Reflections on 2016

2016 for me was, if I had to pick one word to describe it, a year of ‘regrouping’.

 

I had only moved properly back to London end of 2015 from New York. In the year that ensued I regrouped with old friends whom I had partially lost touch with – people with whom I go back over a decade, spent more time with my family and my ‘auxiliary family’ – my beloved colleague PPH-ers.

 

The year reminded me of the importance of having long-lasting relationships in life, people with whom you’ve gone through life-transforming experiences like university or school years, the army, trips or expeditions, or building a startup together. The tough times more than any others are the ones that build long lasting bonds between people. No amount of ambition and the success it fuels is worth sacrificing that.

 

Even though I first moved to London approaching 15 years now, it’s only in this last year, my second spell upon my return, that I got to appreciate how much London is home for me. More than ever I’m in love with its contradictions. Fast-paced yet balanced and civilized; old-school in so many ways yet modern, cool and funky; deeply traditional yet cosmopolitan and international like no other city I’ve experienced; demanding and tiring at times yet forgiving, warm and communal at others; close-knit in its social circles yet easy to meet people and make new friends.

 

Apart from regrouping the things that I’m grateful for in 2016 are having made new friends, build relationships that I’ve learnt from and hopefully contributed to, travelled extensively, grown my company and team, rented a studio so I can devote more time to my art which is my passion, and setting the foundation for what seems a great 2017.

 

By far the highlight of my year was being appointed Godfather to my beautiful little niece (my brother’s daughter)  whom my sister and I  baptized this summer, and more recently being asked to be Godfather to one of my best friends’ unborn child. No honour can be grander or more gratifying to be bestowed with the trust and responsibility that comes with being a Godparent to someone’s child. I feel blessed and privileged to be in that position twice already.

 

The best trips I’ve had in the year include visiting one of my old friends in Mumbai, India, my family in Dubai and later Cyprus for Christmas, spending time in the beautiful South of France this summer and falling in love with the breathtaking Cap-Ferrat. My trips to the U.S. have become less frequent, yet I visited New York twice including spending my birthday there in May. I spent time in Marbella in Spain, Berlin, St Tropez, the beautiful Greek islands, the gorgeous old town of Nafplio in Greece, skied in the Trois Vallees where my year began in 2016 and ended. The symmetry itself rounded up the year perfectly.

 

On the business front, with the exception of a short-lived hit triggered by Brexit, PeoplePerHour has continued to grow strong and unabated. We’ve made drastic improvements to the product and the customer experience and that’s thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team. Team PPH – you rock!

continue reading »

Contentment

I consider myself really lucky to be surrounded by some amazing people. Truly blessed. Friends, family, colleagues and even just acquaintances. I’m lucky to have a wide network of brilliant people from different walks of life but also different cities and cultures. I can count friends in New York, London, Athens, Cyprus, Dubai, Miami, L.A, San Francisco, Austin, all the way to India (If I’ve left any out I apologise:))

 

Yet I don’t know that many people who – despite their successes- are truly truly content. I find that most people are always on a never ending quest. Quest for more of whatever it is they crave. One of life’s paradoxes is in fact that the more we get the more we want, and the more we want the more discontented we become. There’s a fine line between ambition and greed, and an equally fine line between complacency and contentment.

 

I don’t believe in complacency. I believe that no matter how much anyone has achieved they cannot rest their laurels. There’s always more to do, more to learn and more to give. No success should be taken for granted – we can all lose what we have much faster than it took us to acquire it.

 

I do however believe in contentment. One needs to be truly at peace with what they have in order to be happy. We need to remind ourselves of the good in our life and live in the moment in order to really take it all in and appreciate it.  Cliche as it may sound most people I know do not live in the moment. They are always in anticipation of what comes next. They are too busy planning, worrying or sharing the moment with others on social media instead of BEING in it.

