Twenty Eighteen could have been a disaster for me. Instead I’ve used this year to reflect deeply on my own personal motivations and devise a plan for where I’d like to head next.

I dearly wish that a year ago I had read Steve Blank’s explanation of why startup companies outgrow their founders, because I would have then been better equipped to deal with the precipitous decision of our Board, at the start of the year, that it was time for the founders of iwantmyname to step away from operational roles in the company. But what at first seemed like a personal attack steadily evolved during the year into a coherent transition strategy that will both put the company into a stronger position for growth and allow me some runway to work on new projects in the future such as Creative Forest. The major mistake we made as a company however, was in failing to have that conversation well ahead of time.

Notwithstanding all of that, this year we also celebrated surviving ten years together at iwantmyname and in particular we looked back at how we made a big difference in the lives of many others with our charitable donations and volunteer work in the community. Bootstrapping a company from a spare bedroom, with zero capital and turning it into a respected global brand is no small achievement in the highly competitive world of e-commerce. But the biggest thrills undoubtedly came from helping others along the way.

This was also the year my eighteen year old son finished high school and that week bought himself a plane ticket to Europe, as he set off in search of adventure. It gave me an opportunity to consider whether I had done enough to prepare him for the challenges ahead. When I was eighteen, I had my sights set on university. But university education is becoming a commodity and we need a greater diversity of skills in our economy right now. This made me think about how our current education system is failing many of our kids. Which is why it’s so important that we extend our successful Creative Forest trial out to as many schools as possible in 2019.

Renea and I spent some time in Europe ourselves this year, which we enjoyed very much. But it was a further reminder of how isolated our little islands are from the real world and how we need to look outwards for opportunities and knowledge. But in an ironic twist, the streets of Paris we had trod only a few months earlier, suddenly became a battleground as popular frustration boiled over. Meanwhile the Brexit mess continues to unfold and the astounding and sordid political situation in America turned even more septic, with my hopeful predictions of the disrobing of the leadership doggedly refusing to come true. Despite the unwelcome arrival of e-scooters, perhaps New Zealand is not such a bad place to reside after all.

Safe & Happy Christmas Everyone!

Paul Spence is a commentator and serial entrepreneur, a co-founder of New Zealand based technology ventures iwantmyname and Creative Forest and a mentor with Startup Weekends and Lightning Lab. You can follow Paul on Twitter @GeniusNet or sign up for a free weekly digest of startup, tech and innovation related events curated by him through New Zealand Startup Digest.

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