• Head in the Clouds.
    Feet on the Ground.

    20 years of impact through startups, community building and adventures.

    Helping people and organisations do work that matters to them (& the world).

     

    2021: Building Rebel Book Club & Raaise, & supporting others through Virgin StartupEscape the City.

  • Not Your Average Book Club

    Non-fiction books + community + action in 25 countries

    Talks + Workshops

    Can I help your team make a bigger impact?

    Rebel Reads

    The 38 books I read in 2020.

  • Bio

    From an island in Fiji, via the beaches of West Africa, to the English West Country, Ben has spent 20 years exploring how to make a positive impact through building startups, communities and adventures.

    Ben has helped 1000s of people and organisations do work that matters to them (& the world) - whether that’s through starting an impact business, building an exciting career, or growing a purposeful community.

    Part One: Tribewanted

    "On January 14, 2006, Ben Keene received an email that changed his life. The weather outside was rainy, windy, and freezing and Keene was holed up in his loft office, the window fogged with mist. He had just taken a sip of hot tea when the message popped up, and Keene did a double take at the subject line: “A TRIBE IS WANTED” National Geographic

     

    The idea behind Tribewanted was to recruit a group of similar people online before heading to the Fijian Island of Vorovoro to build a sustainable community alongside the local indigenous tribe.

     

    The idea was swept along with a flood of interest, the island lease was secured, and the virtual community sprung to life.

     

    Tribewanted had to quickly overcome multiple challenges including a fire sweeping through the island in week one of the project, a military coup, and a tropical cyclone threatened to wipe out the emerging village. Online disagreements also made decision making hard and pushed it to the edge.

     

    The project survived, and for a while, thrived. Ben spent 10 years leading Tribewanted: building crowdfunded sustainable-tourism villages on an island in Fiji (which was turned into a 5 part BBC series and book and invested over $3m into the local region), a beach in Sierra Leone (from ‘Blood Diamonds to Beach Football’ & measuring our impact) and a farm in Umbria (think River Cottage but with homemade pasta, olive oil and red wine).

    Blog 2008 - 2014

     


    Part Two: Escape the City


    In 2010 Ben spoke in a Soho nightclub to 600 drunk bankers at the launch of ‘Escape the City’. Two good things came from that event - a new role helping build ‘The Escape School’ to support ‘escapees’ making the transition from unfulfilling corporate careers to something new, and he met his wife (not a drunk banker). Over the next 5 years the ‘Escape Team’ built two curriculums and led 1000s of people through 3 month part-time evening and weekend programmes. Ben personally led 10 ‘startup accelerators’ and is in close contact with many escapee projects.


    Alongside Escape the City, Ben worked with a sports development project, Right to Dream, which has grown into the most successful football academy for boys and girls in Africa. This led to helping host the Ghanaian Paralympic team from Right to Dream at London 2012. Ben also joined THNK: School of Creative Leadership, as a way to connect with other impact entrepreneurs from around the world.



    Part Three: Rebel Book Club
     

    Soon after Ben’s daughter was born, he and his wife headed to Bali to set-up an impact startup retreat. In a bamboo co-working space in the monkey forest he started Rebel Book Club with a friend, to help solve the problem of what the Japanese call ‘Tsundoku’ - the growing pile of unread books on your bedside table (or, kindle).

    Rebel Book Club is now a global community of paying subscribers who, every month, read one non-fiction book together, meet and, over a book-inspired cocktail, discuss it and see how they can apply its lessons.

     

    Alongside Rebel Book Club, Ben continues to support first-time entrepreneurs at Escape the City, Virgin Startup & THNK.

     

    Ben’s goal is to move his work to be 100% ‘earth focused’ within the next few years, to do the best he can to tackle the climate and ecological crises through education and community, in the most creative, fun way possible.

    Blog 2014 - 2021
     

    Speaking, Hosting & Workshops

    Ben speaks regularly about how to build a career or business around your passion whilst tackling problems you care about – whatever your age or background.

     

    His journey shows how you can turn a passion into a job, a way of life and so much more.

    Ben has delivered keynotes, hosted events and led workshops at events all over the world from a CIA conference in Las Vegas (which he didn't realise was the CIA until afterwards) to a mosque on a remote island in Myanmar.

    “Thanks to Ben for being a brilliant host for Simon (Sinek) and myself.”
    - Sir Richard Branson, September 2020
     

    “Everyone found Ben’s session and presence inspirational.”

    - Dame Jo Williams DBE, Chief Executive, Mencap

     

    “Ben Keene gave one of the best presentations I have ever seen.”

