Three startups that help you get outside

  Do you love exploring and getting outside, and do you like sharing your passion with other people? Or have you always wanted to do something adventurous, if only you had other people to go with?  I was the latter until I moved down to LA and met some amazing people who took me under their wing and took me outside.  I wouldn’t be snowboarding, rock climbing, or hiking if it wasn’t for some truly amazing friends who taught me how to tie my snowboarding boots, to pull on plastic, and to glissade down from a 12,000′ peak in a trash bag.  These are powerful memories, and I absolutely love helping people get outside.  But until recently, your options for finding adventure buddies were all over the place: you could go to a sport-specific meetup, browse online forums, or go post your name on a bulletin board at a local specialty shop.  Pretty intimidating if you’ve never done this kind of stuff before!

  Luckily, 2014 has brought some new services that might inspire you to make that leap:

1. (

    How was this domain name not taken already? provides beautifully curated stories to inspire folks to get outside, but primarily offers adventure travel and guide services.  The site is just getting off the ground, but the growth potential for the adventure/guide services is cool – think of it as a AirBNB for travel and adventure, where you have an option to go with a pro service or stay with a local!  Really could have used a guide in Costa Rica, instead of going there and trying to use my rudimentary Spanish to get from the airport to the mountains.  Downside? They made a great video (above) but the rest of their content is pretty light right now.

2.  Outdoor Project (

   Information, information, information!  Outdoor Project is a one-stop shop to inspire you with trip ideas and to help you plan your next trip…and it’s the most well-designed and functional site out there.  You can get camping fees, driving directions, trip reports, hike duration, permit requirements…everything you need, all in one place, and right up front.  You can add things to a ‘to-do’ list, get detailed maps…the list of features go on and are incredibly useful.  They also add instructional/educational videos – because knowledge is power!

3.  Gociety (

   A startup based out of Denver that describes itself as  “a social network for people who love the outdoors.”  Basically, it’s a way to find adventure buddies!  It’s been successful in building a community in Denver and Salt Lake City, and recently hired a community manager for Seattle.  The advantage of doing this instead of a Meetup is that you don’t have to join a bunch of different Meetup groups for all your activities, you can just see what events are going on and join up (or start your own).  As much as I like Meetup, this is more specific to me and I love the spontaneity.  

One Month at Foster

  So it’s been just about one month into the full-time MBA program at the University of Washington Michael G. Foster School of Business, and we have a moment to relax.  So what is it like?

  The actual coursework itself is manageable, but keep in mind that I’m a little biased.  I took some online accounting courses from Oklahoma State and I have a technical background, so the quantitative stuff has been pretty easy for me.  The qualitative stuff (i.e. marketing, strategy) is pretty easy to understand at a high level, it’s not rocket science.  I’ve been pleased overall with the quality of the education…our professors are all very good at engaging the class and, well, teaching.  Assignment grading and the course workload are pretty fair, I don’t have any complaints.  It’s not at all like undergrad at Berkeley where the curve lies around a C- average.  If you’ve been in the military and been through a deployment, this is way, way easier.  If you’re disciplined about how you use your time and manage your energy, Fall Quarter will be a breeze!  

  I made myself a little busier by attending a lot of extra events like Entrepreneur Week and Seattle Startup Week.  I’ve met a lot of great people through these events, and heard some inspirational stories.  I also went to Chicago for the MBA Veterans Conference and got to meet representatives from a lot of great companies and got some interview practice.  Loved being able to reconnect with some old Air Force buddies out that experience, to boot!

  I also get to be a co-chair for UW’s Business Plan Competition, which will be a great opportunity to meet a lot of people in the Seattle startup community, and stretch my event marketing/planning skills!  Last time I had to do some serious event marketing was for the launch of an Air Force/Boeing satellite.  It’s times like these where I’m really grateful to have been a part of so many random additional duties and projects in my career…while they were great for Officer Performance Reports, they also helped develop some great transferrable skills and experiences. 

