Rob Symington on Escape the City

If you’ve ever taken the road less traveled or dreamed about it, you’ll appreciate what partners Dom Jackman and Rob Symington launched in March of last year at  First, here’s Rob’s bio:

Rob is the co-founder of Escape the City. The community for corporate professionals who want to ‘do something different’. He is interested in stories that spread. He believes that ‘just because’ things are done in a certain way it doesn’t mean that that is the best way to do them. He once drove a 35-year-old Land Rover from Cape Town to Cairo. He owns an orange double-decker bus called Esmerelda. He loves Manchester United.

Now, let’s hear directly from Rob about his own escape:

What inspired you to launch Escape the City? How does it fit into your career and what does it mean to you personally?

We wanted to solve a problem. The problem? The fact that so many people are unfulfilled by their corporate jobs. It was a problem that we ourselves felt. So we saw an opportunity to build something to cater to this demand In terms of my own personal career, the attraction is two-fold: financial independence and geographical independence. I want my career to provide me with me freedom over where and when I work and control over what I do. Building Escape the City allows me that.

I love your video Rob and want to share it here, congratulations, it’s phenomenal (and a word of caution to readers, this is dangerous material, you may just chuck it all and head for Guatemala or Nepal after watching this)!

[vimeo 18922552 nolink]

What does Escape the City do for for job seekers/recruiters that’s new?

For job seekers, it’s one of the few destinations where you can go to find  pre-filtered, interesting jobs of a certain type, so rather than cutting it by sector or by skill set, we’ve narrowed it down to whether a job is interesting or fulfilling for corporate professionals who want to do something different. For recruiters, we provide access to a tough-to-reach demographic of people working in corporate jobs, in other words, not your traditional job-seeker.

What can you promise that no one else can?


Will you give us a measure of your success in numbers? Monthly unique visitors, annual revenue, number of employees?

Over 30,000 members in the first year.

What are your goals for the company?

To be the default global destination for talented professionals who are looking for exciting alternatives to their corporate jobs.

If you’ve been in business for a while, why do you think you succeeded when so many others failed early or failed during the last couple years of recession?

Its still early days so we haven’t yet succeeded, but we feel that our early success thus far has come down to the fact that we’re striking a chord with our members. We’ve always built it as a community first and a business second. We also think that our concept (life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you) is worth talking about.

What questions do you ask yourself that help guide your choices about directions to pursue or avoid in business?

Are we building something that people really want? Are we solving the problem?

Who do you consider to be your competitors? mentors?

We have two main types of people using Escape the City: corporate professionals (our members) and employers. From the point of view of our members we prefer to see other businesses as allies rather than competitors. There’s lots of information and resources out there that help people to find exciting jobs, start their own businesses, and go on big adventures. We would rather collaborate and share that info with our members than go head to head with people who are doing something in the same space.

On the employer-side we compete against any business that offers recruitment services (LinkedIn, jobs boards, recruitment agencies, headhunters, etc).

Our virtual mentor has been Seth Godin! Haven’t met him yet though.

What do you hate about the online recruiting industry?

Boring job descriptions.

What do you enjoy most about your business?

When people tell us that they love our concept and that they are doing something amazing with their lives because of connections made through Escape the City.

Has anything you’ve tried failed?

Yes, sometimes we build features that don’t work in the way we expect them to but the whole point of building a business online is to fail quickly and then improve.

What industry changes do you see coming?

Increasingly intelligent personalization. Telling a system what you’re looking for and receiving content that meets your needs. That’s exciting.

What websites do you visit everyday besides your own?

Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Basecamp.

What advice would you give an aspiring Internet entrepreneur?

Start small, but start. Make something people want. Don’t spend lots of money. Tweak lots.

There’s a lot of talk about the decline of education in this country. Throw in lack of motivation and sense of entitlement, and you can see why hiring is difficult now.  What have you noticed that they don’t teach in school that you look for when you’re recruiting? What non-industry related skills are you teaching in your office?

I think that they don’t necessarily teach these in school: initiative, confidence, clear communication skills, and inquisitiveness. Inquisitiveness is something that should be encouraged in education and in the professional world. All too often it is quashed. We should be giving people challenging problems and encouraging them to solve them in creative ways. How do you identify and solve challenging problems? By being inquisitive.

Why did you buy a 30-year old orange double decker bus and name it?

Why not?!

I can think of a few, lol.  Thanks for your time Rob!


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