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Steak frites and coffee fuel this UC co-founder’s rebellion

It’s been over two years since Uncommon Conferences was established and its co-founder Marcus Magee still finds something, almost daily, that reminds him why the business and its offering is needed - even during, and perhaps especially after, this pandemic that’s knocked us all sideways.

This week we depart from our usual posts about URL & IRL events to bring you behind the scenes of Marcus’ life in Singapore, why he can’t live without Aesop’s skincare range and what he plans never to take for granted post-C*vid.

These questions were inspired by Monocle - which we credit for being inspirational on so many levels - as a business, source of content, differentiated events and just generally being badass.

What did you get up to this past weekend?

Being Singapore-based, and currently under what everyone refers to as “Lockdown Lite” C*vid-related restrictions, weekends are usually a simple affair of home-exercise, walks around the neighbourhood, home cooking (roast chicken anyone?) and ’trying’ to relax – not something that comes naturally to me!

What’s your ideal start to a Sunday? Gentle or with a jolt?

Sundays start with fresh brewed coffee from my favourite local haunt, Common Man Coffee Roasters, so I’d say it’s with a jolt. Then I usually settle on the balcony (weather permitting) for some reading of either current affairs (The Economist) or a novel (Sylvia Plath at the moment).

What’s for breakfast?

No breakfast. Have been practicing 16/8 intermittent fasting for a little over a year and half and it’s become so normal I barely notice I’m missing out. Those closest to me know I’m not super strict with the hours, though.

What’s that podcast you’re listening to?

Not sure what led me to recently discover the joys of poddys, but now I’m officially addicted. I’m partial to those that touch on events (Meeting Minds, #EventIcons), business strategy (Seth Godin, Everyone Hates Marketers) and lifestyle (Monocle, Mark Manson).

How do you get the heart rate up?

Coffee closely followed by my morning exercise ritual.

How do you slow the BPM down?

Jazz or classical music in the background.

Kitchen cupboard essentials you can’t do without?

Have recently discovered the joys of pretzels. Don’t ask me why! And a jar of mixed nuts for a healthier alternative.


Blueberries. Punnets of them. Apparently, they are good for mental health, something we all need to pay attention to given the unsettling times we’re living in – I read somewhere you need at least 25 a day to keep the grey matter purring along.

What makes Uncommon Conferences so… uncommon?

We reject the reliance traditional conferences have on individual “experts” and instead seek to capture the collective knowledge and experience of everyone in the room (or Zoom, as the case may be) through collaborative workshop-style sessions. It’s freedom within a framework that also leads to those serendipitous moments - online or in-person. We’re rebelling against the accepted norms of business gatherings - it’s time for a new rule book!

A glass of something you’d recommend?

Was recently introduced to the joys of German Riesling by Banu, my UC co-founder, no doubt through her German ‘connections’ 😆. I usually prefer a drier white, but was blown away by the balance of fruitiness and crispness, without the usual overly sweet tones you expect of a Riesling.

Dinner venue you can’t wait to get back to?

My local steak frites venue, Les Bouchons. It’s right downstairs and something of an institution. Fingers crossed they make it through these seemingly never-ending dine-in restrictions.

Who would join?

Usually a girlfriend (who also happens to be French), however she recently returned to Paris, so I’m introducing it to others to see if I can find another kindred spirit who enjoys it as much.

Early bird or night owl?

100% early bird. No screen time from 8pm; I’m usually in bed by 10pm and up by 6am. This is in direct contrast to Banu’s lifestyle which made for some interesting discussions around optimal meeting times in the early days of UC - but I’m sure you’ll hear about her routine when it’s her turn to answer these questions 😂

Skincare regime?

Someone recently asked if I work for Aesop, as there’s pretty much one of everything from their range in my bathroom. Particularly fond of anything parsley seed-related for its anti-aging properties – important at my advanced age!

What’s something you took for granted pre-pandemic that you’ll never take for granted again?

Being able to get on a plane and be with the people I love. As an Australian based overseas I was always in the air shuttling between a number of cities. Being grounded these past 15 months has definitely been a test of resilience, but as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And I’m definitely stronger!


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