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UiB Alumni
Alumni of the month

Alumni of the month: Kent Zehetner

Visionary investor and advisor, thanks to his education at UiB in Economics and Information Science, he has learned to recognize the potential in companies and how to guide them to success. Now he looks back at his time as a student and sees what has shapen him into the professional he is today.

Kent Zehetner
When I studied Artificial Intelligence at UiB, more than 20 years ago, it was just theoretical but gave us an understanding of the potential that we are seeing today, says Kent Zehetner.
Foto/ill.:
Kent Zehetner

- What did you study at UiB?

- After studying Economics, which I enjoyed tremendously, I was introduced to Information Science by a good friend of mine. He convinced me with the best elevator pitch I have heard so far  "we can play a lot of computer games". I started, easy to convince, and believed my early teenage skills in programming on the Commodore 64 in the programming language Basic would give me a free ride. But I was mistaken as it was so much more, an holistic introduction to information science and the importance for future business. I started my Master degree, but this was in the ’90s, and the market was in high demand after computer scientists. I got an offer I couldn’t refuse and left and didn’t finish my Master before three years later in 1999. I can’t recommend doing it, but I was lucky, and that was how I got to be an advisor for TV 2 when StormGeo, at that time Storm Weather Centre, was founded in 1997.

- What part of your studies has contributed the most to the professional you are today?

- Theoretically, there are three subjects that have impacted me in my career:

  • Decision support system theory where we focused on the biases we make and how information technology can support us improving decisions.
  • Artificial Intelligence. When I studied, it was theoretical but gave us an understanding of the potential that we have seen for the last 10 years.
  • Investment and Finance theory has proven to be very useful in relation to acquisitions of companies which has been an important part of my career.

In general, the ability to find patterns in vast amount of data and to work together with great people to accomplish a common goal.

- In your career you took a small company i.e. Stormgeo and you, along with your team, made of it one of Bergen success stories. What is the secret to scale-up a small local company into a world-wide leader?

- That’s a great question. To give a more general reflection, I would like also to include EcoOnline and Infobric into the equation because they are on the same successful journey as StormGeo. All three are Software as a Service companies that are leading in their industries and have full focus on increasing annual recurring revenue.

What the three companies have in common is that they are purpose-driven.  They focus on how they can make a true positive impact on the customers, society and environment. For instance, EcoOnline an IT firm dedicated to developing software to make workplace safety and management and documentation of chemicals, as user-friendly and cost-efficient as possible. Due to their meaningful task, they attract and retain great talent. How are they performing business-wise? They grow organically with more than 40 % per year.

The three companies also have in common leading technology for their industries and invest more in R&D than their competitors. For instance, in Infobric, the R&D department is more than 40 % of the total headcount. They are ahead of the competition and continuously are looking for how they further can support their customer's digitalization journey. StormGeo is delivering the consequence of the weather, for instance, what is the optimal route for a vessel in terms of safety, time, fuel consumption and emissions.

- We can say that you have quite an experience with weather forecasting. How is climate change affecting the predictability of the weather?

- The ongoing climate changes make it increasingly difficult to predict certain aspects, I believe that the greatest uncertainty increase will be regarding summer downfalls, of critical importance when it comes to our ability to predict and prepare for flooding.

I believe that the greatest uncertainty increase will be regarding summer downfalls, of critical importance when it comes to our ability to predict and prepare for flooding.

- Why do you think that many people are so angry with Greta Thunberg?

- Because she is right, and we are so fragile when it comes to admitting guilt. When beliefs are challenged, we react in emotional ways and avoid addressing the problem and taking action.

Greta is right, our response as grown ups should be: you are right Greta, thank you! We will, among others, follow IMF’s advice and raise the carbon tax quickly to $75 a ton.

- What should a freshman do to set him/herself up for success throughout college?

- Learn how to study effectively. There are courses, online tutorials and books you can learn from. It will be your best investment. As always in life find a work balance.

- What do you think will be the 3 big industries of the future? 

-Besides real estate, insurance, healthcare and manufacturing, I believe that the following will grow fast:

  • Life sciences for sure, who does not want to live forever? An enormous amount of money will be infused.
  • I hope renewable energy will be dominating.
  • I have to say artificial intelligence since it has and will increasingly change close to all industries and hence be one of the big ones on its own.

- Do you have a book you would recommend to your younger self?

- A younger me would love to have the app Blinkist, my best travel companion. Here you get key takeaways from the world’s best nonfiction books in text and audio.

My favorite book is Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck.