Rose, Thorn and Bud for the passing of 2023.


21st December 2023


9 min


Patrick Richardson

Back when I was a bright-eyed upstart, me and my work pals had a little ritual – every Friday we’d swing by Brandy Pete’s pub for a nightcap…or two or three. The drinks flowed as freely as the laughs and gossip. 

But the real treat came when we played our signature game: Rose and Thorn. 

The rules were simple. 

Go around sharing your Rose – the highlight of the week that put a smile on your face. Then share your Thorn – the annoyance or hassle you couldn’t wait to leave behind at work for the weekend.

Just a few months ago, an old friend tipped me off that she plays a version with her group…but they’ve added a little twist called the Bud. 

Before you wrap up, you add one thing coming down the pipeline that’s got you excited. So, as we close out 2023, here is my Rose, Thorn and Bud for the year about to pass.


It’s been an exciting year of growth and change at hedgehog lab. Here are a few key highlights:

Acquisition of Netsells.

One of our biggest strategic moves in 2022 was the acquisition of UK-based digital agency Netsells. 

Adding their talented team strengthened our core offerings considerably. Netsells brought on board top-notch e-commerce developers, designers, project managers and more to elevate what we can deliver for clients. 

Together under the hedgehog lab banner, our combined service portfolio now spans strategy, UI/UX, development and commercial optimization for web, mobile, and beyond. Bolstered training and career growth opportunities also now exist for our expanded roster through cross-pollination of expertise. 

As part of the wider business consultancy, the Netsells deal underscored our ambition to become a global digital transformation leader. 

Most importantly – by merging cultures focused on imagination, craft and vision – we reinforced our promise to build pioneering digital solutions that help conscious brands thrive in the modern marketplace. The Netsells acquisition set the stage for an exciting 2023 and beyond.

My official promotion to CMO.

I’m thrilled to have stepped into the Chief Marketing Officer role this past year to help shape the future of the hedgehog lab brand. As one of the founding members of the leadership team, it has been incredibly rewarding to see the company grow from a fledgling startup to the award-winning digital consultancy it is today. 

Stepping into the CMO position has expanded my responsibilities in telling our story, reaching new audiences, and developing compelling thought leadership. My promotion empowers me to amplify the imaginative, creative spirit at the heart of our culture. 

With our expanded services after acquiring Netsells, 2023 will mean enhancing our messaging around the breadth and depth of expertise we now offer. Most importantly, this new executive function will ensure our marketing continues reflecting the vision our teams bring to conscious brands ready to transform in the digital economy. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity and excited to embrace this new challenge in continuing hedgehog lab’s ambitious growth trajectory.

New brand and website.

This past year saw a complete refresh of the hedgehog lab brand and website from the ground up – one of our proudest accomplishments. We examined the essence of our identity and ethos to craft an authentic new brand narrative. 

The end result is a look, voice and style that better conveys the imagination, craft, and conscious vision we bring to our work. Our new tagline – “hedgehog lab is a human-centered global digital consultancy” – encapsulates the empathy, curiosity and passion behind everything we build. 

We recognize that technology only moves humanity forward when designed for real people and their needs. This idea now lives at the very heart of our external presentation. Bringing this mission statement to life through a sleek, mobile-first website and collateral has been tremendously fulfilling. 

I could not be more pleased with the tremendous efforts of our internal creative team and partners. In an increasingly commoditized industry, I believe our reinvigorated brand now captures the expertise, culture and ambition that sets hedgehog lab apart. 

I can’t wait to see how this human-centered foundation continues guiding our marketing efforts far into the future.


Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Here are a few of the challenges we’ve faced this year.

A tough year for digital consultancies.

2023 proved to be a challenging year for digital consultancies across the board. With high inflation, rising interest rates, talk of recession, and general economic uncertainty, many businesses cut back on discretionary spending like digital projects. 

This resulted in a decline in new contracts and stalled pipeline growth for many firms like ours. Consulting revenue dropped off compared to the boom years during the pandemic when digital transformation was an imperative. 

Most digital consultancies dealt with slowing sales cycles and deals taking longer to close. The crowded marketplace also meant more competition over fewer lucrative opportunities. 

To adapt, consultancies got creative with their service offerings while focusing on higher-margin work and building long-term client relationships. However, belt-tightening still occurred industry-wide. The hope is that these economic headwinds are temporary and that innovative digital services will continue leading the way for businesses in the years to come. 

