Somebody I Used To Know

January 1, 2013

2012 Annual Report

This is a thing, isn’t it?

While I have struggled to find time to blog much at all over the last 12 months, and only managed a handful of posts, for some reason maintaining the streak of annual reports seems important.

The first, back in 2008, was pretty uncertain. I don’t feel like that much any more.

Since then I’ve taken pride in having a wide and varied list of things to talk about. But towards the end of this year I’ve started to judge myself on how well I’m doing the much shorter list of things that I choose to focus on. I’ve found that a whole new challenge, and a work in progress.

As somebody pointed out to me earlier this year, there is a class of opportunity that requires an unbounded time commitment but there is only time in each day for one of those. I’ve struggled through 2012 with two or three (depending how you count them).

For those of you just picking up the story, I’ve spent the better part of the previous two years on a couple of bigger projects: building a new house and, in parallel, some new ventures to work on.

I naively thought 2012 might be the third and final year in that cycle…


It’s coming up to 5 years since we found the land where we now live. It’s taken a long time to get here. As with a large software development project, there has been a trade-off to navigate between on spec, on time and on budget (i.e. choose two, at most!) So I’ve worked hard to stay patient. As some things are completed and we have an opportunity to think slightly further ahead, I recently realised we may be only half-way through.

I’ve also belatedly understood that a new build is the equivalent of writing code from scratch – when it’s finished it’s shiny and new, but is also untested and as a result hasn’t yet had all of the bugs worked out. There have been a number of one step forwards, one step backwards moments this year, including several times when I could easily visualise Kevin McCloud looking on with an arched eyebrow.

Having said that, I’ve throughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to design and build somewhere to live – a place with its back to the world, which we love, with lots of mindfully created spaces. It’s been work, but fun to be close to it. We’ve been pleased to have a great team of architects, engineers and tradespeople, who are hopefully proud of what they created.

It’s been great to start sharing our place with family and friends in the back half of 2012 and we’re looking forward to properly warming it up (literally and figuratively) in 2013.


It was also a year too full of work, which broke me at times. I spent a lot of time feeling like I was chasing it all, and never quite catching up.

Mostly I did email. I sent just over 6000 email messages and received more than 12,200 (not counting spam or junk mail). I burnt way too much precious time fighting my inbox.

And also flew. I was away for 132 days and clocked up 101 individual flights. It wasn’t all business, but still I think I’d rather be a Gold Elite husband and father. The cat’s in the cradle.

The various ventures I’m involved with spread themselves right across the spectrum in 2012.

Vend is kicking ass and taking names. We grew by 400%, passed $1m of recurring revenue, raised $2m of new capital, hired a bunch of great people and had quite a bit of fun in the process. 2013 promises to be a defining year, and I’m looking forward to being part of it.

Despite seeing the patterns repeated several times now, it still surprises me just how much you can differentiate yourself by doing the simple stuff well. The best example of this from 2012 is the recognition that Vend got in November for being a company that trusts staff to dress themselves.

Sonar6 was sold to Cornerstone On Demand in April. My only contribution was as an investor, but even so it’s good to be involved in another success story. Congratulations to the guys who lived and breathed it over the years – I look forward to what’s next for you all.

Xero continues to defy gravity and takes the pressure off my other startup investments by promising to return the fund and then some. It was no surprise to see Rod win the NZ Herald Business Leader of the Year – daylight was in second place.

Powerkiwi came second at the Deloitte Fast50 awards. That’s a little embarrassing given the anaemic amount of capital invested and razor-thin profit margins, but it’s still good to be back on that list and something we’ll look forward to repeating with other ventures in future years.

At the other end of the spectrum, it was a difficult year for Pacific Fibre, before it was finally shut down in August. Putting aside the money we lost as investors, it’s mostly just sad and frustrating that the project won’t go ahead with the change that it could have created.

Outwardly, it was another quiet year at Southgate Labs. I’m hugely excited by the team we’ve built, and we continue our search for a product of our own to get excited about. We have a couple of things we’re working on as the year comes to an end which are promising. Creating space to focus on these has required some tough decisions, so hopefully one becomes something to justify that effort. I may have said the same last year?

Most of the other ventures fall somewhere in the middle. I’ll watch with interest for progress next year, and hopefully contribute in a small way where I can.

Everything Else

I got an early taste of winter in January, visiting New York, Chicago and Ottawa with Vaughan from Vend, including a memorable birthday dinner stuck in a departure lounge in a snow storm.

I enjoyed three excellent weeks in the heat of Singapore at JFDI. It was the first opportunity I’ve had to spend more than one or two nights there and get to know some locals. I squeezed in side trips to Palu Ubin in Indonesia and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, where I enjoyed a dinner of Tarantulas with Sam Ng.

I also visited the Cook Islands for the first time, but not the last.

I kept moving, ending the year where I started in terms of weight, but feeling a lot fitter. I did quite a lot of running and cycling and a bit of swimming. In the second half of the year also got bitten by the mountain bike bug. But, unlike previous years, only once felt compelled to do any of that in an event against the clock (10km off road, with Koz, in 46m 15s) I cancelled my Les Mills membership, after 8 years and $7000 of subscriptions.

I attended a wedding (my youngest sister) and a funeral (my wife’s grand-father).

I learned to drive a tractor.

I soaked up a day amongst the art and animals at Gibbs Farm, climbed Ben Nevis and Mt Ellis in the Richmond Ranges, joined the Geeks on a Plane on a helicopter to Minaret Station near Wanaka, spent a day skiing in pretty ordinary winter conditions at Coronet Peak in July and in great spring snow at Rainbow in September (and even got in some water skiing last week), watched a lot of the Olympics on the big screen, walked the first part of the Able Tasman walkway with our boys in July (!), enjoyed the celebrations around the Hobbit World Premiere in Wellington and saw Radiohead live in Auckland.

My first-world life is tough.

With luck 2013 will be more of the same but different.

We’ll see.

Previous Annual Reports: