As I promised you, OFFice To Travel is bringing you insights and valuable information about some of the most amazing digital nomad events. I interviewed their founders and asked them to share ideas and help you get a glimpse of how they are organizing their events, what are the attendees’ benefits and what you should expect – things that we don’t usually have access to.
I am starting this series with Project Getaway – a premium entrepreneurial getaway experience. Michael Bodekær, the founder of Project Getaway organized the first one in Bali, back in 2010 and ever since he’s been gathering many digital nomads to enjoy his events.
I talked with him and Lavinia, the Project Getaway Manager, and picked their brains for you. Mesmerize us, guys!
Michael, what is your background and how did you get the idea of Project Getaway?
Michael: I’m a passionate tech entrepreneur focusing primarily on IT, software and online startups. I love to enjoy life, travel the world and do extreme sports.
Over the past 12 years, I co-founded several startups, 2 exited successfully. Among them: Labster (teaches life sciences through gamified education in immersive 3D virtual worlds and laboratories), Mailbird (a communication platform which has won multiple prestigious awards and been voted the best email client for Windows both by users, PCWorld, IT World and others) and Learn Technologies (a company focused on leveraging immersive Virtual Reality for learning and training simulations).
Six years ago, while traveling around the world and working on my businesses, I often missed the community feel and creativity that comes from working with fun, inspirational and like-minded people, but what I didn’t miss were the timesheets, managers and meetings of the corporate world.
So instead of going back into an office, I decided to try to bring inspirational people out of offices and into exotic environments by starting Project Getaway.
For more details on how I started Project Getaway and how it evolved over time, you can watch this TEDx talk.
Tell us more about how Project Getaway works
Michael: Project Getaway is the ultimate gathering for passionate, adventurous entrepreneurs and digital nomads, who get together in a paradise-like location to live, work, network and have tons of fun for several weeks.
Lavinia: Project Getaway is also a highly organic experience: each individual as well as the group as a whole decide what they want to focus on during their time together. We spend a lot of time handpicking entrepreneurs who complement each other, so they can easily get along, learn from each other, have fun and work on great ideas.
We have a few super awesome things going on during each event, such as:
- Chief Officers – to make use of each person’s best skills and interests, at the beginning of each Project Getaway experience, we elect Chief Officers – each person is in charge of one bit of the event. Be it Chief Fitness Officer, Chief Party or Chief MVP, each person organizes something they are extremely passionate about – and has the opportunity to attend an array of activities organized by equally passionate people. We take these roles very seriously!
- PG Talks – we encourage everyone to share publicly from their expertise, skills, achievements and failures
- Amazing adventure activities such as snorkeling in picture perfect spots, rafting, sunrise volcano climbs, kayaking, surfing, exploring stunning islands above or under water.
- Workshops, collaboration sessions, buzz sessions with Livit specialists, pitchathons, coaching, Shark Tank sessions, Startup Grind, networking events with the local entrepreneurial community – we make all of it happen depending on the group’s priorities
- Legendary parties – just take a look at the party pictures on our Facebook page 🙂
What are the benefits of being in a co-working and co-living community of like-minded people?
Lavinia: There are many, many advantages but I would highlight the following:
- Access to unlimited amounts of inspiration and ideas to be brainstormed and implemented.
- Meeting a whole bunch of other entrepreneurs who have similar lifestyles, challenges but different businesses, skills sets and experiences which will all be laid out in front of you to learn and take advantage from.
- Getting away from social, practical and business commitments which are necessary but take big chunks of your time and energy (not having to commute, do laundry, dishes, grocery, cook, pay bills, etc. saves up to 20h per week!!)
- Developing a sense of community and belonging in an otherwise highly individual and misunderstood career path – possibly the loneliest out there.
What qualities should people have to be selected for Project Getaway?
Lavinia: We are looking for passionate, entrepreneurial people who enjoy diversity (cultural and not only) and are curious, open and adventurous. One of the things we pay attention to the most is the potential to both contribute and benefit a lot from the event.
