Holiday letter 2013!

Mingalaba — G’day — Saluti — Bun Di — Greetings!

It seems that each year, when we sit down to write our annual missive, we think “goodness, how could next year possibly top this year?” And then somehow it does. 2013 was definitely among the most notable examples of this. Because of the number and diversity of neat experiences, we’re not able to go into as much detail about each — unless we want to finish in 2020 — but hopefully still a fun read. Here’s to a banner year, now let’s get started!


TL;DR version: Got married — finally, yaaaaay! Attended Davos. Explored Myanmar for 3 weeks. Built (rather, continue to build) a new company, new role, new speeches, new clients. Went to Australia for the first time. Delighting together in the terms Relationship Economy, Sharing Economy and Collaborative Economy: how are they similar, different, predictive of what’s ahead for the world? April’s travel mileage reduced by ~50% — mostly direct flights to places with no vaccination requirements — which was great, yet somehow didn’t lessen the intensity of our lives.

This also was a year in which we adopted the sharing economy (or collaborative economy — more on the distinction below) in full force as a lifestyle. In particular, this was our Year of Airbnb. Families from around the world have stayed in our home while we’ve been away, and our own travels have been revolutionized in the best of ways. We use it for business trips, personal travel and local getaways. Speaking of which, we’re writing this from an incredible, cozy cabin near Big Sur!

Us in Davos HallBacking up to January 2013, which feels like a decade ago… we were blessed to be invited to the World Economic Forum’s annual summit in Davos. Neither of us has ever experienced anything quite like it. Full security at every building, despite snowcoats and boots with skid-proof grippers. April slept on average 3 hours / night for nine nights straight, and yet was wide-awake in her happy zone. Highlights included presenting in the YGL “state of the world” plenary session, meeting heads of state, world-renowned CEOs, visionaries and even royalty (!) “committed to improving the state of the world” (WEF mission) at every turn.

At one of the receptions, despite being super careful with our gear, a distracted German journalist took Jerry’s laptop bag from right behind him, absconding with all his valuables until we sleuthed what had happened and texted the journalist back toward us. On a more fun front, Jerry discovered a two-hour “Audi driving challenge,” which involved drifting (turning while letting your wheels slide) on an icy slalom course with coaching from professional drivers. We both did an intense poverty simulation, and had very different reactions to it. We left Davos on a high, inspired by the Alpine air, inspiring ideas… and utterly exhausted in the best of ways.

From Davos we headed through stunning Alpine scenery for a brief getaway with one of April’s dearest friends, Mirna, in the village of Walchwil (near Zug). We took the train to the top of Mount Rigi — stunning even by Swiss standards! — caught our breath and ate our weight in homemade fondue. From there it was north to London for a week of fun, a bit of work, visiting with friends, and a crisp wintry ramble.

REXers REXingWorking our way westward, we next landed in DC, where Jerry hosted an in-person meeting of his REX group. This time it was in a marvelous three-story brownstone three blocks from the US Capitol. They held meetings in the top floor loft space and had food brought in from local restaurants, all of which made for a great meeting. Thank you (again), Airbnb! A REX advisor brought his 15-year-old daughter to part of our meeting, where she introduced us to Nerdfighters and their motto, DFTBA.

From DC Jerry headed home, while April had one last stop: Kansas City, for her final visit to the HQ. She’d decided to transition from microfinance and water in 2012, in order to pursue her ever-expanding passion for the sharing economy. It took a while to wrap things up. Her role was subsequently split into 3 new positions — yes, she had a lot on her plate…

April at Bondi BeachApril returned to SF after more than a month on the road. She stayed put for all of 2 weeks before another highlight of the year: Sydney, Australia. She headed Down Under — for the first time ever! — to work with her new colleagues at Collaborative Lab. She spent 2 weeks there, mostly fleshing out business plans and managing to explore a bit of the city. Thanks (again) to Airbnb, she stayed in 3 different charming neighborhoods — Darlinghurst, Elizabeth Bay and smack near the Botanical Gardens. Highlights included sunrise jogs in front of the Sydney Opera House, running across the Harbour Bridge, and a stunning 10k walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee. She can’t wait to go back — lucky to have HQ there!

Collaborative Lab is an advisory firm that works with companies, governments and entrepreneurs in the collaborative economy (including collaborative consumption, production, finance and learning platforms). This includes the sharing economy, which is often summarized as “access over ownership” — sharing assets (stuff, space, skills) rather than owning them all outright. Carsharing and co-working spaces are just the beginning; you can now find platforms for almost everything imaginable, from tourism to children’s clothes to pets and more.

