I work considerably less hours now, and travel more, but I'm not sure that can be accredited to Timothy Ferriss.

Me: What is important to you? Where do you see yourself and your business ten years ahead?
Henrik: I have no idea. It's going to be interesting to see how the current crisis plays out; my guess is that the next ten years will be much tougher than the previous ten. Business opportunities will be fewer and consumers will be able to spend less, especially on technology. This prediction is based on the view that credit has been cheap and easily obtainable, and consumption (both private and business) has been driven by debt to a large extent.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

GCR Ch 2: Long-Term Astrophysical Processes

I read Global Catastrophic Risks not only to deepen my understanding of global risks, but also to find ways to practically do something about it. Hopefully, blogging about the chapters as I digest them will assist on both accounts.

NGC 3603 Photo: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble CollaborationThe book begins with discussing long-term astrophysical processes with a focus on the lifespans of our planet, solar system, galaxy and the Universe. These are the least immediate, but at the same time the most difficult risks to avoid. As such, there are not much we can do about them, right now. Hopefully, if we succeed to manage the other risks we're facing now and will face in the future, we will reach a point in time where we will have to deal the timely demise of the Earth, and later, the Universe.

3.5 billion years from now, the Sun will have exhausted its storage of hydrogen and increased its temperature enough for Earth's biosphere to be unable to sustain biological life. But even before Earth's temperature reaches that level, already 1 billion years from now it will be hot enough to disqualify all complex life. 7 billion years from now, the Sun, expanding as a red giant, will engulf Earth's orbit and devour it. A long-term goal for our species must be to find another habitable planet by the time that these events play out. A rescue plan for the Earth would be if we, or a passing star system, could eject it from its orbit before the Sun swallows the planet. In such a scenario we would have to rely on Earth's internal energy source. This is actually the only human intervention that is being addressed in this chapter of the book.

Our current model of the Universe tells us that it will continue to expand indefinitely, or at least long enough for all its major bodies to die a timely death. Perhaps this is the ultimate risk, a process which neither we nor anybody else can do anything to stop. It goes without saying that the current understanding of the Universe is not complete. There are still much to be learned, and with new discoveries our model of the Universe will change as well. The smallest stars in the universe will shine the longest, but even they expire after some trillion years. Their expiry, in combination with the consumption of hydrogen gas used in star formation, sets the time for the last stars to stop shining at about 100 trillion years ahead. This number should be compared to the current age of the young Universe, which is 14 billion years.

This is the end as we know it today. Let’s see how far we can get…