 

2016 has been the first year for me when I’ve really achieved contentment (or at least more so than previously). For me it comes with a number of things. Appreciating the ‘now’ is a crucial starting point. But it’s also about having a purpose and doing good things for you and those around you. It’s about being selfless, giving, being generous and altruistic and just seeing the bigger picture. Its about showing heart!

continue reading »

Endurance

We’ve all heard this phrase before: ‘life is a marathon not a race’. Yet how many of us put it in practice?

 

Ironically we’ve been nurtured to worship and admire  endurance. From the preachings of Jesus Christ who endured so much in his life for the good of Mankind, culminating in  enduring the weight of the very cross he was crucified on; to persecuted mythical heroes we grew up in awe of, from Hercules to Tarzan, to more modern characters like Rocky Balboa who beat the odds by never giving up. We revere not their success but their endurance… we envy not the result but the courage they show  in  ‘going the distance’ as the soundtrack of Rocky – by that very name and not coincidentally – reminds us, climaxing our emotions seeing a guy refusing to give up despite the beating he was taking, enduring till the end even if he lost. Or did he? As the expression goes ‘he may have lost the battle but won the war’.

 

Tenacity, grit, persistence are the things that make one endure through tough situations. Time and time again we see those being more instrumental to the long term success in any given situation that the mighty powers of whatever one deploys in the short term: talent, wit, intelligence… I call those ‘situational masteries’. You can master a situation with traits like charm… the ability to outwit someone, talk the talk; you may even hit some home runs with situational mastery. People do after all become overnight hits- sometimes. They do in casinos too! But that’s neither a strategy for success not a safe haven for ones’ hopes or ambitions. It’s dependent as much on luck as on anything else; or in there being just the right mix and fit between the ‘situation’ and the tricks possessed to master it in this notion of ‘situational mastery’.

 

Building endurance is, on the other hand, a strategy. It’s a sustainable, dependable and more predictable – or a more backable – route to success. I’d much rather train for a marathon than the 100m sprint (although admittedly I have done neither). By the nature of having a longer path from the start point to the end you have just much better odds of finding a way to win; to muster the energy and stamina needed to keep going. I’d much rather bet on a team committed to building something – anything – for the longer term. Be it a business, climbing a mountain, building a family.

 

Warren Buffet put it perfectly when asked how is it possible that he beat every other investor with the least sophisticated of strategies, purely by sticking to fundamentals. He said:  “because no one wants to get rich slowly”

continue reading »

Reflections on 2015

If there’s one sentence that summarises the past year for me it’s this: everything happens for a reason, and mostly for the best!

 

My key lesson of the year, cliché as it may sound, is, once again, that our ability to turn a negative into a positive in a split second, to drive instant and radical change in our lives when something doesn’t go our way, is potentially one of the most powerful forces in life and a key determinant of success and happiness.

 

A lot has happened in 2015, including moving my base from predominantly New York back to London in September, opening up offices in Berlin and New York, becoming a British citizen, appearing on BBC World news to talk about the sharing economy, hiring some amazing people to grow our team at PeoplePerHour, and having had the luck to travel to some incredible places and meet some truly great people.

 

2015 reminded me that short of our health and time with our loved ones, one’s best investment is in new experiences. They really enrich our lives so much more than anything we could possibly buy. My best ones for the year were: skiing in St Moritz where I started off the year, visiting Art Basel in Miami, (definitely going back!), skiing in Deer Valley (my first time skiing in the west coast of the U.S.) and staying in the super-cute Salt Lake City which I totally loved, visiting Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and the gorgeous Malibu in L.A. (where I managed to find myself – involuntarily- dining at a cute Greek restaurant called Tony’s), followed by San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a tech. power-shot, a rainy yet magical Costa Rica, Montauk, the beautiful Greek islands of Skiathos and Mykonos, Ibiza in Spain, the breath-taking island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, attending Summit @ Sea on the world’s 8th largest cruise ship with a group of some of the most prominent and inspiring tech entrepreneurs on the planet, attending SXSW in Austin Texas for the 4th time in a row, attending European Young Leaders 2015 forum in Dublin, celebrating my b-day in Vegas and watching what was supposed to be the fight of the century between Manny Pacquiao & Floyd Mayweather, watching Klitschko – the worlds Boxing heavyweight champion- fight in Madison Square gardens, and ending the year with a fabulous family Skiing trip to Val Thorens in France.

