🎆 Year End Review
Writing, Operating, Investing, Reading & Proposing
Thank you for joining me in 2021. I started writing in June of this year. I justified the time investment initially by saying I needed to give something back to the startup community. In reality though writing has been a gift to myself.
It’s helped me structure my thoughts. Dig deeper into my assumptions. It’s made me a better decision-maker in my own business. It’s helped me make better investment decisions (I hope) and be a more helpful, value-add angel investor. It’s helped build a diverse global community for me, both on substack and on twitter. From this community I have received an abundance of opportunities, from investing in new companies to starting a new charity. Thank you.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, or even sharing your thoughts on Twitter, do it. Even if you’re not looking to build a community or audience, the benefits of structuring your thoughts and testing your assumptions will improve your decision making.
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
Good writing is not something that comes naturally to me. I will continue to improve. Words are the most powerful tool we have to change the lives of those around us.
Like many of you, I have big plans for 2022. As I mentioned above, I’m starting a charity with Aarish Shah focussed on improving accessibility of entrepreneurship: Untapped. Thank you to everyone who has already given us advice on this. We’re slowly making progress, and while our timelines may be slipping, we plan on giving an update in the New Year. We’re currently looking for a tenacious person to run the charity, any referrals would be brilliant.
I’m also starting a new venture with some excellent entrepreneurs and friends. I’ve been investing alongside them for a long time and can’t wait to get to work with them. I’m very excited about this, and look forward to sharing more soon when we get it going next year.
Before I move on to the review of 2021, I have 2 small asks.
Firstly I’ve been making micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries for 10 years now. Why? I believe democratising access to capital is one of the most powerful and sustainable ways to create lasting economic and social impact. If you want to read more about it, check-out this thread.
Otherwise if you’ve enjoyed my writing and toolkits, I kindly request that you join me, you can start with as little as $25. When the loan is repaid you can lend it out over and over again, impacting more people (I’ve now made 285 loans). Use my Kiva referral link below to change someone’s life in 2022.
Secondly, please let me know what you’d like me to write more about. I have the third part of my Angel Investing Toolkit in draft at the moment.
Reply to this email with topics you’d be interested to know more about or message me on Twitter.
Year In Review
Here are my top 10 posts in order of views:
I also shared some widely read threads and thoughts on startups on Twitter. Summary of them here.
Velocity Black, the company I Co-Founded 8 years ago had an excellent year. Revenue grew strongly, the company generated cash and the team nearly doubled in size. The company is in its strongest position since we founded it thanks to the amazing team (both past and present) who overcame numerous obstacles to get us to where we are today.
It is my confidence in that team that led me to take the decision to hand-over my executive responsibilities. Continuing in my role as Chairman, I look forward to seeing where we get to in 2022…
This was the first year I started putting some structure and process behind my angel investing. I started my own syndicate this year, Alchemy. I put my highest conviction investments once a quarter through Alchemy, primarily to turbo-charge the impact of my own capital. Thank you to all the investors who invested through Alchemy this year, we’ve put ~$500k to work with some great founders.
I also invested several times this year through Ventures Together (started by Tom Savage & Rob O’Donovan). I’d like to say it’s a syndicate, but Tom and Rob would be disappointed; it’s a community, a very special group of current & former founders, thank you Tom & Rob for inviting me.
Thank you also to the founders who let me join their journeys, it’s been fascinating to observe you innovate (and help where I can). My investments this year:
Sellar - Sellar is a B2B SaaS marketplace digitising the trade order experience in the $1.7t drinks industry.
Odin - A community of Founders and Investors reinventing the future of venture capital in Europe.
Mindset - Mindset is developing a dementia screening tool which uses validated clinical guidelines, artificial intelligence analytics, and a warm and enjoyable user interface.
Goodloans - Credit-as-a-service fintech for African Micro-Finance Institutions. Enables African SME borrowers to apply for loans at competitive rates 95% quicker through mobile money.
Gama - deep space exploration through the manufacture of solar sail powered spacecraft. Unlike traditional satellites, solar sails don't need fuel. They travel with continuous acceleration leading to speeds faster than any other man-made object. Solar sails are also cheap to manufacture.
Shopscribe - Marketplace business reinventing the relationship between local businesses and consumers.
Katch - reinventing meetings & your calendar.
Xip - creator economy platform. Creators use Xip to monetize their expertise and interact 1-on-1 with their followers.
I’ve also committed to investing in two other exciting companies, let me know if you’d like to know more about either:
Landscape - Joe Perkins and team are creating a special platform in the VC / startup space and are on a mission to make fundraising better for everyone.
Roleshare - Sophie and Dave are changing the future of work. Full time roles, shared between 2 people. Sounds crazy, but there’s a lot of data on how it improves attractiveness of roles, diversity in senior roles, retention and employee wellbeing.
A lot my existing portfolio of investments had great years. Strong growth and a new round of investment at Snap-It. Honest Mobile became the first carbon-negative mobile network in the world and are now growing strongly. EventBeds (formerly Nubreed) survived the pandemic and have come out the other side all guns blazing. Fantastic resilience demonstrated by Joe Wicks during the lockdowns. IHateIroning have continued to deliver strong growth and are one of the most capital efficient companies in my portfolio.
Shout-out to the team at Speedinvest as well, where I’m an LP, they now have 350 portfolio companies with an enterprise value >€10b.
I’m going to be slowing down my angel investing in 2022, as I will be focussing my time and resources on a new venture. But I will still be open to doing some advisory work.
Here are my top reads from this year:
Alchemy by Rory Sutherland (I have read this a few times now). I recommend the audio book as Rory is a great narrator. Alchemy is about discovering your inner-child and solving problems with unconventional solutions.
Atomic Habits by James Clear - this was the catalyst behind a lot of my progress this year in work and life.
The Cold Start Problem by Andrew Chen - must-read for all founders, growth teams, product execs and investors in the technology industry.
Eli Chait on Marketplace Growth Strategies - an underrated and under the radar blog on marketplaces.
Operator Investor - Paddy from Odin & Cyrus Yari of Rational VC
The Social Subsidy of Angel Investing by Alex Danco
Miriam agreed to marry me. She’s extremely patient and supportive and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with her.
Thank you again for reading. I wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2022. Onwards.