The rise and fall of Rivendell (and why we are celebrating)

The dream was simple — Entrepreneurs living and working together to make bigger impacts on the world.

This dream started many years ago, after attending multiple events filled with really amazing people, doing awesome things and the energy in the room that just made me experience the most amazing natural high — that is when I asked myself “how can I make this last all the time” and thus the idea for an entrepreneurial village was birthed. Essentially taking the concept that is Silicon Valley and applying it to different locations around the world.

This idea changed and morphed until finally something took hold and we set up our first co-living space in Bali. We found a pretty bloody awesome 7 bedroom villa, nestled amongst rice paddies. The property was perfect, it was small enough to get started with, large enough to test the idea. The bedrooms were spread out over 5 different buildings and there was a central communal building with a kitchen. The pool was large, the view was amazing and the property was perfect.

So where oh where did it all go wrong?

Rivendell didn’t go down in a blaze of smoke, it was more like a boat with a leak that one day I just decided to stop bailing.

This would be a good time to remind you that Indonesia is a third world country. The rules work differently here. Often times there are no rules, sometimes the rules that are there don’t apply and other times they only apply when you pay the right person to make them apply (or not apply).

We knew that the road would not be easy, we know many people who have tried to start businesses in Indonesia and very few of those have had much success. We had to overcome cultural barriers and communication barriers, we were in a constant fight against nature, our landlord didn’t really care and at some point we had to draw a line of how much money we sunk into the place to fix it. We had a local agent steal $5500 USD from us, this led to further complications one of them being we didn’t get the community we had intended to get. A party/drinking culture somehow emerged which had never been the intention and thus the entrepreneurial/impact mindset never really got entrenched into the home.

In our excitement to create the greatest experience for our guests, we ended up providing them with too much value, especially versus the prices we were able to charge, which fostered an extreme entitlement mentality in some of the guests. The pinnacle of this became evident when one of our guests got his motorbike stolen after a night of black-out drinking, and then fled the country leaving us to foot his large bill. It also showed up in other smaller occurrences like people not cleaning up after themselves and even a few cases of petty theft.

Whilst this sounds like a lot, each was easily overcome at the time. But it became emotionally draining, and I became a cheap mentor in a property I couldn’t leave. It was whilst having an amazing trip to NZ and going skiing with some incredible people I realised that Rivendell really wasn’t worth the effort and I would need to find a better way to do it.


So amongst all this drama why am I celebrating?

Because that is the point of experimenting right?

I dreamt a dream and gave it a go and whilst this particular property or model didn’t work, boy did I learn a lot about coliving and entrepreneurship along the way.


Some of my biggest lessons were:

*Most people are not your family. As nice and friendly as they are, they will only look after themselves when the shit hits the fan.

*People need to have some skin in the game, they need something to keep them accountable. The more we would do for people the more they would expect.

*That this is not the right model for setting up coliving properties around the world.

*People need to buy into the dream and contribute something towards that dream too

*In coliving, some permanent residents actually create stability in the place. In the future I am going to aim for a 70/30 ratio of permanent residents and transitional.

*The place needs a local who will manage the property, but also has the right connections too. Initially I saw this as 2 different jobs, but now I think it is only one.

Yes right now I could salvage the business and bring it back around, but what is the point? It is emotionally draining, makes very little money and whilst this business was going down the drain my other business was booming. I got to spend 2 weeks in NZ with people who showed me a total different way of living, think at a much higher level and not once was money considered an issue for anything we did. Bali makes me think and act cheap. I have been living like a student because of the mentality of those that I surrounded myself with, yet this is completely unnecessary given how much I actually earn. My time and efforts are better off approaching this from a higher level and leaving the actual running of the property to someone else.

So what is next?

Well I am excited to say that the whole coliving thing has taken a completely different approach. I have since discovered the difference between community and coliving. Coliving being everyone living inside a single house (or property) and community being a different way that everyone lives together. I have met some amazing people and while nothing is in concrete yet, we are looking at ways of providing value to “empty nester” business owners, CEO’s and professionals who are looking for a better work life balance.

I am exploring with a much higher level partner, the idea of creating a fund of sorts that members can invest into,where we buy luxurious properties that our members can live in on a medium term occupancy in awesome locations around the globe. I am really excited about this, and will update you soon on the progress that is being made on this front — we have an epic deal on the go right now, which I have been sworn to secrecy on until we get the paperwork in order, but don’t worry, once I have the go ahead you will be the first to know.

Other than that Bali has been an amazing place to call home for the last 10 months, and am very excited to discover where this journey will take me over the following year in this unpredictable thing we call life.