April’s colleagues include Rachel Botsman, one of the world’s thought leaders (and author of What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption — highly recommended!) and Lauren Anderson. Together they’re building Lab’s global footprint and focusing on the needs of the entire ecosystem (public and private sectors, etc.). This includes things like policy reform and Shareable Cities, which is where April focuses a lot of her time. For anyone interested in connecting more dots: How Shareable Is Your City?

At the end of March, April headed to Brooklyn to speak at the Hello Etsy! conference. It was a real treat; Etsy is another collaborative economy company we’ve come to love. She also had an unexpected bonus interview on the NBC Today Show!

In April, we participated in IFTF’s Ten-Year Forecast (TYF), one of our favorite annual events, as Jerry is their default emcee and also helps design the events. This year’s TYF was twice as intricate and scripted as usual, which all turned out well in the end. Shortly afterward, April’s colleague Lauren arrived from Sydney for 3 months. It was great to have her here and continue to build Lab.

April had planned on attending her Harvard Law School reunion on April 20, which turned out to be right after the tragic Boston bombings. She got on the redeye Thursday night, knowing that there had been a shooting near MIT. She arrived the following morning to find the city in utter lockdown: she couldn’t even get out of the airport. A few hours later she did manage to get to Cambridge, but the reunion was cancelled and everyone was ordered to stay indoors. Miraculously, she managed to cut her losses and head back to SF — returning <24 hours after she’d begun — and, eerily, upon touchdown learning that the suspect had been caught.

At the end of the month, Jerry, Lauren and April took a mini-getaway to the Santa Cruz hills before Lauren and April took a mini European tour. They first went to Paris for the inaugural OuiShare Fest (European sharing economy bonanza) and then on to London for a full week of meetings.

Retreat 2013 SnarlMeanwhile, Jerry held his 17th Retreat at the now-usual spot, a lovely conference center on Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco. One project born during this Retreat provides support for women early in their careers who fear that raising objections about unfair treatment might be career-limiting by bringing more senior women in for air cover. At a different point, Retreat shutterbugs brought out an astonishing amount of camera gear and gave a master class in the history of photography. (This was the first, and last, Retreat that April will ever miss — though she did join from Paris via Skype for a couple of hours!)

IMG_1337In late May, we departed on our ‘big’ trip of the year: we went to Myanmar (or Burma; neither name is universally accepted) for almost 3 weeks. It was an incredible trip. We spent the first week with other YGLs, at the YGL summit in Yangon followed by the WEF summit in Nay Pyi Taw. We had the honor of meeting Aung San Suu Kyi, taking a private charter plane (!) to the capital, meeting with President Thein Sein (accused of extreme human rights abuses) and taking a learning journey with the Yangon Cultural Heritage Trust. In addition, April leads the YGL/WEF Sharing Economy Working Group which published this position paper — launched at the summit!

IMG_1455Compared to everywhere else we have traveled, Myanmar remains truly unique. It is largely still a “brandless” (even pre-consumer) society (which Jerry, of course, hopes won’t fall in consumerism’s thrall). There are no ATMs for foreigners in the entire country, nor do credit cards work in 99.9% of places. There is no functioning interest rate and no such thing as a mortgage. Although the country direly needs greater access to the outside world — for political and social linkages, among others — this stark contrast was also refreshing, and the locals we met were warm and friendly.

IMG_1390After wrapping up the WEF summit, we ditched our business gear and donned our backpacks. The second week was spent exploring other corners of the country. With our friends Valerie, Max and Lara, we headed first to Bagan, one of the most magical places on earth. We spent countless hours bicycling around the more than 10,000 (!) temples dotting the landscape, took a sunset boat trip on the Irrawaddy River, and tried to stay cool amidst the unforgivable heat. From there we hopped down to Inle Lake, another unparalleled place on earth: imagine basic stilted homes and tomato gardens in the middle of a lake, graced by ‘leg-rowing’ fishermen and surrounded by forested hills. That’s it! We stayed at a lovely inn (on stilts) run by the Pa-O tribe, took longboat taxis from spot to spot and didn’t want to leave.

