Happy New Year! Welcome to 2009, the year the media would have you believe is going to be miserable for everyone. As for me, I feel extremely positive for the next year. I began it at Big Ben with my Uncle and Cousin on Westminster Bridge. Unfortunately because my cousin Tanya was sick, they came late and we couldn’t get to the river, so the best of the fireworks I got to see was the picture left, in between two Whitehall buildings down the road from Big Ben! They say that how you begin the new year is a sign to how the rest of the year will go. While new year is usually an anti-climax, this year I managed to spend it with the right people so while it wasn’t crazy, it was good. So outlook for this year is whatever happens, I have the right people beside me, which is particularly important as 2009 is the year I finally try and make my mark as an entrepreneur, with all the ups and downs that come along with it!
I feel pretty insulated from all the problems going on at the moment, my freelancing is going well so I have enough money, as for a job…well I left that 6 months ago through my own accord, and for my start-up SambaStream, that’s probably why I feel so positive about the next year! While some large companies are collapsing, and many people are losing their jobs, I couldn’t think of a better time for change! Change to address some of the big global issues we’ve been ignoring but in more comfortable times we can let slide, and change for a new wave of start-ups who will become the forefront of web technology in the next 2 years as the recession resides. As Obama kept saying, it is time for change, and YES WE CAN!
For the big global issues, there’s two I’d like to address this year. One I think will get a big boost this year, the other I fear will not be resolved so easily. I think 2009, especially with a new, smarter president in the US, will be the year the foundations are finally laid to address global climate change in the US, which for too long now has chosen to ignore the issue by the short sighted policies of the Bush administration (and admittedly previous administrations too). I’m currently reading Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded” which discusses why the US needs to take action soon, not just for environmental reasons, but for global stability. We need the US to take the lead, and fortunately many of the solutions would be ideal in a recession to help cut costs and start a new boom of technology companies and jobs in the Green sector to take the US, and ultimately the rest of the world, out of a recession.
The second is Israel and its continued hostility to the Palestinians. The new year started with Israel bombing the shit out of the Gaza strip, in retaliation to Hamas firing rockets into the occupied territories. While so far 4 Israeli soldiers have been killed by Hamas, over 400 Palestinians, at least 100 of whom are civilians, have been killed so far. That’s over 100 lives for each soldier. It’s a repeat of the violence Lebanon received in 2006, over the kidnap of TWO Israeli soldiers. While I’m not a Hamas supporter, I honestly think Israel is the greater evil in this bloody conflict here. I hope that in 2009 the west will finally have the resolve to become firm with Israel instead of the stand-offishness we have seen since its creation that has allowed it to continue behaving the way it does without any repercussions. We have to stop giving the country special treatment, like when we firmly condemn most of the other countries that cause global instability with firm critisism and sanctions that are actually enforced!
So global issues aside, the recession is also a huge opportunity for new start-ups like mine! There’s two sides to the coin, yes it will be harder to get customers, MUCH harder from what I’ve been seeing recently. But if you can afford to start slowly and plan for at least 2 years of slow growth like we expect, the benefits of being in a recession are pretty good (unless you want to get funded, then valuations are down by over 50%!). Cheaper office space, cheaper services and a whole load of talented people being freed up from large companies and failed start-ups who you can hire to grow your business! As long as you can keep your burn rate low, as we can (and is very easy for web start-ups nowadays using open-source and cloud computing infrastructure) you should be able to develop and test your product in the market safely, while acquiring initial customers to pay the bills and ultimately position yourself for fast growth when we come out of the recession! The start-ups that plan this way I believe will become the next big start-ups we see in 2 years time (hopefully including us!). On average, regardless of the economic climate, it takes an average of 2 years before start-ups start becoming well known in the web space. We all wonder where FaceBook and Google came from so fast, yet they were quietly humming in the background for at least 2 years (I actually think longer for these 2 actually), growing under the radar, before we all became aware of them. All of a sudden they’re everywhere, and we forget that they’ve been growing and tailoring their solutions under the radar the last 2 years. So starting now is a great time, because if its going to take 2 years to get to that point where you suddenly become “famous” and go for exponential growth, you may as well start now so you’re ready for the end of the recession! Also, slower growth, while not everyone’s first choice when starting a company, is sometimes advantageous as it allows you to iron out all the problems you have before they become overwhelming, just think scaling your support processes when hundreds of customers sign up and you haven’t even figured them out properly! I feel recessions will bring out the best in the most resourceful entrepreneurs, and I definitely plan to enjoy 2009 figuring out our way into the market and ultimately building a solid, scalable business we can capitalise on in 2010!
Anyway, wishing you and all your families the best in 2009! Its going to be a great year for much needed change and reflection!