 

Things that almost happened and thankfully didn’t: I came a stone’s throw from extended my stay in NYC for another year. On the 1st September I was due to move to a new apartment which I totally fell in love with, whose lease fell through in the final hour. My gut instantly told me it was a sign that my time was up and I literally planned my relocation back to London within hours and left a few days later. I shipped my apartments contents to Athens where I had decided – and again came a stone throw’s away – to buy a place to take advantage of the plunge in real estate prices. That too fell through, or rather I walked away, when the owners – in typical Greek fashion- kept moving the goal post and made signing a deal near impossible. Looking back it was a blessing in disguise, for more reasons than one. Again, a negative turned to a positive.

 

continue reading »

10 reasons to carry on doing what you’re doing (if you’re building a startup)

I was recently asked by someone why I do (or carry on doing) what I do. It’s such a simple question yet it startled me. It’s easy enough to jump in to a knee-jerk textbook answer. But its really hard to articulate why it really is that you do what you do (short of things like necessity, habit, or lack of choice. The ‘why not’ is not a valid answer.continue reading »

My only allergy – NEGATIVE PEOPLE!

I’m lucky enough not to have any allergies. But recently I developed one very strongly –  NEGATIVE PEOPLE!

I cannot deal with negativity any more. It’s what’s killing the world. The winging, constant “I can’t” attitude instead of “can do”… seeing all the things that can go wrong first instead of what can go right.  For the love of God , if you want nothing to go wrong then stay in bed and spare the rest of us the itch. Nothing can go wrong if you stay in bed can it ?! STAY ! continue reading »

Reflections on 2013 and resolutions for 2014

It’s been a good year

2014 has began well. Partly because I was skiing with my family as I usually do in the beautiful alps. The fresh air and the mountain always helps me self-reflect and think more. Without a shadow of doubt that one week skiing may be the most productive of my entire year. And whilst I always push myself to self-reflect that time of year – and this year in particular- is the deepest and most meaningful retrospection of all.

As I reflected on the past year I realized how much had actually happened. We started the year on steroids, the typical ‘go go’ top line investor fuelled growth mode. We operated on vanity metrics instead of sanity metrics.  We were fat and over-bloated. We were management heavy and inefficient. We were shooting for the stars and developed tunnel vision.

And then something painful but retrospectively lucky happened. The investor appetite changed, some of the assumptions, promises and myths came out sour. Some hidden realities came out of the wash. The froth came off the cappuccino.

I’ve said time and time again that the true test in life is what one does when that happens. In our case I’m proud to say that we just picked ourselves up, implemented some drastic changes, got real and elevated sanity above vanity.

It wasn’t easy.  We had to let go of team members, change plans and direction, scrap a lot of things that had emotional equity built in, and especially for the guy at the top who gets the shit from both ends – investors on one and team on other – I can tell you I had more than a few sleepless nights.

But we pulled through. We turned the business into cash-flow positive, we became leaner and meaner, the people staying over being part of the earlier hires who had more dedication and passion about who we are and what we stand for. Who share our sense of purpose.

We made drastic changes like moving from two split locations to one, which meant making our support team in London redundant. We dropped a few balls in the process with some metrics temporarily dipping but overall we came out a winner. Our costs overall halved and our revenue trebled in the year.

For this I am most grateful to the team that’s left over. They are warriors, with heart, passion and dedication. To reward them I doubled the stock pool and allocated a much bigger chunk of equity to the team that stayed for the fight. Some of the more senior management voluntarily took salary cuts in exchange for more stock.

The difference I’ve seen in mindset and perceptions is that from night and day. Its almost a different company now. Before I had employees. Now I have partners. Co-owners. And I push them to look at me more as a peer than a boss.

But good is the enemy of great !

Yet with all of that, I was still troubled at the end of the year. I had a niggling piece of the puzzle missing somewhere. I felt we did good but not great. continue reading »