But we did move on… for one final excursion: a trek outside of Kalaw, through areas that only a few years ago were forbidden to foreigners. Our guide, San Mya, had left her village to study and earn income for her family. She was a joy to be around and an essential bridge to the locals. We hiked through agricultural fields and lush valleys by day, and were hosted by a local family at night. We slept on a wooden floor underneath a small shrine to Buddha. Jerry showed the father of the family a tablet screen; it was the first time he’d ever seen electronics like that. You can imagine how his face lit up. Unforgettable!

From our trek, it was time to head home. This took more than 36 hours, 4 countries, 2 longboat rides, 4 flights, 2 looong layovers, 3 taxis, 1 bus and 1 ox-cart. But boy was it worth it. (We still haven’t finished uploading all our photos, but here’s April’s mostly-completed album of favorite pics.)

By the end of June, if nothing else happened in the entire year, honestly that would’ve been plenty for us. But as life would have it, the second half of 2013 was even more exciting.

July itself was relatively quiet. We settled back into SF and caught our breath. April’s colleague Rachel was in town for a few days, which was wonderful. At the end of the month, we took a week-long getaway to Point Reyes (as we’ve done before) and appreciated the hiking trails, wildflowers, deer, hummingbirds and spectacular starscapes.

In August we made our annual summertime excursion to Colorado and enjoyed time with family. Our nieces Ella and Amelia continue to grow into wonderful human beings and are loads of fun to be around. Ella is within an inch of April’s height now. Amelia is still small enough to command shoulder rides from Jerry, but probably not for much longer. :)

Shortly after returning from the Rockies, we both headed to Las Vegas, where Jerry gave a talk about education as part of Catalyst Week, which itself is part of the Downtown Project (DPLV) a huge investment in improving the old Vegas strip by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. Jerry’s talk was designed as a follow-on to last year’s TEDxCopenhagen talk. We loved DPLV and the people we met there, and we will never think of Vegas in quite the same way — there is so much more beyond casinos.

From the desert, Jerry headed back to SF while April flew east to Washington DC. She attended a resilience workshop, co-hosted by the White House and FEMA. Even the US Government is trying to figure out its approach to the sharing economy: hurray! Granted, the government moves (very) slowly but at least it’s a start.

We jointly agreed to a travel moratorium for the month of September to make sure we were ready for our October nuptials. Even so, we made a couple of exceptions. Jerry headed to Bear Valley with a posse of his best friends for a bachelor weekend. Rather than getting tattoos or meeting up with Japanese gangsters and Mike Tyson, they’ve become a fabulous mutual support group, diving deep into issues that matter.

April went to Atlanta to give her first speech on Shareable Cities at (co)lab summit. Her focus on cities as sharing platforms — and what this means for urban planning, megacities, and development — continues to grow. It’s a wonderful blend of the different skills and perspectives built at every phase of her career. She’s a bumblebee: cross-pollinating ideas, sectors and conversations. Very happy-making.

Finally, we arrive at October 5. Time to get hitched! For the full story — including mountaintops, #shutdown, rituals, the New York Times and the biggest, bestest outpouring of community + love we could ever have imagined — go here. A big side benefit of wedding prep was Jerry’s immersion in TechShop, a wonderfully equipped hardware hacker’s workshop. There he built (with a lot of help from a “dream guide”) a 12-foot-tall wooden signpost that graced our wedding reception.

For anyone who’s wondering if we’re taking a honeymoon, we have 3 responses:

  1. We were engaged for 4+ years. Don’t expect a honeymoon anytime soon.
  2. Yes. Actually, we plan to take at least 2 and maybe more of them. It’ll be the Wedding Decade.
  3. Given how (and how much) we travel, our honeymoons aren’t likely to be typical. Get ready for adventure.

We’re tempted to end this missive here. Everything else seems kind of anti-climatic. But in fact, Q4 packed a lot in — including some exciting updates (and prep for 2014), so let’s prod a bit more…

Before April had hung up her wedding dress (in all honesty, we’re not sure where it is…) we headed to New York City. April took part in CityLab, checked out the Brooklyn Navy Yard and New Lab, we had a mini YGL encore celebration and caught our breath. Later in the month we discovered the Berkeley Center for Transformational Change (CXC, and its inspiring lead, angel Kyodo Williams). It’s a local gem and we look forward to returning periodically.

November saw April mostly on the road, mostly sprinting, and mostly loving what she gets to do. She presented (again, on Shareable Cities) at the EcoDistricts summit in Boston and enjoyed a couple days’ in her old stomping grounds of Cambridge. She went to Detroit for a fascinating “future of mobility” project and was pleased to learn more about Detroit’s fate first-hand. She swapped turkey for bona fide pizza this year, and went to Italy for Thanksgiving — to keynote Sharitaly (the first national gathering on the sharing economy) in Milan the day after, followed by a magical visit with “family of choice” in Venice. In all of these places she stayed in Airbnb properties, and loved every single one!

