~ Simon Clark ~
Rob Symington and Dom Jackman weren’t loving their jobs at consulting firm Ernst & Young in the City of London. “It felt like the work we did, crunching spreadsheets, just didn’t matter to anyone, including to our customers or employers,” says Symington, 27.
Reasoning that they might not be the only young people in the City having second thoughts about their chosen careers, in 2009 Symington and Jackman, 28, quit and founded Escape the City, a website dedicated to helping bored finance workers shake up their lives by taking jobs with Mongolian venture capital firms, African charities, and other far-flung employers.
More than 30,000 people have signed up to view the listings at Escape the City in London — registration is free — and now Symington and Jackman plan to open a branch in New York this month. “Escape the City was created specifically to help talented people escape from unfulfilling corporate jobs after we realized that our own feelings of misery and frustration at work were shared by a lot of people,” says Symington. “We stumbled upon a business opportunity by following a hunch about job dissatisfaction to its logical conclusion.”
Escape the City charges employers for listing jobs, which must meet its criteria of offering adventure and requiring enterprise. Symington says the company was profitable in its first year. It sends members weekly e-mails listing opportunities in everything from Indian microfinance to Moroccan surf camps, and encourages wanderlust with evening events where adventurers regale crowds with tales of skateboarding across Australia or cycling around the world.
Harry Minter, 27, left his job at hedge fund Headstart Advisers in London in 2010 to manage the Guludo Beach Lodge in Mozambique after discovering the job posted on Escape the City. Last year Will Tindall, 28, found a job as chief communications officer of Asia Pacific Investment Partners, which invests in companies in Mongolia. He works out of Ulan Bator, Hong Kong, and London. The company hired a chief operating officer through the site this year and is advertising for a chief financial officer.
To lead their U.S. operation, Symington and Jackman are dispatching former Merrill Lynch money manager Mike Howe, 26. The Englishman lived in New York as a child. “The American way of thinking is very entrepreneurial,” he says, “so I think the upside could be huge.”
The bottom line: More than 30,000 people have signed up to scan exotic employment opportunities on Escape the City, coming soon to the U.S.