Michael: People who are selected for Project Getaway yearn to live life on their own terms, love what they do every day and bring their unique business ideas to life through fruitful partnerships, efficient work habits (work smarter, not harder!) and a positive, fun attitude.
Who is the “typical” person attending Project Getaway and in what stage of their career do you consider it’s most beneficial to join?
Michael: The typical participant is self-motivated, driven and savvy enough to live his/her dream life NOW rather than wait until they’ve accumulated enough vacation leave or until they grow old and retire from a desk job.
Lavinia: We welcome applications from both successful and aspiring entrepreneurs. As I was mentioning above, if an applicant can both offer a lot as well as take a lot out of this very intense experience, we’d love to have them on board. We usually see that those who are still beginners in their entrepreneurial journey have been honing, previously, a very specific skill in a corporate environment for example – so they can both learn in regards to entrepreneurship from the other participants, as well as share from what they know best. Likewise, a very experienced entrepreneur (we have quite a few) is generally looking for new challenges, adding to their portfolio/product line or even for new ventures. So again, the person can both contribute and benefit a lot from the skills and experience of the other participants.
What’s the process of selecting the right people for your project?
Lavinia: We do have one of the lengthier selection processes in the entrepreneurial retreat/coworkation niche and we intend to keep it, as it is our way to make sure we will form the best and most suitable possible group for the next event. People start by filling in an application form, which provides us with essential information on who they are and what are their businesses.
We follow that up with a very informal interview, which allows us to get to know each person better and understand his or her expectations and motivations to attend Project Getaway. This conversation also offers each future participant a chance to ask “live” all of their questions regarding the PG experience.
We provide a premium experience and generally people who sign up and understand our concept are happy to go through the process, in exchange to having guaranteed the company of other hand-picked entrepreneurs. If people’s personalities and mindsets don’t fit, three weeks or a month together can be a very long time – so we make sure that doesn’t happen.
How many people from those who apply actually take the commitment to pay the whole amount and come?
Lavinia: Among those who have been selected and were offered a spot, 80-90% confirm it and attend. Those who don’t, usually have a good reason (they decided to start a new venture, they received funding, a large new client taking all their time, etc).
As we were discussing above, the application and selection processes can be quite lengthy (some people apply 8-10 months in advance, others 2-3 months in advance). For this particular reason, the applicants who are not fully committed to participating either end up not being selected or drop before actually being offered a spot.
What are their expectations when joining the project comparing to what they say when they leave?
Lavinia: People’s expectations are usually exceeded during Project Getaway, we get told that all the time both directly and via feedback forms. I think most people expect great adventures and networking but they don’t expect to be so inspired, and to become a big family and form such deep connections.
How did the community help you grow professionally and personally?
Michael: It helped me open my mind up to several new ways of living my life. It connected me with and helped me learn from very experienced entrepreneurs.
I built life-long friendships with amazing people I would otherwise never have connected with as deeply as I did as during the PG experiences.
How does a typical day look like at Project Getaway?
Lavinia: A straight, simple answer is difficult to put together as PG is such an organic event, with many days including workshops, talks held by participants themselves or external speakers, meeting investors, coaching and collaboration sessions, adventure activities (like an early morning volcano trek), parties, etc.
Nevertheless, let’s pretend we’re on a mundane Wednesday when none of that is happening at all and see what would it look like:
- 8 am – 10 am: Wake up and breakfast time. It’s pretty quiet. Some people go for a morning run or a workout and some meditate.
- 10 am: We make plans and even set goals for the day, such as people pairing up and deciding that that day they work side by side using the pomodoro technique, or plan to join the yoga lessons in the neighbourhood.
- Noon: Everybody gathers for lunch. We talk about business ideas, progress and bottlenecks. People go back to work or/and exploring.
- Afternoon: We come back from the city/beach/the quiet spot we’ve been working in the whole day and brainstorm, swim in the pool, get a massage or the chief sports officer gathers everyone around for some exercise.
