Escape the City is changing the way recruitment happens. They are a startup with a strong set of values at their foundation and they’re shaking up the city by offering hapless talent a way to escape the burden of their corporate jobs and transform their lives.
Having turned down investment from two of the world’s top venture capital firms – deciding instead to raise £600,000 (which they did in 14 days!) through community led crowd-funding – the Escape the City team have really set themselves apart from the competition. They are great role models for other aspiring entrepreneurs who dream of combining profit with purpose. That’s why we interviewed Rob Symington, the co-founder and commercial brains of Escape the City, whose video you can check out below – before you read on.
Interview with Rob Symington, Escape the City Founder
What is Escape the City?
We help ambitious professionals make exciting career transitions – we help our community of +100,000 escapees find exciting jobs, start businesses, and go on adventures.
What inspired the idea?
We (Dom and I) both started our careers as management consultants on fast-track graduate schemes out of university. Dom started at Accenture and I started at Ernst & Young. The inspiration for Esc came from the experience of working in these environments. Neither of us regret these years as we learnt masses and gained invaluable experience that is now serving us well.
we were sitting in neighbouring cubicles at work and confided in each other that we both thought there was more to life than what we were doing.
However, once we had both achieved our promotions and began to reflect on where we wanted to be in five years time, we both realised that we no longer wanted to work in the corporate mainstream. We wanted to do something a bit different, something that we genuinely cared about. Escape the City was born the day that we were sitting in neighbouring cubicles at work and confided in each other that we both thought there was more to life than what we were doing. We then realised that we were far from being alone in feeling frustrated and unfulfilled by working in ‘The City’ and that thousands of young professionals felt the same way. So we decided that we would build something to try to help solve what is a widespread and depressing phenomenon.
Why are you necessary?
We are building the world’s first forward-looking professional network, aimed at aspirations as well as past experience. Linkedin asks people about their past (“What have you done with your career?”); we are building a platform to ask people what they really want to do with their lives. This website will match-make our members with the future careers that they want for themselves.
Who is the team and how do you fit together?
The team consists of Rob (commercial side) and Dom (tech side) – the co founders. Mikey is a partner (also commercial), Fabio is our chief Developer (based in Canada), Kelly is our front end developer (based in Oz), Max is our back end developer, Louisa is Operations Manager and Adele is managing the Escape School.
What are your core values?
We believe that life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you. And if that’s what you’re doing, do something different!
How do you make money?
Currently, we earn money through our job board and our Escape School events. We only list exciting, entrepreneurial and adventurous opportunities. We also make money through events, e‐books and affiliate services such as career coaching.
We are building a matchmaking service to intelligently connect organisations with people. A forward-looking Linkedin. In future we will continue to charge organisations for access to our membership but our services will become increasingly intelligent as we build out the network aspect of the business.
We are building an intelligent matchmaking service to connect organisations with people. A forward-looking Linkedin.
What challenges have been especially notable?
Raising money! It’s such a huge distraction from building and growing your business. You really need to set aside 4-6 months and a lot of steely determination to push through a successful funding round.
Who is a typical user/ customer?
Someone who is stuck in their corporate job and wants to make a change in their lives. Whether it be through a career change, start up or adventure.
What advice would you give to someone who,
a) wants to set up a business?
Just start. Don’t analyse everything too much. Whatever plan or project or idea or feature you area planning just get it out there. Ship. And then tweak based on the expeirence of doing it. Far too many people claim there are lots of reasons for not doing things they want to do. I say these reasons are too often excuses. Just start!
b) wants to raise investment?
External cash shouldn’t be your Plan A. Plan A should be to build something valuable with proper momentum. Take it as far as you can by yourself. Once you have decided you want to raise investment understand the way the different games are played. VC, Angel, etc. They give you money (if they can see the upside).
Just start. Don’t analyse everything too much.
But you raised money crowdfunding. How did you do this?
We turned down investment from one of world’s top VC firms because we believe in building a sustainable, long-term business. We crowd-funded £600,000 investment from our own members through ’crowdcube‘ (the UK’s equity-based equivalent of Kickstarter), which gives us the breathing space (and development power) to build the platform that we have been dreaming of these past two years.
Do you think crowdfunding is here to stay?
Yes, it’s only getting started. It’s currently (in our eyes) the best way for entrepreneurs to continue being in control of their own work without having big VC companies breathing down their necks every day.
What does Escape the City have to look forward to?
Getting to half a million members, publishing our book (The Escape Manifesto) this April, launching our Escape School and helping thousands more people make exciting career transitions.
As the final note of this interview I thought it fitting to leave you with these wise words from “Escape Manifesto”: