2021: Looking back at moving forward
Reflecting on the year that’s past and what’s coming in 2022.
With less than a month to go before we welcome our next marvellous group of startups to the Aerospace Xelerated portfolio and embark on another year of boosting innovation in the aerospace industry, I wanted to take a moment to look back and reflect on my adventures in 2021.
The past 12 months
It’s certainly been an eventful year but it’s also been hugely rewarding! The pandemic has continued to dominate all our lives throughout 2021 but the evolution of working from home has sparked a shift in the entrepreneurial ecosystem and it certainly feels like my team has been extremely busy — perhaps even busier than pre-COVID times.
On the move again
✈️ Miles travelled: 83,390
🧪 COVID tests taken: 36
🌎 Countries visited: 8
After months of being cooped up, this year I have been fortunate to get out and see people face to face once again, travelling around the USA and to the UAE, UK, Kuwait, Turkey, Denmark, Germany and Scotland for events and meetings (and that list doesn’t include all the countries I’ve travelled through!).
Virtual work is great, but it’s so important to connect face to face if you really want to understand your partners and customers — who for me, are the entrepreneurs.
I always love meeting new founders, startups and investors — getting a real lay of the land and an understanding of what entrepreneurs need is something that we’re dedicated to now and in the future.
Connecting with people again has also reemphasised to me personally why I’m so passionate about international business. Experiencing different cultures helps you to recognise, understand and appreciate cultural nuances, while learning a lot about yourself too.
I’m currently pursuing my Masters in International Business at Saint Louis University, so it goes without saying that it really does help to actually be able to experience international work rather than just sit behind the screen.
One word. Kuwait. The amount I learned during my visits here surpassed my wildest expectations with founders, aspiring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists all sharing a passion for the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Female entrepreneurs in the Middle East — in particular based off my experiences in Kuwait and the UAE — are just total badasses. I don’t know if it’s just how they’re raised or their mentality to be more entrepreneurial, but all the women that I met with are just out of this world rock stars.
Entrepreneurialism is commonly viewed as someone who starts a company and is successful. But a lot of times, women are managers of the home, while holding important jobs too. In societies that emphasise gender roles, where women and girls have it instilled in them from a young age that they manage the home, this ability to handle multiple priorities can make for stronger female entrepreneurs.
Some of the amazing women I met in Kuwait have jobs in a bank where they finish at 2pm and then they take care of their kids before going back out to work on their businesses in secret without the support of anyone around them.
Some of the women I’ve met have taught themselves how to code, they’ve researched artificial intelligence and they’ve developed a platform because they saw a problem and thought to build a solution. And they’re doing it to help other people to improve society.
This is just so freaking cool to see how they lead, how they manage their time, and how they’re managing solutions to make the next generation better. They’re go-getters despite all the adversity they face. It’s amazing that we get to support women like this through mentor engagements, meet-ups and other initiatives.
A personal achievement for this year
One particularly crowning moment for me is that I’ve finally mastered the art of COVID testing without bursting into tears! So, like any good end-of-year roundup should, I’d like to pay tribute to my colleagues for holding my hand during those difficult-to-watch, particular deep nasal probing testing times.
Oh man, the ones that go up your nose make me cry every time. I don’t know if it’s because my nose is small, but they really hurt. Especially in some parts of the world where they seem to enjoy putting the swab right up there as far as it will go!
I’ve also learned the art of living on a plane and out of a suitcase. I’ve always been a total planner but now I count on nothing happening until it’s actually happening. In this ever-changing landscape, travel isn’t impossible, it’s just complicated.
Looking ahead at 2022
We’ve got plenty to look forward to in 2022. I’m very excited to see the new cohort of 10 companies coming in and getting to connect with each of them. We have a lot of things in the pipeline for different countries that we’ve been mapping out and I look forward to seeing lots of that planning and hard work begin to roll out too.
For example, we are going to be starting projects in Australia with actual in-person events! Whether or not I’m able to get there myself is a different story, but we have team members there that can connect with the entrepreneurs, industry partners, and stakeholders that we’ve been talking to for so long and seeing this come to fruition has me super excited.
I’m also graduating from my Masters in May, so that will be nice to have that off my plate. In that regard, I’m so grateful to my professors for being flexible while I’ve worked on schoolwork from afar rather than in the classroom. Following my graduation in May, it might mean I even have time to return to the gym. Possibly! 😉
We’re also growing our team with the addition of some new hires. It’s wonderful to see our work here validated and reaffirmed by our business, but it also means there’s going to be more opportunities for future growth and evolution. I can’t wait.
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