Islington People: Mongol Rally kickstarts entrepreneurial success

PUBLISHED: 19:04 29 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 29 July 2011

Nick Francis (left) and Barnaby Cook

Nick Francis (left) and Barnaby Cook


»A trip to Mongolia five years ago was the gateway to entrepreneurial success for two young video bloggers.

Barnaby Cook, 29, of Aubert Park, Highbury, decided to go travelling in the summer of 2006 – and signed up for the 10,000-mile Mongol Rally from England to Ulan Bator.

His accomplice Nick Francis had just finished a broadcasting course at City University in Northampton Square, Finsbury, and the duo were keen to film the ride and post it online – but they struggled to find funding.


Barnaby says: “Video blogs were a fairly new idea in 2006 and YouTube had only just launched, so it was difficult to get backing.

“Eventually, the online travel company Expedia gave us £25,000 to buy equipment and pay the costs for the rally. We raised £3,000 for charity as well. We had a small amount of money left over at the end, which allowed us to live in London for a couple of months while we set up the business.”

Weekly updates allowed people to follow their journey from the UK to the Mongolian capital in a decrepit 1987 Mini Cooper – which broke down 10 times along the way.

Their video diaries documented them getting stuck, lost and in plenty of scrapes – and became a huge online hit.


The pair had found they could make and broadcast movie clips cheaply and easily using just a camcorder, a laptop – and a bit of imagination.

Casual Films, a corporate film company based in Shepperton Road, Islington, was born – and is now a thriving business that recently expanded to America, opening a new office in New York.

“Days and nights spent uploading online videos in the middle of the desert made us realise that the format had plenty of potential,” says Barnaby.

“The trip sparked an idea and Casual Films grew from there.”

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