Looking back on 2019

Thomas Schoffelen
Dec 22, 2019 · 4 min read

I always do this toward the end of the year… I barely write anything during October and November, and then towards the end of December I start to reflect and write about the past 12 months of my scrappy life. More so for myself to realise what it is that actually happened than for anyone else to read this.

NearSt won Emerce’s Top 10 European Startups Award

2019 was special.

There’s so much shit that we’re going through as a society, from climate change starting to cause real problems, to the horrific state of politics — the Donald and the Boris of it all, Brexit, the inability of the progressive left to deliver strong candidates in both the US and the UK, to just name a few things. All of that takes up so much headspace and doesn’t really help if you’re trying to not feel depressed all of the time.

But even amid all of that, I had a really good year.

When the year started, I had been living in Amsterdam for a good 2.5 years, and as far as I could tell I would be living in Amsterdam for at least another year or two. Change always seems to be happening faster than I expect it to, even when I’m usually the person pushing it.

My focus for the first half of the year was getting our company in Amsterdam in a place where it was no longer this small agency that took on any random development project that came our way, turning it into a real tech company with a solid team, a beautiful new office, and two products that thousands of people rely on to communicate every single day. Some things took a bit longer and were harder than we expected, but eventually we got there, and I’m super proud of the state that the company is in going into 2020. I can’t wait to see what my co-founders (and the wonderful team we’ve been able to build around them) will be able to achieve in years ahead.

In the summer, I realised I had to make a decision. I was picking up more and more tasks within the company I had co-founded five years ago in London, and although regularly travelling between Amsterdam and London made me feel very accomplished, I knew that to be able to lead a healthy and structured life, I needed to choose one of the two.

So, I moved back to London last month. The move itself was quite stressful, as I wasn’t really able to give myself enough time to do everything properly — I was more or less working full time for my London-based company before I completed the move, while also training new employees and finishing projects in Amsterdam, not to speak of all of the admin involved in moving between countries. Immediately after the move I realised that it doesn’t actually matter at all where in the world you live, as long as you have a place that you can call home.

The choice between my company in Amsterdam and London was a quick one, purely focussed on what felt right. I pulled the trigger within a day, but then spent the months before the actual move not being sure if I had made the right decision. Even though it’s been only three or four weeks since I started here in London, I now know for sure that I’ve made the right decision.

This is the logical next step in my career. At my London company there’s a bigger team, where there are more opportunities for me to learn and to share what I’ve learned over the years, and where I can carry out my preferred role more effectively. The pace is also much faster, and although I come home every day even more exhausted than before, on a daily basis I feel as if my presence makes a difference and helps in getting towards the goal we’re trying to reach together.

Next year, I’ll continue working on getting a better balance between my work and personal life, trying to be healthier both mentally and physically, and trying to be more calm and thoughtful in everything I do.

I’m really looking forward to 2020 and the opportunities it will bring for me to grow and create value, to be there for friends and colleagues, to explore and discover, and to be as curious as an 8-year-old about everything the world has to offer.

Happy holidays!