Exceptional Alien co-founders Drape and Canning officially launch platform

Exceptional Alien co-founders Justin Drape and Michael Canning have been building their community of creative contributors for the past 18 months and have officially launched the travel platform.

Drape and Canning have revealed to Mumbrella a gap in the market the travel platform is seeing to fill, its revenue model and how the pandemic has made them pivot to focus on what’s been going on in their own backyards.

It was announced in June this year that Drape and Canning would be launching the travel platform, with the full site now released. Drape co-founded creative agency The Monkeys and Canning was M&C Saatchi’s former executive creative director.

Justin Drape and Michael Canning, co-founders of Exceptional Alien

The name of the platform is a reference to “exceptional aliens”, the term US immigration uses for work visas for those in the arts, science, business, sport and entrepreneurial services. It’s the people in these creative industries that contribute to Exceptional Alien, offering recommendations on the restaurants, bars, museums, gardens and more places across the globe.

It’s a gap in the travel market that the duo feel has not been covered to date.

“We feel grateful, ultimately, for having the opportunity to travel as part of our own creative careers,” said Canning, “Whether it’s been living in different cities or whether it’s just been traveling into a new place for a few days, every time that we’ve traveled to a new place, even domestically, it’s always the friends that you reach out to try to get an inside track or an idea of what the place is like, what the culture’s like where should I go even?

“We’ve always noticed that gap in the market. There’s no real destination to experience or see a place from a creative lens or the lens of a global creative community.”

A screenshot of Mick Fanning’s Travel Playbook for the Gold Coast at the time of writing

Part of the platform are “Travel Playbooks”, where a contributor will recommend their favourite places to go to in specific cities. For example, surfer Mick Fanning in his Playbook has detailed his favourite places to go in the Gold Coast. Fanning has also contributed to the Exceptional Aliens’ Stories section, explaining the places he’s picked.

Contributors to the platform are a mixture of creatives that have reached out to Exceptional Alien and creatives that Exceptional Alien has reached out to.

In terms of revenue for the platform, Drape said: “We’re focusing on two business lines. One will be membership-based and that’s going to include premium content and entertainment and the information and insights, connections and events.

“For the other one, we’re working with global brands already to create licensed branded content and bespoke opportunities and collaborations. We’re actually co-collaborating with some of the exceptional creators that are already on a platform.”

Over the past year-and-a-half of putting together the platform, the COVID-19 pandemic made the team pause and re-evaluate what they’re doing.

“We looked at both the domestic and international opportunities, because what we’ve found with the feedback from our growing audience was that people were actually really loving the refreshed look at their own backyard,” said Drape.

Canning added: “During the pandemic, you really realise that creativity and storytelling can take you places too. When you hear an amazing or inspiring story or a different perspective from somewhere else around the world, that can take you to there. We’re excited to build the platform in a way that really helps people and allows people to see new places through a creative lens physically when travel opens up.

“We can keep building this idea of taking people places through entertainment and through the stories of the inspiring creatives around the world that we would be inviting to the platform.”

Other creatives that have contributed to the platform include award-winning screenwriter Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians, Raya the Last Dragon), Maurice Terzini (Icebergs, CicciaBella) and Paola Antonelli (MOMA).

Drape left The Monkeys in January this year and Canning left M&C Saatchi in January 2018.


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