Looking back at 2009, looking forward to 2010
December 31, 2009
In many ways 2009 was the continuation of 2008.
I had the privilege to be surrounded by my amazing friends for my 35th birthday party.
OLX continued to grow slowly but surely:
- The company raised an extra $5 million in May 2009 bringing the total raised to $29 million.
- We now have 140 employees and are present in 90 countries and 40 languages with over 100 million unique visitors per month.
- OLX started to emerge from under the radar with a feature in Business Week.
I was given the chance to interact with a great many fantastic entrepreneurs at LeWeb where I had a fun fireside chat with my friend Loic Lemeur.
My New Year’s resolution of traveling less came to naught as I continued to travel far and wide for OLX and expect more of the same for 2010. On the personal side, I continued to be hampered by a recurring left knee injury which prevented me from skiing, playing tennis and doing extreme travel most of the year. We are trying a new treatment in January. Hopefully it will yield better results!
The best books I read in 2009:
- A Short Story of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
- SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.
- Dear Undercover Economist by Tim Hartford.
My best blog posts of 2009 were:
- The value of positive advisors
- Cognitive dissonance be damned: I am a pessimistic optimist!
- Bureaucracy in action
- 35: Reflection on the Passage of Time
- Looking for an entrepreneurial stint: at what startup stage should you join?
- The Economy: The End of the Beginning…
- Global industrial bail-outs: the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs of 2009?
- CEPS: George Soros on the crash of 2008
I continued to be a prolific angel investor making 9 investments in 2009, bringing the total to 27:
- January 2009: PeoplePerHour
- January 2009: SolFocus
- February 2009: misterspex
- April 2009: Vaultive
- May 2009: BrandsClub
- July 2009: Totsy
- July 2009: Solar Voltaic
- August 2009: Wikimart
- December 2009: Capitalis
On the bright side only one of my portfolio companies went under in 2009 though a few are teetering on the brink. I expect a few will fail in 2010.
Predictions for 2010:
- OLX will continue to grow slowly but surely, but it will be too early to tell how successful the company will ultimately be. It will probably take another 3-5 years to be able to assess where we stand.
- OECD countries will have sub-par growth in 2010 given the weakness in commercial real estate, continued weakness in residential real estate, high unemployment, and ineffective and unsustainable government policies.
- There is also a real risk of a second downturn should some of the bubbles that are seemingly forming in China burst. Alternatively, a second downturn could come if bond markets take fright of looming deficits and push bond yields up or if governments increase taxes and decrease spending to rein in their deficits. Either of those is bound to happen at some point, the question is when – I am betting on July 2010 but it could happen earlier if Q1 growth is disappointing.
- 2010 will be a great year to become an entrepreneur: new entrepreneurs will face low competition, low expectations, low opportunity cost and low startup costs given the increased availability of labor.
Given my predictions, I intend to be financially careful in 2010. I already returned the Aston Martin I was leasing and renegotiated the lease on my house. I intend to significantly downsize my apartment when the lease ends on June 30, 2010 – at the very least halving my monthly rent. I will invest the money thus saved in more startups hopefully playing a marginally positive part in relaunching productivity growth – the ultimate driver of economic growth.
Happy New Year!