- Some go to their rooms for some private time, some hang out or work from the common areas.
- 6:30 pm: Dinner time. We socialize, hang out, talk, network, watch movies, go for drinks/walks/sunset, throw an impromptu gathering or party.
Based on your experience, what’s the minimum number of days people need to spend time together (co-working & co-living) so they can get the best results and why?
Michael: In my opinion, 3 weeks – to really connect and get to know each other on a much more personal level than just the typical one week meetups/events. Once you live more than 2 weeks together, you really start to open up and generally share more personal stories, learnings and connect on a much deeper level with the other people.
I believe that a negative feedback should be transformed into a constructive one that can help you adapt and grow. What negative feedback did you get and how did it help you provide more value to the next guests?
Michael: Feedback, of all kinds, is invaluable. We have received a lot of it over the years, and some of the aspects that have been suggested we should improve were:
– event size (not more than 25 people – otherwise it’s too many to connect and really get to know each other);
– event length (too long);
– make sure we have the right kind of people (entrepreneurial, like-minded, fun – and to avoid too many “loud” people);
– have intense networking over the first few days (so we get a really good start and people get to quickly warm up to each other).
We have, of course, taken all of it into consideration and implemented changes in our selection process, as well as planning, which resulted in even more memorable events.
What is the most amazing outcome for Project Getaway attendees and how do you help them achieve that?
Michael: So, so many amazing things happened and started at Project Getaway that I don’t even know where to start enumerating. Several great companies have been founded, for. e.g. AirHelp (fast growing company helping people claim compensation for messed up flights) or Mailbird (email client considered the best in the world, recently celebrated acquiring 1 million accounts). Great additions and improvements have been made to many existing businesses. People got the coaching and collaboration they needed to take a leap forward, both personally and business-wise. Many met their future business partners, the love of their lives – and some even got married! Life-long relationships have been forged during each and every Project Getaway experience we hosted. It’s so hard to pick the most amazing one! 🙂
Lavinia: Indeed! We facilitate all that by doing some of the things we have mentioned already: having only events that last between 3 weeks and a month, so people really have the time and space to connect. Hand-picking each person that attends and even thinking of connections “on paper” while selecting. Encouraging and organizing “get to know each other” activities, from cross dinner introductions to climbing a mountain at 3 AM in small groups (that’s when you really find out who you’re living with :D). Ideathons, talks, workshops, collaboration sessions, pitchathons, all of it is geared towards offering them a high quality, productive, inspiring time.
How do you see the future of work and how do you plan to get involved in this movement further on?
Michael: Very good question. I think that:
- Co-working networks like Impact Hub and WeWork will be the norm for most people.
- Large global organizations of independent people working when and where they prefer, using Holacracy organizational structures to align work and impact towards the organizations overall purpose and vision
- People will work as full-time members/partners/employees of organizations with a strong purpose and meaning that aligns perfectly with the person’s own view and purpose in life.
- People in global organizations will meet a few times per year in Project Getaway-like experiences of 3-4 weeks, to connect on a personal level and reach high productivity through aligning work processes.
- Co-working and co-living spaces will be easily accessible worldwide.
Lavinia: For our part, we will continue to be a leader in our niche (premium entrepreneurial getaway experiences) while expanding our impact in the world. We are currently working on a model than can be replicated in more regions in order to offer more people from all around the world the opportunity to experience Project Getaway, the location independent lifestyle and the inspiration that comes with it. And we’re excited to see all of the above happen!
If you want to meet Michael and Lavinia while enjoying their event, the signups for the next Project Getaway experience, in jaw-dropping Mauritius, are open here.
Stay tuned for more interviews!
About Lavinia Iosub:
Lavinia currently manages Project Getaway and its expansion to new regions. Her background is in business administration. She has been in love with event management for the past half a decade, having previously worked with several prominent companies, celebrities and brands. She is a globetrotter who is most comfortable in highly intercultural environments, like Project Getaway.