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Our Story #3 – Eureka!

This is the third in a series of blog posts which track the story behind Escape the City from the original idea through to what we’ve built today.

This instalment covers – June 2009 – when we read something that showed us how to turn the beginnings of an idea into a workable reality.

Eureka moments…

We spent a lot of time in pubs after work, on the grass by Tower Bridge during our lunch breaks, and (on the odd occasion) in meeting rooms at work feverishly scribbling ideas on scraps of paper.

This was a really exciting time for us as we were learning so much about the world we were about to enter. The more we learnt, the more we understood about what we could potentially build.

From our point of view there’s nothing more powerful than watching relevant videos and reading interesting articles with your own idea in the back of your head.

We were casting our net really wide in order to refine all our different thoughts into a viable plan. Every time we read a little nugget that was relevant to our idea we would send it to each other (or log it in a spreadsheet!).

We were constantly having lots of exciting little eureka moments. Tiny in the scale of things, but significant enough for us to start building some real momentum.

Our bible?!

Then, in June 2009, we both read Tribes by Seth Godin. The book is about a pretty simple concept: that anyone with an idea and the energy to make something happen has all the tools they need to assemble a group of people around their concept.

The message resonated on two main levels:

  1. It validated what we personally were doing (i.e. quitting our jobs to work on something that we’re passionate about)
  2. It showed us HOW to go about building what we wanted to build (i.e. from a practical perspective: how might Esc work?)

It’s not a ‘how-to’ book – it’s quite high-level and relatively anecdotal – but it really worked for us.

We realised that the two of us wouldn’t have the power to sell ‘just an idea’ to exciting organisations (our target clients). However, Tribes showed us that the influence provided by thousands of talented professionals using our site (i.e. our tribe members) would give us the credibility and authority to be listened to by our target organisations (and, through doing so, get the entire concept working properly to help our members escape!).

It was a real penny-drop moment for us. We weren’t going to build a business… we were going to build a tribe, a community, a movement.

This felt like a far more authentic way to approach the challenge that we had set ourselves (i.e. how to help thousands of people working in unfulfilling corporate jobs to find something more exciting?) and really gave us the confidence to begin thinking about taking some serious forward steps.

Taking it to the next level…

By mid-June Dom had set off on his Yukon Canoe adventure and his parting shot was: ‘I dare you to have resigned by the time I get back’.

Not known for making careful decisions, Rob duly handed in his resignation. He actually had another plan back in summer 2009 and that was to do a Masters in Oenology (wine-making) in Adelaide, Australia. So his resignation wasn’t quite as brave as all that.

It was only later, when the Esc blog was taking off, that the Australia plan was retired and we both committed 100% to building a business around this concept.

So, despite not knowing it at the time, we were escalating (like the pun?) our commitment month-on-month… building a base that was going to be the beginning of quite a rollercoaster for us over the coming months (and years).

Chicken and egg

As we began to get our heads around what we were going to build, we realised that it would be chicken and egg: you can’t build a proper business until you have a tribe… but how to attract the tribe in the first place?!

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The story so far: