Happy Days in Bali!

On 10 January, after having spent three months here in Bali having had a good look around and a week into being part of Ben Keene’s Tribewanted Bali experiment, I wrote this blog for the purpose of clarifying the various projects and ideas I had going on. Nearly a month on and the morning after a party at Startup House (a gaff I share with few other Bule lads), I thought it a good time to see where I am, against what I was thinking as I blogged back then.

I've moved in here to support Pieter Moorman, who gives to others any more than than any other Bule in Ubud.

I’ve moved in here to support Pieter Moorman, who gives to others far more than any other Bule in Ubud.

Recap – the four areas of focus I identified

1. A local project, by Balinese for Balinese This was more a thought/belief in doing something useful than a formal project

2. A village in need of a pipeline This was a genuine need with a race against time (the end of the rainy season)

3. A startup blog for other startups The was a startup that I’d already been working on with Pieter Moorman, a Dutch lad here in Bali

4. A startup bank This is was totally off-the-wall, random idea that came up a few days before writing the 10 January blog. I concluded that blog by saying:

If I look at my list I ask myself which of the four choices is the one I feel most suited to, eventually it’s either option 1 (local Balinese project) or option 4 (startup bank).

So what has happened since?

I’m often told by folks here in Ubud that I’m not focused enough and I’m sure that is true. It must be when so many of those people describe their profession as ‘coach’, and I don’t mean football or a bus. Despite this, my hunch is that I’m doing pretty well when my overall reason for being in Bali is considered. I’ll write this part as best it comes to me and then at the end I’ll draw conclusions on my ‘progress’ and ‘focus’. These are the things that have actually happened (or ‘doing’) of late:

  • Yesterday I went to Songan village A (Bangli regency) to help out with the digging of the 8km trench to accommodate the 8km pipeline from Lake Batur to Songan village B (Karengasem).
  • Prior to that I took Ben Saul-Garner and Jasper Mutsaerts from Tribewanted to the site and meet the team (led by Pak Kadek Gunarta). My underlying motivation was for our Tribe to partner with Dek’s team to work together on the project.
  • That has not happened, but I wanted to be part of it so I committed to part fund the estimated 125m (rupiah) cost.
  • I launched Startup Bank Challenge Bali on Thursday live while hosting Breaking Banks radio. It’s a joint initiative with Next Bank and it will be a real test of (a) my leadership and organisational abilities and (b) whether the hundreds of bankers that talk about change will actually do something about it – they have the perfect creative platform now!
  • Of most interest is how many folks back in London want to be involved but won’t commit. All the usual reasons (excuses) are there and thankfully Tim Boler at Lloyds is showing some courage by setting up a London ‘bamboo branch’ of the project. The world needs more people like Tim.
  • Of real interest with Tim is how the contact came about – he wanted to speak to me and my mate Frank Ray about how to bring new ways of working into corporates, something me and Frank pioneered last year at Investec.
  • Like I said we need more Tim and less bankers feeling self important and oblivious to the fact that their so-called skills at managing Excel spreadsheets are being swallowed up by robots and algorithms.
  • Today, I am hosting the initial meeting of Better Bali Project – it’s not so much a project but a gathering of 12 young Balinese folks that I have met by going out and talking to Balinese people.
  • I’m often told I need to be ‘doing’ and I’ll be doing something pretty cool this afternoon. Our attendees are more than 50% women, they are drawn from all areas of Bali and I have met 9 of 12 personally, separately.
  • Having Pak Kadek as our ‘key note’ (to borrow that term) is ‘the almonds on top’ (to borrow from Brian Clough).
  • Which brings me to the Startup blog, which is the only project of the four that has a weekly deadline.
  • Over the last month, Pieter and I have decided to turn it into a 12-week online course for first-time Wantrapreneurs. It makes loads of sense because our current readers love Pieter’s openness and jargon-free language.
  • The challenge now is essentially a marketing/sales one – getting folks to our website and proving we do in fact offer value. We could do with some help on this.
  • If we can achieve that, then we can work on our ‘paid’ version ideas. We’ll see.
  • One thing I must add before closing is why I like working with Pieter – he is fully transparent about everything and he operates at a rhythm I like.
  • He’s around 15 years my junior and is running one business and two startups, yet always has time and is not demanding.
  • If I am surprised, I shouldn’t be – after all he was smart enough to work out his team would be better off (money wise) and more productive by moving out of Europe!


