"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 (1000s of people paid and signed up), 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. I spent 10 years leading Tribewanted: building the crowdfunded sustainable-tourism village 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).
In 2010 I 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 I met my future wife, Susannah (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. I led 10 ‘startup accelerators’ and am in regular contact with many escapee projects.
Alongside Escape the City, I worked with a sports development project, Right to Dream, which has grown into the most successful football academy for boys and girls in Africa (and now owns clubs in Denmark and the MLS). This led to helping host the Ghanaian Paralympic team from Right to Dream at London 2012. I joined the THNK: School of Creative Leadership as a founding participant, as a way to learn with other impact entrepreneurs from around the world.
Part Three: Rebel Book Club & Raaise.
Soon after our first daughter Isla was born, we headed to Bali to set-up an impact startup retreat. In a bamboo co-working space in the monkey forest I started Rebel Book Club with a friend, Ben Saul-Garner, to help solve the problem the Japanese call ‘Tsundoku’ - a 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. In August 2023 we will have run 100 months of the club and read 100 books together.
Alongside Rebel Book Club, I continue to support first-time entrepreneurs at Escape the City, Virgin Startup and in schools.