2023 required patience, resilience, and keeping the bigger picture in mind – qualities that should serve the digital consultants ready to hit the ground running when conditions improve.

Reductions of staff.

After years of aggressive hiring, 2022 and 2023 saw sweeping layoffs across the technology sector. Major companies like Amazon, Meta, Twitter, Stripe, and others trimmed tens of thousands of jobs amid rising costs and fears of recession. Unfortunately, the staff reduction trend also hit close to home this past year. 

The economic landscape forced difficult decisions for hedgehog lab and many peer consultancies to remain on solid financial footing. Though essential, saying goodbye to even a single talented colleague was gutting. Necessary structural changes saw our organization get leaner through attrition and more selective replacement hiring. 

Other digital consulting firms implemented similar cost-cutting strategies with staggered waves of budget-driven staff cuts. Seeing valued teammates let go left morale bruised industry-wide. However, most leaders communicated the moves as strengthening long-term health rather than reducing overall headcount capabilities. 

The hope amongst firms like ours is for steadier sailing ahead to reopen growth opportunities for our people as macroeconomic anxieties ease into 2024 and beyond. With a trimmer workforce ready to nimbly respond to client needs, we remain upbeat that the agility and talent of the tech consultancy community will empower many businesses’ post-recession aspirations.


Still, I’m optimistically looking ahead to 2024. A few things on the horizon:

A rebound of the economy.

After a rocky 2023, the new year brings optimism that economic stability and growth may return. 

Digital consultancies have weathered the stormy conditions, though not without making some difficult business decisions. Now, with inflation potentially receding and forecasts of GDP upticks on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

As more enterprises resume putting IT projects on the agenda, demand for services like ours may rapidly reignite. For consultancies that took advantage of slower periods to fine-tune offerings and streamline operations, 2024 presents an opportunity to rebuild momentum. 

Many firms are revisiting growth plans sidelined by budget cuts, hoping to expand headcount and revenues again. Though the landscape remains competitive, there is confidence that a rising economic tide can lift many ships in the digital transformation space. 

As long as consultancies retain resilience and strategic vision, an economic rebound in 2024 could fuel the industry’s next chapter of innovation and prosperity.

AI to end clutter.

2024 is shaping up to be the year AI fulfils its promise of transforming businesses and even our day-to-day lives. From conversational chatbots to process automation, artificial intelligence looks ready to take over mundane tasks so people can focus on more meaningful work. 

One advancement I’m particularly excited about is AI’s potential to curb those endless torrents of robocalls and spam emails cluttering up our inboxes. As algorithms grow more advanced at recognizing scam patterns and blocking fraudulent communications, our phones and devices may finally offer some protection

Through semantic analysis and network learning about known offenders, AI tools can automatically divert deceptive calls to voicemail and flag deceitful emails as spam. Tests already show progress in using AI to decrease intrusive outreach without losing legitimate contact. 

As this technology improves, the vision of glancing at a clean, robo-call-free phone filled only with messages from real people no longer seems far-fetched. AI may never provide a perfect fix for persistent scam artists, but even reducing the nuisance would do wonders for all our sanity. 

2024 could be the year we finally reclaim peace, productivity and purpose from all the unwanted digital disorder.

A flourishing Flutter community.

I am also very eager to expand our presence within the growing Flutter ecosystem. As strong proponents of Google’s declarative UI framework, we plan to continue advocating for Flutter’s capabilities and best practices. 

Flutter makes it easier than ever for our teams to develop high-quality cross-platform experiences. We want to enable more developers to harness Flutter’s potential for their mobile, web, and desktop apps. 

This includes organizing and sponsoring local Flutter-focused meetups out of both our North UK and Boston offices this coming year. Our engineers will also ramp up open-source contributions to the Flutter codebase and package ecosystem. 

Through mentorship programs, blog content, conference speaking and more, we aim to support the next generation of Flutter developers. The framework’s stellar tooling and Hot Reload feature align seamlessly with our consultancy’s emphasis on creativity, craftsmanship and clarity. 

As Flutter continues maturing into an enterprise-ready solution, strengthening ties with the community behind this modern approach feels like the perfect fit.

While this year was filled with highs, lows and some unexpected curveballs, the team showed resilience and passion. As both the thorns get pruned back and the buds continue blooming in 2024, we’re set up for an exciting future at hedgehog lab.

What does your Rose, Thorn, and Bud look like? I’d love to hear your 2023 wrap-up!