If you have been kind enough to read this far, I would say this:

1. My local/Balinese project

I did what I said I would do and I’m quite proud of this. My hunch is that for things to work out for me in Bali, this one will be my ‘stake in the ground’ (to quote a Kiwi lad, one of the many coaches at Hubud). I have realised that I don’t have my own ’cause’ or ‘dream’, so I decided to link together those that I have met that do have one. That’s seriously exciting. I’m writing this before the meeting so it’s hard to rate but I’ll go for 8/10.

2.  The Songan water pipeline

Ordinarily, I’d rate this 4/10 because I’ve failed in my mission for it to be adopted by Tribewanted. However, it rates higher than that because I’m now committed to it, not just as a donor. I’m getting to know the heads of both villages and I’m taking the chance to ‘learn by doing’ from amazing guys like Ketut, the self-taught bamboo guru from Ban village.

I must also add at this point that I have a complex about ‘learning by doing’ vs ‘classroom education’. My mum often says that my dad and my brother have ‘practical intelligence’ (they didn’t go to Uni) while I have ‘real’ intelligence (I did go to Uni). I’m sorry mum, that is crap.

Ketut is the same age as me and he now speaks to audiences in places like Vietnam about the practice of growing bamboo. No one ever asked me to speak anywhere about anything.

All this said, I’ll rate this one 7/10 because it is going to make a major difference to the daily lives of the Balinese in Songan. Even if we forget about the bamboo and the economic benefit, the best bit is they’ll have a water supply for the first time, where they don’t have to walk for an hour to get it.

3. Startup Blog   

I have not given my energy to this enough and Pieter could have easily binned me off. However, I’d like to think I’m applying my own logic to it, primarily working out what ‘value exchange’ really means. In the last two days, Pieter built a landing page for us which took him … two days. If I’d had to do it, it doesn’t warrant thinking about!

Over the last week or so, I’ve ‘tapped in’ to all the startup folks I know to talk to them about what we have in mind. That’s where the value lies – when we each bring (and do) something but, for me, there is no doubt though that Pieter is the gaffer on this one. I’ll keep following! So as far as my personal ‘achievement’ goes, this one ranks 6/10.

4. Startup Bank Challenge 

How do I rate this? I have taken a wacky idea and promoted it on the world’s biggest banking radio show/podcast. I’ve taken an idea that was dreamed up with Next Bank and made it a reality.

Me hosting Breaking Banks live from Bali with Peter Wall, our gaffer at Hubud!

Me hosting Breaking Banks live from Bali with Peter Wall, our gaffer at Hubud!

But, like all businesses, I need customers and it’s not started well. At this point, I have only have three confirmed lads to join the team. As usual, there’s a lot of talk and not enough substance.

It also questions my real motivation for this project. The truth is I am a minority guy that talks a lot (and much of it is utter bollocks, I’m certain), but I do it for a reason: being in the majority for a lifetime will only cause oneself problems.

I’m trying to head those problems off, by using my knowledge of banking to improve the lives of bank workers and creating a place where they can freely ask this: What do I stand for and how can I make my profession fit with this? So, this one scores 9/10 because it’s asking a question that few others are prepared to.

Our mate Arnas and his monkey working!

The photo that inspired the Challenge – our mate Arnas and his monkey working!

Sign up for Startup Bank Challenge Bali here: http://bali.startupbankchallenge.com/

Good bye!


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