Your adventure awaits

An interview with Rob Reason, founder of HiddenCity

Rob, how did you come up with the idea of HiddenCity?
It was actually my brother Nick who first thought of it about 10 years ago. As best man he was planning a stag party for a friend. We were looking for a proper treasure hunt in London (not a scavenger hunt). We couldn’t find one, so we decided to create one ourselves.

How did you run the first hunt?
We created a list of clues pointing to different places around London. We thought about writing the clues on tiny pieces of paper, but there was a problem. Being public places, somebody could take them or, since it was a competition after all, even the opposing teams could be encouraged to get rid of them. We asked ourselves:

“How could we create a treasure hunt without leaving traces of paper around?”

And that’s when then idea came to us. What if we texted people?
At the time it wasn’t very common to have automated dialogue via text message. We decided to try. Nick and I were the senders texting back and forth with our friends. It worked and the guys had a lot of fun. It turned out that the space of one text message was enough to direct people to the next location. Then a simple text back would serve as confirmation that they had actually gotten there. That was the genesis of it all.

What happened after that first experiment?
For a while the idea kept lingering in my mind like a white cloud floating in the sky, until I finally decided to run a second experiment with people I worked with. Around 70 of them signed up and even payed to participate. I wanted to know what they thought of the experience, so I sent them a survey. It wasn’t the 4.8/5 score that struck me the most, but the fact that many said the hunt showed them a side of London they never new. That’s when I realised…

It’s not just a text message, but the possibility to change people’s perception.

How did HiddenCity come to life?
That realisation motivated me to move forward. I had read a lot about coding, so everyday after work I would code my website. I continued to run a series of low cost experiments, added a payment feature, and later decided to quit my job to focus on growing HiddenCity. Since then we have expanded to 4 cities in the UK and created a series of themed and character led trails to suit a range of tastes, some of which we developed in partnership with Time Out London.

So what’s next for HiddenCity?
We found that immersing people in a story captures people’s imagination. We’ll be doing more of this. 
Look out for the next trail. Your adventure awaits…

Curious to know more?
Follow HiddenCity on Twitter @hiddencitylon