    - David McQueen, Speaker, Entrepreneur, TV Presenter

     

    “The best speech at the conference by a mile.”

    - Chris Cramer, ex-President CNN International

  • Current Projects

    Not your average book club.

    Monthly > non-fiction books, meets & action.

    Never stop learning!

     

    Co-founded 2015

    Discover & back climate startups

    Where everyone can invest in climate startups.

    Role: Co-Founder

     

     

    Kickstart your Business

    Not-for-profit Virgin company for Entrepreneurs.

     

    Role: Business Advisor & Event Host

  • Past Projects

    Sustainable Tourism project in Umbria

    Helping professionals do work that matters

    Startup Leader at the Escape School, 2015-2019

    Sports academy creating future leaders .Met my wife there :)

  • Milestones

    2005

    Started 'Career Break Cafe' blog after driving to Timbuktu  to help people plan long-terms trips mid-career

    2006

    Crowdfunded the renting of Vorovoro Island in Fiji (with 1000 new tribe members): Tribewanted was born

    2007

    Survived an island fire, a cyclone & a political coup in the first year of island life

    2008

    Celebrated 3 years island success - BBC tv documentary & book: 'Paradise or Bust'

    2009

    Travelled to Sierra Leone & worked with Right to Dream on setting up the Craig Bellamy Football Academy

    2010

    Spoke at launch party of Escape the City before setting up camp for a year on the beach in SL

    2011

    Became a founding member of THNK: The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership. 

    2012

    Supported the Ghanaian Paralympic team from Right to Dream with my fiancee at London 2012 

    2013

    Launched Tribewanted's first European project: Monestevole, a farm in Umbria, with Filippo Bozotti

    2014

    Advised entrepreneurs at Virgin Startup, wrote about 'Schools for Life', mapped the world's treehouses & made the first 'Escape to the Woods' festival

    2015

    Spent the winter hosting startups in Bali with Tribewanted (& pool hunting), started Rebel Book Club in London & led the startup tribe programs at Escape the City

    2016

    Full-tilt at Escape London - leading 2 more startup tribes & building our team. Rebel Book Club hits 20 books + 150 members

    2017

    Consolidated the Escape School - leading 2 more accelerators + getting our curriculums online. Mentoring at THNK & ZINC.vc + workshops with Virgin Starutp. Read 50 books in a year!

    2018

    Strengthened the startup programmes at the Escape School. Doubled size of Rebel Book Club. Moved our family to Ko Lanta in Thailand!

    2019

    Went full-time at Rebel Book Club and crowdfunded £150,000. Moved to Dorset with the family.

    2020

    Pivoted Rebel Book Club to 100% online during the covid pandemic. Hosted a dozens of online events including a chat about optimism with Simon Sinek & Richard Branson. Welcomed a puppy called Bula.

  • Lessons

    2005

    Its not what you start, its that you start. Selling online ads is hard.

    2006

    Braveness is rewarded but comes with significant responsibility. Don't complicate the mission.

    2007

    Tenacity is critical but being clear on priorities is not easy. Feedback can be good for the head but not for the heart.

    2008

    Ego can be the enemy if you're not careful. Power is better shared.

    2009

    New beginnings can revitalise.

    2010

    Taking on the biggest challenge not always the best business move but often the best life move.

    2011

    Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground.

    2012

    Inspiration can come from unlikely sources - stay open.

    2013

    Sometimes its good to pick low hanging fruit.

    2014

    Creativity should be central to most things.

    2015

    Mindsets shift with community. Scaling impact models not easy.

    2016

    Building a team (& family at the same time) is hard.

    2017

    Focus on the product. Easy to say, hard to do well. When we did it made a big difference.

    2018

    Sometimes your comfort zone is closer than you think.

    2018

    Do everything at once.

    2020

    Blimey.

  • currently supporting...

    Organisations & projects I support with donations or time.

    Works alongside rainforest villages to halt deforestation and climate change.

    The global movement for tribal people's rights

    Fighting for our world. Supporter since I was 10 years old.

    Not perfect, but the best we've currently got for the world we need to build.

    An affordable renewable energy utility company with great service.

    Microloans for the most vulnerable.

  • Tribewanted Book (2008)

    "Couldn't put this book down - What a story. In a world where most of us fail to attempt anything bold, exciting or different it is refreshing to read of an entrepreneur who does so half the world away in a profoundly unique, intact Polynesian culture. Great pictures, too!"

    If you doubt whether a website could be socially relevant to the real world,  an account of how it can and was brought about.

    "Ben has something of Richard Branson's boundless, relentless enthusiasm." The Guardian

  • For speaking, coaching, hosting, & tribe building!

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