…is Exceptional Alien.
You’re thinking about a holiday (even if it’s one that’s going to stay in your head). Who would you want to ask to make that holiday remarkable? Simon Lister? Takeshi Takada? Josh Niland? Mick Fanning? Nadav Kander? This is where Exceptional Alien began.
Exceptional Alien is the “travel the world through the lens of exceptional creators” experience created by Justin Drape “the entrepreneur who just happened to work in advertising” and star ad creative, Michael Canning. It is also the experience they created for themselves. The weird name is actually perfectly apt. Exceptional Alien is a name inspired by the US government term for work visas in the arts, science, business, sport and entrepreneurial ventures. It describes the destination’s co-founders, its contributors and users.
Drape explained, “Creativity informs the most rewarding experiences you have when you travel, whether it’s the drink, the food, the art the music, architecture, design, sport, nature, social experiences… But there’s not a single travel platform that curates the experience through a creative lens. So we’re combining the two things we love and we want to share that with the rest of the world.
“The creative community in any town knows where to find the most inspiring galleries, hole-in-the-wall eateries, events and unique experiences. We want to introduce and curate a new category of travel, Creative Travel. ”
“We also have a mission to inspire people to see the world through diverse perspectives,” Canning added.
Where did the idea come from?
Like all of the most brilliant ideas, it was born in a shower. In Los Angeles. Canning, who grew up in Sydney, won a scholarship to Central Saint Martins in London, began his career in Sydney, and has worked in New York, explained, “We’ve both been really lucky to be creative people who’ve got to travel as part of our creative careers but also just for personal enjoyment. Travel is invaluable for creativity. You get to experience new cultures, you broaden your own professional network and your personal network. It’s a very inspiring thing and it opens your mind in lots of different ways.
“If you travel to a place you’re not so familiar with, one of the first things you do is try to find friends that you trust who can give you a good insight into the place. But there has never been a destination that gives a perspective of each new city from a creative lens or lens that you’d trust.”
Brilliant timing or timing luck?
Exceptional Alien began simply with Canning’s conversations with friends, the most important one being with Drape long before Covid’s lockdowns turned armchair travel and wanderlust into two hot world trends.
“Actually, the pent-up wanderlust made us even more excited about what we were doing because we found out that the audience even like experiencing their own backyard through the creative lens of the people we’re featuring,” Drape noted, “because it allows them to notice things they might have been taking for granted or things they didn’t even know existed. That’s part of the appeal of Exceptional Alien. You’re getting someone’s creative lens on a place and the why they like something – even in a place you might have been to before.”
How are you building your contributor base?
Canning explained, “It has actually grown quite organically. Naturally, we began with friends and colleagues, people with a couple of degrees of separation. Then people would nominate others (“That’s working its arse of now,” Drape added.) But when we find people we think would be great for Exceptional Alien we also reach out to them.”
Drape added, “We’ve been really inspired by the generosity of people to be involved and share their experiences in the spirit of inspiring other creative people around the world and we’re excited about the people who are about to come on board. We have some really great stories to add.”
How will you turn a great idea into an awesome business?
There are two lines of business we’ll be working on,” Drape stated. “One is membership, with benefits through connection and experience and travel playbooks (unique travel guides for life in 2021 and beyond). The other is that we’re doing collaborations already with some global brands, that will allow us to provide different really unique experiences for the audience and also collaboration experiences with some of the creative people who are already on the platform.”
Start-up challenges? (Any gifts?)
“Challenge? Yes. Every day,” Drape “We’re entrepreneurial in that sense – we get it. The gifts have been getting to meet inspiring creatives, learning about their stories in detail, and having the opportunity to share their insights with the global community, some of which we’re calling travel gems. The feedback has been really phenomenal. There are thirty different nationalities on the site at the moment from twenty different countries and that’s going to grow exponentially.”
Who are you hoping to include in your fandom?
“It actually stems from the venture’s name. The US’ Aliens of Exceptional Ability visa category covers entrepreneurial ventures, sports, people in the arts, business and science, so it’s quite a far-reaching audience. We’re starting with the creative industries, of course, everything from marketing and design to entertainment and technology.
“We’re appealing to a mindset rather than a particular age. People seeking out meaningful cultural exchange, personal and professional growth, and people who want to go a bit deeper when it comes to connection to a place and the people in the place,” Drape added.
How do I become an Exceptional Alien?
Whose great ideas will I find there?
Alma Har’el, filmmaker and Founder Free The Work, Los Angeles
Nick Thomm, artist , Los Angeles
Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator and Head of R&D MoMA, New York
Adele Lim, screenwriter (Crazy Rich Asians, Raya The Last Dragon), Los Angeles
Natasha Jen, Partner, Pentagram Design, New York
Christoph Niemann, artist, illustrator and author Berlin & New York
Nadav Kander, photographer, London
Jean Jullien, visual artist, Nantes
Cristina Mittermeier, Co-founder of Sea legacy and OnlyOne, National Geographic Photographer Sony Ambassador, Vancouver Island
Honor Harger, Executive Director, ArtScience Museum Singapore
Satu Vänskä, Principal Violin, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney
Magnus Walker, Entrepeneur, Urban Outlaw, Los Angeles
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine Galleries, London
Ben Shewry, Chef and owner Attica, Melbourne
Steve Vranakis, Executive Creative Director, Google Creative Lab, London
Eshan Ponnadurai, Global Head of Marketing Whatsapp, New York
Jacqueline Hunt, Co-founder and Design Director Jac + Jack, Los Angeles
Pelle Sjoenelle, Chief Creative Officer, Activision Blizzard, Los Angeles
Nicholas Stone, Founder and CEO, Bluestone Stone, New York
Nathan McLay, Founder and CEO, Grammy winner, Future Classic, Sydney
Shantell Martin, Visual Artist, London
Christian Rich, Grammy-nominated music producers & product designers, Berlin
Mark Vassallo, Creative Director, Sydney
Mariano Vivanco, photographer, London
Mariko Mori, Artist, Founder of FAOU Foundation, Tokyo
Maurice Terzini, restaurateur, fashion designer, Sydney
Cyrill Gutsch, CEO and Creative Designer, Parley, New York
John C Jay, President of Global Creative Fast retailing (Uniqlo), Toyko
Herbert Hofmann, Creative Director & Head of Buying Highsnobiety, Berlin
Kilian Hennessy, Founder, Kilian, Paris
Ferdinando Verderi, Creative Director, Vogue Italia, New York
Daniel Liebskind, World Trade Center Master Architect Founder of Studio Liebskind, New York
Ako Kondo, Principal Artist, Australian Ballet, Sydney