Driving Innovation to Mongolia

Almost a year ago, the ‘Mongol Rally’ appeared in my twitter feed and as soon as I watched one of the highlights video like this one –  it found itself on my bucket list and soon decided I would taking on this crazy journey in 2017.

The Mongol Rally is a 10,000+ mile trip across the motorways, mountains and deserts of Europe and Asia. There’s no support and no set route just a start line, and a finish line. You and a few mates buy an old car with an engine under 1200cc – In our case a 17-year-old Ford Fiesta and turn up to the start line in Goodwood, England on July 16th. It’s described as the “Greatest Adventure in the World” and sees on average a 70% completion rate. The first rally took place in 2004 with 6 cars, 4 of which made it to the end. This year, over 300 teams have signed up. Our team ‘Catch me if you Khan’ are taking on the challenge to raise funds and awareness for the Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice who do an amazing job providing free end of life and home care to children with life limiting conditions.

Our route will take us through 22 countries – many of which aren’t considered your typical tourist destinations but that’s part of the appeal for us. When else will we have a chance to visit the ‘Door to Hell’ in Turkmenistan,  the ‘Pamir Highway’ in Tajikistan or any one of the countless surprise’s we will have along the way? Apart from the epic scenery, according to previous participants, interacting with the locals along the way is one of the best and most unexpected aspects to the trip. The locals tend to be very hospitable and welcoming. One team we spoke to said the highlight of the trip for them was when they were invited into a yurt by a Mongolia nomad family and spent the night drinking the local brew made from horse milk.

The Ford Fiesta we bought in January for €700 has been well looked after and only last week underwent a thorough service. Anything that could go wrong has been changed but no doubt we will have a few pit-stops along the way. Unfazed by the 70% completion rate, we will do everything we can to make it before our flight home on September 4th. We’ve given ourselves 6 weeks to get there which should suffice minus any major breakdowns. We’re bringing two spare wheels, a socket set, a few spare parts and jerry cans as they don’t sell petrol in Uzbekistan so you need to stock up before you enter!

Preparing for the trip feels like a full-time job and the car is only one part of the puzzle. The visa process started in March and costs over €1,000 per person. Booking hotels, buying camping gear and packing lightly to save on weight all takes time. Fundraising has been going well and we will continue our efforts during the rally donating the money when we get back in early September.

Personally, I have spent the first half of this year exploring innovation trends across the US, Africa and South-East Asia while working on my startup Idea 2 Scale – a platform to help entrepreneurs validate ideas and scale quicker. While we don’t hear of much innovation coming from places like Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others, I’m interested to know more about what’s happening here, and compare to the other emerging markets I’ve been recently. Maybe there are some hidden opportunities and interesting stories to be told?

You can follow ‘Catch Me If You Khan’ and our journey on twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CatchMeIfYouKhan. Any donations big or small would be greatly appreciated via our Go Fund Me page. Stay tuned for further updates!