It's the afternoon of the 22nd December and I'm sitting by a window on the 8th Floor of our office at WeWork South Bank reflecting on the year that's been and eagerly awaiting the much needed Christmas and New Year break.
On both a personal and a professional level, 2016 has been undoubtedly the toughest and most challenging of my life, but also the most rewarding and interesting year ever.
We started 2016 on the brink of failure. We'd just lost a major investment deal and had gone through some painful changes as a company that meant we had only a few weeks of life left to spare. Moreover, my own life was a mess and undergoing major upheaval in a number of ways. Throw in some health issues and January 2016 was a grim time with much despair.
Fast forward 12 months and I now lead a company that has secured investment from top-tier investors, staffed by an extraordinary team of amazingly talented people and on an exciting growth trajectory; where we're quickly becoming the leading platform for accessible travel around the world.
While we never rest on our laurels and know that difficulties are seldom far away, we enter 2017 full of hope, optimism and excitement for the year that lies ahead.
Summarising 2016 is a difficult task for a blog post, but I'll try my best to pick out the best bits, share some much deserved thank you's and give you an idea of what we're planning for 2017.
On the shoulders of giants
Isaac Newton said that "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".
To the same degree, the only reason I've been able to lead Accomable from a fun project built in a dark corner of my bedroom into a rapidly growing company with operations around the world; within just 12 months - is simply because I sit (I'd stand if I could...) on the shoulders of a team of giants, who are the most dedicated, smartest and passionate team of individuals one could ever ask for.
They keep me going during the hard times, they go above and beyond the call of duty to fulfil the mission, they constantly rise up to new challenges outside their comfort zones and they never stop trying to be the best they can be. So thank you to my core team of Shona, Chris, Saj, Suzanne, Uel, Katie and Luke. A thank you to Annie, Chris O, Tim and Romain who have helped during various parts of the year.
A thank you to Filipe, my PA for most of this year, who's supported me brilliantly on my crazy trips and at home; and to Jozef who's been on duty at other times. And a thank you to Jordan, Philippa, Lisa, Annie L, Isla and Stacy, who were our heavy-lifting interns and freelancers that supported us on certain projects.
Helping us build the future.
Every new team member at Accomable gets a simple mandate to do what they can to help the company build a better future. But to build that future, we're totally dependent on you, Accomable's most awesome community that constantly recommends properties, travels with us and sends us fun pictures(!), finds new leads, champions us to their friends and family and helps other community members out on the Accessible Travel Club. So thank you for all the help you provide and keep it coming!!
Some fun things in 2016.
On a personal level, 2016 has been the craziest and most Forrest Gump-like year of my life with many ups and downs which involved working long hours 7 days a week while feeling paralysed with a kidney stone for a big chunk of the year. But more importantly, there's been lots of fun opportunities and adventures - ranging from:
Trips to Austin, Singapore, Krakow, Rio De Janeiro, Hong Kong and San Francisco;
Having the chance at the Paralympics in Rio (and at a number of other major events) to advocate for Accessible Travel and accessibility in general to leading figures in government and industry;
Filming a documentary for CNN that was interrupted by a sheep giving birth(!) (the filming took place on a sheep farm run by one of our vendors);
Completing one of the first ever technology investor fundraisings in the accessibility sector;
Taking part in a trade show at the Abilities Expo in San Jose;
Doing my first ever Improv comedy performance in public with my club.
Lots of firsts...!
However, what probably won the 2016 prize for having the most fun was going up an escalator in my very heavy powered wheelchair to see the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.
Take a look by watching the video (but don't try this at home unless you're totally comfortable with the risks)!
And into 2017....
If you thought 2016 had a lot happening, 2017 will invariably be an even bigger year where every one of us at Accomable will be working on some of the toughest and most complex challenges we've ever faced to scale and grow Accomable so that we can truly fulfil our mission of making travel accessible to all. Over the coming months, we'll be:
Rolling out our new and innovative accessible booking platform that'll allow our properties to be reserved online and where you can still interact with property owners.
Launching a host of new community features that'll make it easier to find information, meet other travellers and share know-how.
Trialling an Accomable Access Passport that'll save you having to constantly share the same details when booking travel on our site.
Expanding our blog and editorial operations into a destination site of its own with travel stories and features from around the world.
Producing a ton of new creative content to showcase accessible travel options and educate the world on the importance of accessibility.
In the middle of all that, there'll be lots of new adventures, random experimental projects and products, a growing team and another fundraising round! So I'm pretty sure that 2016 will end up feeling pretty sedate compared to what's ahead.
Thank you being with us in 2016 I really hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year - and here's to making 2017 absolutely awesome!!!