May 1, 2014 Updated: May 2, 2014 at 11:06 am
With all the skis and bikes and backpacks and tents on the market, how is a consumer of outdoor products supposed to ferret out the good from the bad - or even figure out how to use them?
A company started by Colorado Springs entrepreneurs Erik Boles and Brian McCarrie aims to help shoppers figure things out with a new website and mobile application, Gearmunk, which they hope will become the Yelp or TripAdvisor of outdoor recreation gear.
The Gearmunk site has attracted 28,000 preregistered users and 120 outdoor equipment manufacturers. When the app and website launch this month, they will include reviews from users, videos on how to assemble gear, buying guides, how-to guides, deal-finding engines and additional features, said Boles, who has founded six startups in the past 20 years.
Boles has pumped $250,000 in profits from those startups and expects to raise $1 million from angel investors by July 31 to hire staff and expand marketing to reach at least half of the 7,000 outdoor equipment manufacturers worldwide, he said.
"There are so many people who want to ski, backpack or mountain bike - how do you begin to do that? There are blogs that promote their gear, but Gearmunk will be the first platform where the reviewers are rated by their credibility," Boles said. "We will use a 21-point algorithm that will rate you based on the quality of your review, and you will earn a score that will increase as you become an influencer. Manufacturers will seek you out and give you pre-release gear to review."
Gearmunk also is programmed with a "context engine" that will ask users what sports they want to know about and give them information based on their answers and the types and brands of gear they research while they are on the site or using the mobile application.
Boles estimates the site and mobile application could generate more than $30 million in revenue by 2016 from fees of up to $749 a month that outdoor gear manufacturers will pay to offer their equipment and upload product videos and buying guides on Gearmunk.
If it sounds like a lot in fees, consider this, Boles said:Manufacturers are not required to sign a contract and the monthly fee is less than half of what they'd pay for a one-sixth-of-a -page ad in a monthly issue of a popular sporting goods magazine.
"We will assign a brand an ambassador that will help them shoot product videos and photos, write copy - and we will upload it all, deliver analytics on how it is being viewed and by whom, and we will also search the Web to find the lowest price and offer the user the chance to buy it now," Boles said. "Way too many companies don't care about their customers, and if we care about our users and the brands, the revenue will follow. We want to add value and be amazing for both our users and our brands."
Boles and McCarrie came up with the idea for Gearmunk at a Colorado Springs bar about 1 1/2 years ago while discussing their love of outdoor recreation, and how skiing, backpacking or mountain biking trip can be doomed by poor, inadequate or incorrect equipment.
Boles and McCarrie spent years working in the information technology and Web operations of The Gazette. Boles headed several local Web design and hosting and computer networking startups and also worked as an engineer for computer security giant McAfee, while McCarrie operated his Web design firm and did Web design for Westone Labs.
Gearmunk's management team also includes Hap Klopp, founder and longtime CEO of outdoor clothing giant The North Face, as executive chairman of the company's advisory council.
Gearmunk operates out of Epicentral Coworking in downtown Colorado Springs, but Boles said the company plans to lease office space in the downtown area or the Garden of the Gods Road corridor in six months to a year.
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