From Italy she popped up north for a whirlwind week in London. Suffice it to say that the sharing economy is growing also in the UK (and many other places: the Collaborative Consumption community now has Curators in 30+ countries). One highlight was meeting at No. 10 Downing Street.

Us at Pt Reyes SelfieThe rest of 2013 was spent playing catch-up, enjoying some down-time and the holidays, and taking several local getaways. We’ve wanted to “explore our backyard” (aka northern and central California) more, and have finally had opportunities to do so. We spent several days near Sebastopol in Sonoma County, and a few more up outside of Fort Bragg (near Mendocino). We had miles of gorgeous beach and sand dunes practically to ourselves… and (perhaps the biggest treat of all) no wifi! We’re now nestled in the village of Cambria, south of Big Sur, for a few days of coastal refuge and sunshine. It’s absolutely delightful — kind of like Carmel but more low-key.

Looking into 2014, we have lots we want to do and manifest, both individually and as a couple.

Jerry’s major resolution is to walk his talk more. He’s brewed the ideas in the Relationship Economy for 15+ years; now it’s time to get them in the world, in ways consistent with the RE thesis. This will turn into many more media nuggets online, a larger community of people building on RE ideas, and some non- and for-profit initiatives sparked by the thesis. He’s especially eager to take the ideas deep into one sector in 2014, be it health care, education or something else.

April’s goals focus on going full throttle with Collaborative Lab and Shareable Cities. 2014 is likely to be an unprecedented year for the collaborative economy overall, so it’ll be a significant accomplishment just to keep up with everything. She’s looking forward to working with more companies and governments alongside doing more public speaking, writing and building her “voice” in this space.

There may also be some interesting occasions for us to develop a joint voice, now that our activities overlap much more.

In terms of travels, we know that in the spring April will be in Canada (doing a cross-country tour in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver) and Jerry will be in Switzerland and Germany (running Relationship Economy workshops and giving speeches). Additional trips to places like NYC and London are in the works, and we’re currently pondering an abundance of YGL summit and travel options. April has recently been appointed to the Seoul Sharing City global advisory council, so hopefully South Korea isn’t too far off. And of course, those honeymoons!

In this midst of all this, we’re brimming with gratitude every day. We want to enjoy the lives we’re living and do what we can to make the world a brighter, more joyful and resilient and vibrant place. We feel blessed (almost) every moment and look forward to what the future brings our way.

As usual for the adventuresome, here’s 2013 in context, in Jerry’s Brain, a year where NSA surveillance stayed in the headlines, marriage equality made big strides and drones and twerking crept into the vernacular.

A bonus for long-form readers! One of the wonderful by-products of our wedding was the discovery of a fun drink, which we named the Wanderlust. Source a bottle of Velvet Falernum and pour half an ounce into a glass you love (cabernet size, not martini). Add a dash of bitters. Top it with a dark beer you love (our go-to dark beer is a doppelbock called Spaten Optimator). Et Voilá! A Wanderlust.

6 thoughts on “Holiday letter 2013!”

  1. First, congratulations on the wedding. We are so happy for you!

    Secondly, I loved your lecture on collaborative resources. Very creative and something the world needs.

    Have a great 2014

  2. I just spent a delightful 1+1/2 hours reading your email with many of the side trips it offered. So sorry to have missed your wedding. Our best thoughts and wishes are for you. Your ventures interest me, especially Shareable Cities, and Collaborative living. We are trying to put together our version of co-housing (very small version). I love your ability to take a nugget of an idea and turn it into something for all the world. You are both amazing. Please know that tucked in little Eugene, OR are two of your biggest fans.
    Bryna and John

  3. Congratulations for your wedding April and Jerry.

    Have a great and very happy year 2014, plenty of love, trips and adventures.

    Hope to see you in Chile.

  4. April, it has been so many years since our last B&R trip (pre-Harvard for you), but reading your annual reports brings it all back. Congratulations on your marriage to Jerry. You two are an unbelievable team!
    Thank you for keeping me in the loop.
    You’re something special, and I don’t want to loose you.
    xoxoxo & happy, healthy, adventurous and safe 2014,

  5. Congratulations! So happy for you both and thanks for the thorough update. Wishing you all the best for 2014, xo finch

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