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The Next Great Sports or Outdoor Startup: Are You the One?

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Have you been reading this column lately and thinking, “I could create an app like that?”  Or, “Maybe my store should go online.”  Even if this is your first time reading my sports/outdoors and tech column, we’re going to take a little field trip into the world of startups this week.  Why?  Because the Pacific Northwest is not only the home of some of the best outdoor living in the country, it’s also home to some of the most successful lifestyle tech startups in recent history.

I’ve written about a lot of them, and now it’s time to give you the benefit of my business experience as well as my geek cred.  Let’s discuss how your next great startup idea could become the next great idea of Clymb-like proportions.

Find a Niche

Even in as specialized a niche as sports or outdoor tech, the best place to start is by narrowing down your niche.  Washington startup Camp Native offers an online, interactive interface for researching private campsites.  I started camping regularly a few years ago, and I’ve looked all over the Apple Store and the internet for something like this.  You can find websites for public campsites, but you have to look at four or five to get an idea of what’s available, and they’re rarely accurate.

Like me, co-founder David Woodbury was annoyed with contacting myriad campsites and cross-checking information to find the right site for his trips.  So he and co-founder Brian Martell created Camp Native.  They found their niche by leveraging what they perceived to be a common problem for campers.  The site even allows you to make reservations for certain campsites.

Another startup that found a niche and worked it is Outdoor Project.  The Portland-based online community uses 1500-plus contributors to build its outdoor portfolio of adventures and photo galleries.  Sometimes, these are one and the same.  The adventures are shared so that other community members can curate their own to-do list and then share and share alike when completed.  The Boise-area list is a little scant.  Guess I better start posting.

Find an Example

If you’re working with an app idea, like Stohke, look to those successes. Just as finding a mentor is one of the best strategies in big business, using other businesses’ models is a great way if you’re looking at doing something similar. An Instagram of sorts for adventure sports enthusiasts and professionals, Stohke is available online as well.  

Unlike Instagram, it curates its information based on sports and other genres, like brands and events. Stohke took a successful model and, in the spirit of the sports it represents, one-upped that model by making it even more user-friendly.

Build Your Strategy

Unless you’re riding a trail for the hell of it, you’re not going to start a new adventure without knowing how you’re going to finish it.  The same goes for starting a new business.  If you’re not sure how to go about creating your strategy, guess what?  I even know an app for that: Elevatr.  Sometimes the hardest part is just putting an idea on paper, even virtually.

You may decide to forge your own path, and that’s great too.  Sometimes, the mavericks make the best entrepreneurs.  However, if you have a retail store that you’re taking online, it will behoove you to have a strategy.  Taking a retail store online, whether you move online entirely or create an e-commerce site as a supplement, is much more involved.

If you are a boutique retailer in the Pacific Northwest, creating an online store can help you stay ahead of your competition.  While this is just one part of your strategy, don’t forget to research that competition and comparable retailers with whom you may not be in direction competition.

Choose your website builder carefully.  If you truly want to be successful as an e-commerce star, don’t just do this yourself.  Unless you’re already a web genius yourself, find a developer to create your site.  This investment is well worth it.

Have Fun With It

Just like you have fun with your outdoor adventures or your fitness routine, you can have fun with your tech startup idea.  This is where the twain can meet.  Get creative.  Maybe I’ll be writing about you next!


Related Slideshow: The 7 Best Health and Fitness Apps

Here is a list of some of the most obsession worthy health apps.

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MapMyRun is the number one selling running app for a reason:  it is easy to use, offers community support if you want it, and tracks and stores your exact routes for you.  If you are training for a race or a serious runner, users say that the extra perks in the upgraded paid version are well worth it. 

Made for iPhone, Android and Blackberry 

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MyFitnessPal seems to be the clear favorite amongst everyone polled.  It is helpful not only for the fitness tracking aspect, but everyone polled mentioned how much they loved the food/diet aspect as well. From carb counting for diabetics to recipe ideas to complement your fitness goals, users love this app. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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JeFit is another fitness app that has rave reviews.  It not only tracks progress for you, but offers a huge database of workouts.  While many apps offer community support, JeFit allows you to sync workouts with friends who use the app, offering a (real) virtual buddy system.

Made for iPhone and Android

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Strava gets the highest mark of all the cycling apps.  While it is also great for runners, the cyclers seem particularly inclined towards the fierce competition that can be ignited by this app.  You can track all of your rides via GPS, then you can compare your efforts to those logged by others in the community on the same stretch of road.  You can also join ongoing challenges that can net you great prizes (in addition to bragging rights). 

Made for iPhone and Android

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YogaStudio gets the top vote for Yoga apps.  It has a lengthy collection of full class-length videos available at your fingertips.  Unlike many other apps, this one also allows you to customize your own video yoga class.  All of the poses are done by qualified yoga instructors, and you can find classes suitable for all levels of yogis.

Made for iPhone only

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SimplyBeing meditation app offers the best of both worlds.  You can choose to run this app as a background for your meditation with soothing music or natural sounds that run for a set amount of time.  Conversely, for those of you who have trouble focusing during meditation, you can choose a soothing voice-guided meditation. 

Made for iPhone and Android

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Fooducate is an app all about educating people so that they make healthier food choices.  Although not perfect, this app is easy to use (you can even take pictures of bar codes to instantly find foods in their database).  It gives food a letter grade, tells you the pluses and minuses, and gives you better ranked alternatives.  You can also use it as a weight loss tool by tracking your daily calories. 

Made for iPhone and Android


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