Can’t believe another year has gone by. I’m not usually into dwelling on the past but 2015 has been a standout year.
I went to Cuba for the first time, fell in love with the country and the people, and realised there’s a gigantic opportunity there to create something sustainable, and to scale, that will benefit Cubans and global investors. We’re building a fantastic business in Cuba, with some excellent local partners who have the rare benefit of being long-established and well-respected Cuban business people. I anticipate great strides ahead in the coming 12 months.
I stepped down from the boards of my London AIM listed companies: concluding with, at the end of the year, AfriAg, Rare Earth Minerals, Bacanora Minerals, Inspirit Energy, and Evocutis (one of the AIM pioneers dating back to 2003). Some people were surprised by this. But I’ve never made a secret of the fact that my job is to rescue dying or dead businesses, nurture fledgling businesses, get them into shape and get them funded, and in due course hand over to long-term professional management teams for the next stage of their growth.
I’m proud of the fact that each and every one of those businesses is stronger and better able to weather the future as a result of the hard work put in by everybody I have worked with during 2015.
I now shift to focus on Cuba, a land of fantastic opportunity and I’m also embarking on my new USA tech venture, news to follow on that.
Here are some of my other highlights of 2015…
Cuba came in from the cold. America actively engaged with Cuba for the first time in two generations. John Kerry went, the Pope went, Jagger went, and now the whole world wants to go there. And even though there’s a long way to go before relations are ‘normalised’ this incredible country is going to break records as it comes in from the cold.
World leaders agreed to limit global temperatures at the Paris Summit. The first agreement ever by all world leaders to commit all countries to cut global carbon emissions, consigning the unworkable 1997 Kyoto Global Climate Treaty deal to history. The agreement even included the USA, Sudan and Afghanistan, the Kyoto refuseniks.
It was amazing that they got this deal through, and although not perfect it’s going to really help drive the adoption of energy-saving technologies, renewable energy, energy storage, the big push towards EVs and hybrids, and the emergence of the lightest metal on earth, lithium, the new gasoline.
Space X achieved the first reusable rocket as Falcon 9 launched into space, deploying its 11 satellites and returning to the same spot. Commercial space flight like this is going to change the world as we know it. Elon’s doing it. Branson’s doing it. Bezos is doing it. The cost of sending satellites and people into space is going to plummet and as a result the frontiers of science are going to open up in ways we cannot imagine.
NASA discovered water on Mars. I recently dug out an old Bowie album from 1971 (Hunky Dory) and listened to Life on Mars. The lyrics conjure up all sorts of unreal, psychedelic imagery. I suppose then the idea of life on Mars was the most bizarre, unlikely thing you could imagine. Well maybe not anymore?
Major Tim Peake landed on the International Space Station. I have a lot of time for the British Army, and Sandhurst-trained Major Peake beat over 8,000 applicants for this mission. His intensive training stood him in good stead although I’d question his choice of three songs played during the launch – Don’t Stop Me Now (Queen), Beautiful Day (U2), and A Sky Full of Stars (Coldplay).
Cuba became first country in the world to eradicate mother to child HIV. Despite nearly 60 years in isolation, and under embargo from the US, Cuba has an astonishing health and biomedical sector. In June the World Health Organisation announced that Cuba had eradicated mother to child transmission of both HIV and Syphilis. This puts Cuba at the forefront of the global effort to create an AIDS free generation. And I’m sure Cuba will continue to surprise us in 2016.
Americas declared free of Rubella. Rubella used to be called German Measles (the Germans probably felt a bit offended), but it’s a nasty virus that can lead to serious birth defects including deafness, autism, and heart defects. Thanks to a serious mass vaccination programme the disease has now been declared officially eradicated by the WHO after no new cases in five years. We did it with Polio for the world and now we need to rid the world of Rubella.
Tesla broke ground at their new Gigafactory in Nevada. The largest lithium ion battery production facility on the planet will be three times the size of Central Park and will be the world’s second largest building (a prize if you can tell me the largest, email me).
In partnership with Panasonic at their Nevada facility, Tesla are going to make lithium batteries better, cheaper, more reliable and change the way scientists, engineers and designers power our planet and our lives. And in doing so will save a hell of a lot of emissions and reduce global warming.
‘Do the impossible’ is one of Elon Musk’s favourite sayings, and this is going to supercharge science and the adoption of cheap battery technology, EVs, hybrids, mass energy storage and small energy storage.
Tesla’s news has bounced other global majors into announcing plans for their own Gigafactories – this is disruptive technology folks. The world needs lots more Elon Musks.
But the absolute highlight for me was finishing the year with three of my four children with me for Christmas and New Year.
Absolutely fantastic to re-connect with a strapping 6’ 3” sixteen-year-old chap after six years (they say it’s the growth hormones in the chickens these days), after flying half way around the world by himself, and my older girl who has forged herself a solid legal career.
Sadly, my oldest boy couldn’t be with us, as he thought – at the ripe old age of eighteen – it would be a great idea to become a snow board instructor in Banff. Who can blame him?
So Happy New Year to you all and I wish everyone a very prosperous 2016.