The Short Story of a Road Trip that Launched a Startup
Two years ago, I left an internship in a fund of hedge funds to drive 16,000 miles around North America. My goal was to interview over 1,000 college students about their perceptions of an America whose period of hegemony seemed, at the time, threatened by the global economic downturn and a general cultural malaise. Along with interviewing college students, I also intended to trail run the continent’s most beautiful and rugged terrains. I love trail running. The sport takes me to a primitive and romantic place.
I was 23 years old. I’d been working for a year since graduating from college. My college roommate quit his job in management consulting in New York City and met me in Chattanooga to begin what we expected would be the trip of a lifetime. My little brother, three years younger than me, joined us, and we packed my Toyota Matrix to the hilt with surveys and clipboards and camping equipment and hit the road.
I’ll never forget some of our adventures. Climbing Acadia National Park’s Mount Cadillac, bombing through the gorges of upstate New York’s Finger Lakes, hammering 20 miles along Michigan’s Pictured Rocks, weathering brutal hail and lightning in the Badlands, and watching the sunset over the Columbia River Gorge all stand out.
Along the way, we discovered in ourselves a desire to help more people interact with the experiences that blew our minds and energized our daily routines. We also discovered a need. Finding the best outdoor experiences is not easy. The process of discovering a great local trail, or bouldering field, or whitewater hole remains a very word of mouth process. Information online is incredibly fragmented.
Unable to find quality information about outdoor experiences online through google searches, we sought out local expertise from specialty outdoor retailers and local bike and run shops in communities around the country. Everyday, people walk into these most authentic shops and ask the outdoor industry’s most important question: “Where can I get outside around here?”
We’ve asked that question again and again, and we’ve learned that great retailers answer that question consistently and authoritatively. It’s that local knowledge and authenticity that differentiates them from their bigger box competitors. And yet, when asked that question, many retailers continue to tie up their registers googling for directions to trailheads, put ins, routes, and crags, only then to scrawl them on the back of receipts. In an age of GPS-enabled smart phones, there’s a better way.
We’re now working to connect more people to the most authentic local outdoor knowledge. We work with local experts across the country to curate the best outdoor experiences and bring to light the most interesting stories from their outdoor communities.
Where can you get outside around here? Ask us, we’ve been there.
For an insider’s guide to Chattanooga, check out RootsRated Chattanooga.