Twenty Seventeen

It feels like it’s been a significant year, worthy of etching in this sparsely populated digital memory bank.

A challenging personal year embarking on re-invention, with little daily structure or operational responsibilities. A year sans a professional title and many coffee meetings explaining why… A year of much envy and privilege.

A year of many learnings, pursuing back burner passions, and traversing family adventures with young children…

The catalyst

In February, Magnus and myself made the humongous decision to hand over the reins to a team lead better equipped for this next chapter of WooCommerce’s growth. Free from our founder biases. Nearly 10 years since our first explorations with commercial WordPress themes, and 2 years since Woo’s acquisition by Automattic.

An acquisition is an emotional process to navigate. Your DNA, as a founder, is so intertwined with that of your business, and the culture and reputation that grows and matures within your business becomes so engrained in your identity. As people, beliefs and cultures merge, change naturally results from it. You need to be open to it and adapt your ways.

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on all these hugely valuable business experiences, dissecting our journey, understanding the magnitude of serendipity, and trying to recall many of those aha moments lost in the blur of our hyper growth years.

Initiating 2.0

Now with the fortune of time and capital to re-invest I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in relationships, businesses and investments outside of my immediate bubble.

It’s been humbling to meet smart, passionate people with innovative ideas in the early stages of their startup journeys. Their entrepreneurial optimism is contagious, and welcomed against the backdrop of so much political and economic turmoil in South Africa.

Twenty seventeen has also been dedicated to re-connecting with my right brain. Taking photos, making videos, listening to podcasts, attempting to read more books, and pushing pixels around.

Most importantly, I’ve been very fortunate to be present at home. To cherish a very different kind of hyper growth – the physical growth of little humans.

Trying my best to avoid applying business logic to hormonal, irrational, sleep depriving situations. To practice patience and act deliberately slower. To disconnect from devices, and connect more genuinely. (I think my wife will attest that I’ve still got a very long way to go…)

So thank you twenty seventeen, for the gift of time. I look forward to being more purposeful with our next orbit of the sun.

Mataffin

Last week we celebrated the life of my grandpa on the farm where he was born and died 93 years later. Seeing the farm from high above highlights the changing landscape of Nelspruit. It’s amazing to see how the farm has shaped the city’s growth.

Being on the farm brought back wonderful childhood memories of adventurous, outdoor holidays. As one mighty tree fell, we planted another in remembrance.

Legacy

Today you breathed your last breath and said farewell to a world so very different to the one you entered 93 years ago. Yet you died on the farm, only meters away from the very same house you were born.

You were our heroic grandfather, and great grandfather – the finest and most dignified of gentlemen – who served both our country in the most monumental of wars, and our family with a Lowveld legacy so pioneering and significant.

You enriched and magnified what the Halls family is and proudly represents to so many.

Today Gran finally welcomes you with open arms and your kind twinkly eyes shine even brighter in our night sky.

♥️

Chasing adventure slowly

I don’t know who was more keen to get a “safari car”. Max, my nearly 5 year old, or me.

Max developed a very rare talent, at a very early age. He has the remarkable ability to identify a “safari car”, otherwise known as a Land Rover Defender, if it even enters his distant periphery.

For Max a safari car represents adventure. Something he and I want to chase more intentionally this year. Continue reading Chasing adventure slowly

The Emirates first class experience

In November 2014, from Cape Town to San Francisco, I was miraculously upgraded to fly first class. For free. On not one, but two long haul flights via Dubai. A total of over 20 hours in a flying palace. It was an incredibly surreal and scarily opulent experience.

It was my first (and only) time flying Emirates business class, that I only just managed to justify pocketing – celebrating a crazy few months at WooThemes. Presumably Emirates were keen to impress and win some business travellers over, with a surplus of first class seats available. Only at check-in did I realise I had been upgraded.

I wish I’d documented the flight better, but only managed a handful of pictures.

A year and a half later my favorite vlogger, Casey Neistat, got the same VIP Emirates treatment and did a fantastic job of documenting the experience. The video has gone completely viral with over 20 million views in 7 days. I think Emirates can justify Casey’s upgrade a lot better than mine….

I still can’t believe I took that flight and can only imagine how much that ticket would cost today. (An absurdly, unjustifiable amount…)

Grand Meetup 2016

The craziness of the Automattic Grand Meetup is now behind us. An action packed week of workshops, classes, town halls, flash talks, team building activities and tasty meals over good conversation with new work colleagues.

It really is a surreal week. Throughout it you are completely overwhelmed by the scale of it all – borderline burned out by the constantly busy schedule. Burnout likely influenced by the 30 hour commute to Canada and a 9 hour time difference… Looking back at it you realise how special and unique this diverse team, distributed company and unforgettable experience is.

I lugged about 10kgs of camera equipment from Cape Town to Whistler, Canada for the trip. Very excited about being in such a photogenic part of the world. I ended up taking a measly amount of photos 🙁 Below are a few of them.

Thanks to Donncha for the company photo. Some more of my snaps on Instagram.

From commercial themes to the fastest growing eCommerce platform

In late May I got to travel to Seville, Spain to attend and speak at WordCamp Europe 2015.

It was a boiling hot few days filled with lots of WordPress learnings, tasty Spanish food, and meeting many new community folk and colleagues at Automattic.

In my talk I spoke quite candidly about our journey as WooThemes and some insight into our more recent decision around the Automattic acquisition.