The Theory behind the Tribe

By Vikram Bharati

An event at Tribe Theory, Singapore

I often get asked why we decided to name the business Tribe Theory. What is this ‘tribe’ all about?

Let me start with a story. In 1818, Sir Stamford Raffles convinced the British East India Company to establish a new base in what we know as present-day Singapore. Legend has it that a migrant-carpenter from the Guandong province in South East China, Chow Ah Chey, lead the initial expedition for the Company. Acting as a comprador and translator, Ah Chey also helped in sealing the legendary deal that Raffles made with Temenggong Abdul Rahman and Hussein Shah that helped him and the British East India Company establish a trading post in Singapore. For Ah Chey’s role in the founding of modern Singapore, the British rewarded him with land.

Ah Chey, being of entrepreneurial nature, used this land to establish two of Singapore’s earliest companies or what is known as gonsgsi/kongsi in Chinese. One of which, the Ning Yeung Wui Kuan used the shophouse at 39 Ann Siang Road — where Tribe Theory is located today — both as an investment property and a clan association.

These clan associations were a place for Chinese immigrants to meet and feel less homesick and lonely in a new and unfamiliar environment. Clans helped new arrivals with accommodation and employment, and over the years, even establish schools, hospitals and charity.

All smiles at our Bali property

The power of community

These clans comprised a tribe of people from a different part of the world who were seeking solace and community in a new country. Clans became a powerful entity. Clans like the Ning Yeung Wui Kuan have not just survived but thrived by creating a system where people can build networks in new countries to help and work together. And if you dig deep into clans, you will discover that a lot of Chinese communities around the world stick together and help each other.

This tribe mentality was inspiring to us! Even scientific studies indicate that people who stick together tend to do better than people who don’t. They are happier, more successful and healthier.

Conventional thinking suggests that a ‘tribe’ is about the collective and not the individual. But our definition of a tribe is the polar opposite of that. At the heart of a tribe or a community is the individual. And this essence of the individual powers what a tribe can be. Without the individuals, a tribe loses its purpose, direction and meaning. So, for us, a tribe is about the individual.

The above reasons combined inspired us to call our business Tribe Theory. Just like how Ning Yeung Wui Kuan helped immigrants settle into a new system and find their paths, Tribe Theory was built to help people who are traveling fulfill their dreams of building businesses, finding like-minded people and find solace in unfamiliar places! Not only do we help them find a roof and company, they in turn form our backbone — our strong network. We tap into this network to help launch our new spaces, find the best talent, raise capital and more.

A tribe that meditates together, stays together!

Building a global Tribe

Building this tribe around the world has had its challenges. However, what we have realized is that no matter where you go in the world–whether it’s the US or Estonia or Bangalore–people generally have the same needs and wants. There is so much more in common to people than meets the eye!

First and foremost, all humans seek a sense of belonging. You want to feel at home, even in a new place. You want to find similarities with the people you meet, and bond with them. Secondly, people are usually trying to create or build something, or improve their life’s situation. Entrepreneurs need to raise capital. Others want to be hired or hire people. Some need their stories told. Basically, everybody needs a network to sell their products, find jobs, get help and more. These are the commonalities that everyone has no matter where you are.

At Tribe Theory, our mission statement is to connect, inspire and empower people no matter where you are in the world. We call ourselves a global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Traveling startups, digital nomads, the creative and entrepreneurial community gather under our roof. This creates the common ground for us to cultivate that sense of belonging in each of our spaces.

And once you are in one of our spaces, you are a part of our ever-expanding network. We connect a startup founder or someone starting a business with the right talent or capital. For a person looking to share their story, we provide a platform. We have created this ecosystem of various products, services and locations around the world to help the individual prosper.

The tribe decking the Christmas tree at Tribe Theory — Bangalore

The future of the Tribe

Our tribe is a self-sustaining ecosystem that helps people thrive and become their best selves. In return, we have seen each of these individuals who form our tribe contribute to make our network stronger, connect the dots for us, host events, find us business partners, etc.

To successfully build Tribe Theory around the world, we are starting an ambassador program. Anyone who has been to our space and feels like they have found their tribe can become an ambassador and help us launch Tribe Theory in their city. In fact, many of our upcoming properties have been a result of our tribe rising to the occasion and propelling our launch in their localities.

With a growing network of wonderful startup founders, creative professionals and change-makers forming our tribe, the future of Tribe Theory looks bright and shining. The world is our oasis, and our tribe are our ambassadors!


Backpacking through 50 countries across 6 continents after a long career in finance leads Vikram Bharati to his true calling of becoming an entrepreneur. Vikram founded Tribe Theory, a global chain of business hostels targeted for young startups and entrepreneurs. With current locations in Singapore, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Estonia, Yangon and Bali, Tribe Theory is expanding to 10 more countries in 2019.