World traveller fascinated by outer space

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Torkil Mogstad is an Executive Vice President at Arendals Fossekompani

He took his family to visit one of the last churches where poisonous snakes are part of religious rituals. “As it turned out, we came too late. The pastor had recently died from a snake bite,” says Torkil Mogstad.

For work, he travels the world. Outside of work, Mogstad, an Executive Vice President at Arendals Fossekompani, likes to go where few people even consider going.

The town of Jolo, West Virginia is such a place. Its claim to fame was a tiny Christian community led by a pastor who included serpent handling in worship sermons. With a deadly outcome, it turns out.

A small church in Jolo, West Virginia. Mogstad and family visited a serpent handling church.

A taste for the extraordinary has lured Mogstad to more remote places

“For years, I talked loudly about visiting Paraguay. Why? Because you never hear of people who visit Paraguay. It was perhaps more of a saying than a desire, but when my wife tired from hearing about Paraguay, she challenged me to go – or to keep quiet,” says Mogstad grinning.

So, he went.

In what he describes as ‘an amazing experience’, Mogstad travelled off the beaten track to spend time with old Menonite, German-speaking settlements, populated by religious people fleeing the former Soviet Union. He also set up meetings with the local business sector – nothing work-related, just out of curiosity.

“One should always sample local customs, local food, and interact with local people. It provides for the most genuine experiences,” says Mogstad.

Born in Barberton, Ohio from parents who had emigrated from Norway to find work in the US, Mogstad was raised in California before he – at the age of 6 – moved to Oslo, and afterwards to Lillesand, Norway. He earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering at the Norwegian University of Technology and Science, before he was accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, where he obtained a scientific master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

Eager to spend more time in the US, Mogstad was happy to be recruited as a research engineer for McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in California. During his seven years at the offices in Huntington Beach, Mogstad worked on an American-European endeavor to send the spacecraft Cassini to map the planet Saturn.

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After years talking about it, Torkil Mogstad finally went to Paraguay. Solo.

Cassini was carrying a craft called Huygens that landed on the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, in search of the chemical building blocks of life. Mogstad was part of the team in charge of the heat shield on Huygens. He had, however, long left McDonnell Douglas when Cassini finally reached Saturn, seven years after it was launched.

“I was proud to watch it on the news, happy to have been part of the process,” says Mogstad.

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Sporting a 1962 Cadillac while working with space travel in California in the 1990s

When Huygens entered Titan’s atmosphere, Mogstad had re-entered the Eastern hemisphere, relocating to Norway and working for the Institute for Energy Technology. Not quite happy with the prospects there, he spent a full year getting an MBA degree at BI Norwegian Business School, graduating top of his class. He then joined McKinsey & Co, and later Icon Medialab for what turned out to be a dotcom hype.

When the internet bubble burst and the internet era – as we know it – emerged, Mogstad found a new opportunity at a power consultancy in Arendal.

“Markedskraft was the most innovative force in the power industry – offering market analysis, portfolio management and trading. We had a great team and delivered years with fantastic results mixed with some not so good years,” says Mogstad.

He would go on to spend 13 years as CEO of Markedskraft, a company established by Arendals Fossekompani and later included in the 2020 merger that birthed Volue.

Claiming he was ‘not necessarily cut out to be a great manager’, Mogstad was a well-liked CEO at Markedskraft.

“If you get along with people, people will get along with you,” says Mogstad.

In 2015, he was asked to board the mothership, Arendals Fossekompani, and its management team. His experience from technology and aerospace made Mogstad perfect for positions on the boards of portfolio companies Tekna, NSSLGlobal and Cogen Energia. All companies had headquarters outside of Norway.

One day, on his way to the coffee machine, he was also put in charge of the property division. While passing the CEO in the office hallways, the CEO casually said: ‘So then, you will be responsible for Property’.

“And that was it!” says Mogstad laughingly – adding: “Things were less structured back then.”

He embraced the responsibility and soon initiated the process – still ongoing – of transforming an industrial site in Arendal to a seaside residential area. Mogstad was relieved of his responsibility when a Property Manager was hired in 2019, but he still finds pleasure and pride in driving by Bryggebyen where the first 160 out of 700 apartments have been built and inhabited.

“We are designing and building a whole new district in Arendal. How often do you get a chance to be part of such a process?”

He spent most of the Covid-19 years mapping the battery industry in Europe and its value chains, and then identifying a potential space for Arendals Fossekompani.

“We reached out to owners of battery companies, entered discussions with several, and eventually – after 18 months – closed deals with Commeo in Germany and Cellect in Spain. Those were perhaps the most exciting times during my years at Arendals Fossekompani. At least so far.”

He looks forward to seeing Commeo and Cellect – comprised under the Ampwell company umbrella – develop a Battery-as-a-Service offering. He also looks forward to continued growth for Tekna, which was close to break-even in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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As a board member of NSSLGlobal, Mogstad attended the Satelite Conference trade show in Washington D.C this year. Together with (left-right) Ann-Kari Heier, Arild Nysæther and Magnus Johansen.

Asked about his contributions to Arendals Fossekompani, Mogstad mentions ‘relations’.

“As a board member appointed by the majority owner, I work closely with top management teams in the portfolio companies. I get to know them, understand how they operate, what motivates them. Some may find me too people-friendly in this role, but I believe in strong human relationships to balance out professional, financial relationships. It is all about trust. Building trust with management, with employees, with other shareholders – it makes tough decisions easier,” says Mogstad.

To explain his motivation, Mogstad – a music and movie buff – turns to Black Hawk Down, a 2001 movie based on the story of a failed American military operation in Somalia. Towards the end of the movie, one of the main characters, Hoot – having survived intense urban warfare, explains why he repeatedly returns to war zones: “It's about the men next to you... and that's it. That's all it is,” said Hoot.

“It’s the team. It’s always about the team,” Mogstad translates.

Ever since he came to work in Arendal, Mogstad decided to relocate to his Norwegian hometown of Lillesand, a 30-minute drive from the Arendals Fossekompani headquarters.

“It’s home. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar,” says Mogstad – adding:

“It’s close to the airport.”