  My favorite thing about this program is still the opportunity to work alongside a great set of amazing people who really want to learn and change their lives.  The core MBA classes teach a ton of useful information, but that’s just a small part of the equation.  It might be a little cliche, but I feel that a ton of my growth comes from hearing other points of view and learning from the other students here.  But that’s what I came into this program for – not just to learn the hardcore skills of business, but to expand my thinking and get to know people outside of the military.  It’s so tempting to just find people who are really similar to you, but why limit yourself?


  What makes people successful?  Is it high IQ?  Is it a natural gift?  Is it having a growth mindset?  Is it 10,000 hours of deliberate practice?  

  What if you don’t have all of these?  Well, there’s a recent theory that’s making the rounds.  Research from Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at UPenn, suggests that there is something else in play…something she defines as ‘grit.’  This research defines grit as “the perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”  Before you move on though, you can take a 12-item grit self-assessment from UPenn (I scored just 3.5 out of 5) to see where you stand.  Just answer the questions as honestly as you can.  Here’s more from Duckworth here in her TED talk:

  Great, now what does this number mean?  Well, it might mean that you’ll do better in school.  According to the study, if you had more grit, you were more likely to have higher GPAs at an Ivy League school, higher educational attainment, you’re better at spelling bees, and you’re less likely to quit a grueling summer training program at the West Point Military Academy.  Great!  You can read more about this research here in her paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

  So you didn’t get a great ‘grit’ score?  Smarter folks than me are figuring out ways to improve your grit and resilience.  It seems to have a lot in common with productivity and self-control…like avoiding distractions and staying focused on your goals.  You can exercise more outside, build in good habits, take up meditation…there’s a lot of advice out there that you can check out if you’re interested!

  But is grit correlated to other measures of success?  It’s great if you consider success to mean academic achievement – a convenient measure when you’re in academia and you have access to a sizable supply of students.  Grit didn’t predict other performance measures among West Point cadets…just the likelihood that they would make it through their grueling summer training.  The jury is still out on whether or not GPA is a useful predictor for career success.  

  My advice to you is to take this assessment of ‘grit’ as another data point with which to better understand yourself and where you might need to improve.  Grit might not mean anything by itself, but it could mean something in combination with all the other attributes that make you unique.  

The Meeting @ Aspen

  Last Monday, I got to hear TA McCann (founder, RivalIQ) kick off UW’s Entreweek 2014 with a speech on the power of networking (slides here).  He speaks all over the country on entrepreneurship and you can see more of his presentations here on slideshare.

  He also recommended a bunch of useful networking tools for managing contacts like Rapportive, Fullcontact, and Newsle.  I tried all of them out but they’re all currently in Beta, so until they get finished I’m still going to use my excel spreadsheet to manage my contacts…but these sites look really useful so keep an eye on them as they get more mature.  

  He also mentioned something called “The Meeting” in Aspen – apparently it’s a 1-day outdoor industry conference where there are panel discussions and presentations about the state and future of the industry.  The best thing about this meeting is that they post videos to the public, so you too can share in their knowledge!  We just missed the 2014 edition of The Meeting, but you can watch the 2013 videos on Vimeo here.  Here’s an example below, with a panel on “The Strategy of Building, Marketing, and Selling a Brand” with reps from some heavy hitters from the industry like Red Bull and GoPro.  

  At about 20 minutes in, the conversation gets really, really good. 

  More info on The Meeting here at the Aspen Snowmass event site.  Looking forward to this year’s videos and attending in person next year!

Outdoor Industry Research

  If you’re like me and passionate about the Outdoor Industry, you had better be following the latest trade and industry news!

  • SNEWS (Specialty News):  Outdoor Industry, Fitness, Yoga industry news site.  
  • Outdoor Industry Association (OIA): Market research and advocacy for outdoor sports.  Great place for data and numbers and get educated.
  • SIA – Snowsports (Snowsports Industry Association): Snowsports-specific news and market research
  • Jeff Harbaugh and Associates:  Blog by a consultant for the outdoor industry.  His MarketWatch column has been running for like 20 years, and is a great source of info from an insider’s perspective.
  • Grist:  Environmental news.  The fate of the outdoor industry and the environment are linked, and is only going to get more and more important as time goes on.
  • Transworld Business: Boardsports-specific trade news for those of us who like standing sideways.  Amazing resource even if you don’t!

  Works great with news aggregators like feedly!