2021 year in review

When I sit down to do these year-in-review posts, the hardest part is figuring out how open I can be. I believe vulnerability is crucial for good writing, but there's definitely a limit on how many layers deep I can go in public.

Here, I'll do my best to share my experience of 2021, but keep in mind that it's all fairly close to the surface. It's a representation of my year, but a fairly flat one.

What happened in 2021 (Transistor)

Despite the pandemic, Transistor had another good year. The demand for podcast hosting was still fairly strong, although not nearly as strong as in 2020's original lockdown.

At the beginning of the year, I think my co-founder (Jon) and I were both feeling weary from the pandemic and American politics. As a two person company, we decided to be gentle with ourselves. Instead of trying to "kill it," we focused on self-care for the first few months. Despite all that, we ended up shipping some significant features for private podcasting in the first quarter.

We made two big hiring moves in 2021: in April we hired Helen full-time (as Head of Customer Success), and in August we hired Jason (a full-time Senior Rails Developer). Jon and I both agree: these hires were the best part of the year. Transistor is now a team of four people!

The biggest feature we released in 2021 was Dynamic Audio Insertion. This allows podcasters to automatically insert an audio ad, or announcement, at the beginning, middle, or end of every episode in your feed. Some of our competitors (like Spotify's Megaphone) charge a lot of money for these features, so we're excited to make it accessible to our customers at a lower price-point.

In terms of revenue, we grew just over 31% in 2021.

Jon and I feel immensely fortunate that the company has done as well as it has. It's enabled us to pay ourselves well, and to be generous with our team. We've also been able to make significant contributions to Stripe's Climate program, the Rainforest Foundation, and a handful of other causes.

One goal Jon and I had for 2021, that we didn't achieve, was for us to see meet up in person. As remote cofounders, our annual retreats are a big deal for us; it helps us feel connected. It was really sad for both of us not to hang out together. He has a trip to Canada booked in January 2022; fingers crossed it happens!

What happened in 2021 (personal)

The first quarter of 2021 felt like a continuation of 2020. We were still living in our bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I continue to be incredibly thankful for our local mountain, Silverstar. We spent much of January, February, and March skiing and snowboarding there. The mountains are good for the soul; especially during a pandemic.

In January, my wife finished a big pandemic project: a redesign of the coworking office that I run with a few locals. Her and her friend did an incredible job.

I found a new therapist in January (my previous therapist had moved away). I've been going monthly and feel like I've had some major breakthroughs. 

Starting in January, I started playing piano and guitar again. I'm not incredibly good at either, but I found something meditative about plunking on piano keys, or strumming the same three chords on guitar. It's a practice I've continued until now: strum, strum, plink, plunk, breathe, empty my mind.

The attack on the Capitol in the USA made me angry and sad.

Judging from my tweets, and accidental screenshots on my phone, I spent a fair amount of time exploring Clubhouse at the beginning of the year. By the end of the year, most of the excitement surrounding Clubhouse had waned.

We really had the most glorious spring in 2021. Everything felt alive, lush, fresh, colorful.

Also, after being cooped up for so long, the promise of vaccines gave us hope for some relief from COVID-19. I got my first dose (AstraZeneca) in May.

We still weren't able to travel widely, but spring in Vernon was warm, and we got outside a ton. Everything felt picturesque.

Our family took two trips right at the beginning of summer that (in retrospect) I'm incredibly thankful for. The first was a trip to Canmore and Banff where we met up with my sister, her husband, my three nieces, and my baby nephew that I'd never met. After being away from each other for the whole pandemic it was life-giving to be together again.

This was followed by trip to a family resort, where we swam in the pool, zip-lined, and went waterskiing.

But just as we were easing into summer vacation, the fires in BC came. For most of July and August we lived under a fiery red sky, filled toxic smoke and ash. It was truly awful. We couldn't go outside, and the air quality was some of the worst in the world (AQI hit 500+ on many days).

I've never believed this more strongly: we need climate action now.

Once autumn and winter rolled around, the fires and smoke finally went away. In October, Lorinda and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary!

We were able to get out and do a bunch of things for our anniversary: paddleboarding, touring around the Okanagan, and some incredible meals. Our night out at Raudz was particularly memorable: it reminded me how fantastic dining out can be.

For Halloween this year Lorinda made our two youngest boys the coolest Star Wars costumes (our older two kids don't trick-or-treat anymore).

Our family faced a few challenges this year; but those struggles really galvanized us. All six of us feel closer, more tightly knit. We really showed up for each other.

What happened in 2021 (investments + community)

Starting in June, I made my first "angel investment," and start working with Josh Anderton on Meeps: "A better way to create online communities and memberships."

Meeps is the all-in-one no-code tool I've always wanted for running the MegaMaker community

It allows me to take registrations + payments (through Stripe), boasts a member directory + member profiles. It's a hub for everything related to building a membership. When members log in they can easily access our Slack, email newsletters/articles, member-only resources, and our merch store (which uses Printful). 

If you're interested in building a membership site, meetup group, or online community in 2022, you can still get our early access deal here.

For me personally, being a part of the MegaMaker community continues to be impactful. This year we added some wonderful new people, and members have helped each other build and launch countless projects.

Currently we have nearly 780 lifetime members, with about 150 people active at a time. What's great about the lifetime model is folks can come and go; we've seen members return after 5 years of inactivity. What we've learned (since 2013) is what matters most in community is connection. And connection takes time to foster, mature, to grow. 

Plans for 2022

What I want to do

  • I want Transistor to be the most-recommended podcast hosting tool in the world. I'm really fired up about making the product better for podcasters.

  • Jon and I have a snowboarding trip planned for January (he's coming to Canada). I'm really hoping it happens!

  • Be generous. Some of my happiest moments in 2021 came from being able to give and pass on my good fortune.

  • Help Josh Anderton get to $10k/month in MRR for Meeps.

  • Do another family reunion at the end of June (or early July) in Canmore/Banff

  • Plan at least six local meetups. The pandemic meant that we only had a few local meetups this year in Vernon.

What I'm going to keep doing

  • Researching and acting on climate change. Apocalyptic fiction is becoming a reality: floods, fires, melting glaciers, mudslides, heat domes. We need to act now.

  • Walking every day. My daily routine is to walk 30 minutes downtown, grab a coffee, talk with friends, and then go to my office. This gives me an hour walk every day.

  • Drinking less alcohol. (For the last few years, I've only had a few drinks, and it feels great).

  • Participating in the MegaMaker community.

  • Continue to investigate the web3 world; I'm skeptical, but open to something emerging that feels compelling.

Top tweets and posts from 2021

Top books, essays, movies

Justin Jackson

Published on December 27th, 2021
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