*The stories in this article are not satire, the images on the other hand, we can’t be too sure*

Food for Mars

When Mike was 14 years old he knew that he wanted to set foot on Mars. It’s 19 years later and that dream has not only not withered, it is the purpose of all his ventures; and there are plenty of them.

I met Mike through Facebook when his online food delivery service, “Foodie.lk” was trying to contact me about an order. I can’t even remember what it was about. We became Facebook friends and I kept asking him annoying questions like “Where can I buy wine”, “Where can I get so and so”. Little by little through my pesky conversations and his continually interesting Facebook posts I got to know him a bit better. I started to realize that he was much more than just an online food delivery geek.

Geeks on Facebook

We shared a love of Mr. Robot and Space exploration and that led me to be even more intrigued. Who is this guy? Why does he talk about so many things at once? What does food delivery have to do with space rockets? I decided that I wanted to know more. He agreed to meet me for an hour in the middle of his very busy schedule for a coffee and a chat.

I asked him what he felt about the word “expat”, since had lived out of his home country for so long. He confirmed my theory that he had also experienced that strange difference of race and the labels expat /immigrant. Unfortunately, a darker person is considered an immigrant and a white person is considered an expat. This is discussion could have been never ending, but since we agreed on the subject and nodded our heads in resignation, the conversation moved on to more interesting subjects.

The years before starting his studies in Rocket Science (no joke), Mike held 32 consecutive jobs some lasting no more than two days. He had a mission; every job had to be better than the one before and it was that resolve (and very good schooling) that made him the man he is today. An entrepreneurial nomad with big dreams and a very geeky imagination.

Have you ever heard of the term Renaissance Man? Well bring that into the 21st Century and you’ve got Mike Soertsz. According to his website, his current mission is to “make small businesses more efficient”. How is he doing that exactly? He is using his own business and engineering skills to create systems that will make industry (specifically the food industry) more efficient and easier to manage and control. Artificial Intelligence, automation, lots of coding and quite a bit of art are turning his big dreams into reality, one step at a time.

Generational Gap

Sri Lanka was amidst a civil war for many years and during that time many Sri Lankas left the country to escape the war and try and make a life abroad. There are many families that did this, Mike’s included. The children of these families are the Millenials of Colombo and many of them are coming back from their international schooling to start businesses in Sri Lanka.

Mike came back after many years in Australia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore and Oman to create the nucleus of his big plans. He planted the seed in Colombo which is quickly spreading all over the world and will eventually reach Mars, with state of the art farming modules and lots of amazing engineering. After a few failed attempts at a sustainable business idea, Hammock Studio and Foodie.lk became the rocket boosters.

I asked him if he ever had food delivered with Foodie.lk to his house, ironically he lives so far away from city center that not once has a foodie driver made it to his home. He hopes to change that soon with the big improvements coming into the system. The Foodie app is launching soon, making it easier for us to order food from our phones. But you don’t think that foodie is going to stay in Sri Lanka do you? Of course not! Foodie.lk is only a piece of the puzzle. The big picture is Foodie Global and I can’t tell you all that he has planned for it because it’s TOP SECRET!

Every week new food delivery apps and websites pop up in Colombo; the newest one is called Food Rocket. We had a laugh about that and then he photoshopped the rocket in the background of his photo because, why not.

No matter what other services like foodie.lk pop up, none will have the backbone, the geeky dream and the nerdy determination that Mike has.

The Quirky Side

Before we met for coffee at the very frequented Java Cafe in Colombo, I sent him some questions over email. I am copying the last question and answer word for word because it has no possible transliteration. The following is an illustration I made after our conversation together.

The story goes like this; Mike has landed on Mars as the chief aeroponics farmer for the new Mars Station. He has special interplanetary lettuce seeds in his suit for good luck. He has taken a foodie flag to take a selfie with and gets distracted by the blinding red sands. Mike trips on a rock and cracks his helmet. After a few days of silent resignation that at least “he made it to Mars”, the lettuce starts to grow out of his suit, through the cracks in his helmet.

Can you share 5 quirky or unexpected things about you? 

    1. I used to be in a circus troupe doing fire breathing, fire sticks, balancing act (I can balance anything on my chin for example, even motorcycles), fire poi, juggler and strong man. When I was 19 in college. Was paid performance work and lots of fun. I’ve even done busking at Darling Harbour in Sydney with hundreds of spectators.
    2. I draw, paint & sculpt. Most people don’t expect a tech nerd to be artistic for some reason! Badly need practice though, but my first and main passion was art. I try to apply it to what I’m doing now, where I can.
    3. I play 4 instruments: Guitar, Violin, Cello & Piano. However, again, lack of practice and I’m veeeery sensitive to criticism so rarely play for others…except guitar :P. I’m hoping my retirement can be spent purely on art, music and carpentry.
    4. I design a LOT of things, ranging from electric vehicles, buildings, spaceships, vertical farms (practical designs!), robots for different purposes etc. I also model them in 3D and hope to see a lot of them become real once my engineering firm is up and running.
    5. I bake? Not sure if that’s quirky or unexpected haha. I make cookies etc for my friends when asked.

There you have it, a future interplanetary nomad. He still wants to visit the Americas before his mission to Mars, probably to meet Elon Musk at SpaceX.