Spotlight: Startups in the outdoor industry

Spotlight: Startups in the outdoor industry


“Imagine a world where we’re as immersed in nature as we are intechnology, where we come to all our senses, where we feel more alive.”

– R. Louv // Author of The Nature Principle


In the current digital age where technology is inescapably integrated into every aspect of our lives, it is no longer feasible to avoid it entirely. Electronic addiction is often blamed for the widespread “nature-deficit disorder” that has escalated over the last few decades. There is a tendency for people to distinguish nature and technology as opposite entities incapable of harmonious co-existence — but we at C21 Accelerator believe otherwise.

The C21 team values immersion in nature, outdoor activity and genuine interactions with the world, but we’re also aware and excited that many of today’s best platforms for encouraging people to embrace the outdoors are based in technology. As co-founder Alex Kehaya stated:

“We aren’t against technology, we just want to utilize it in a better way.”

When C21 Accelerator launched in February 2015, the goal was to build a brand and a movement based on getting people outdoorsEach founding member on our team had already accumulated a vast amount of experience in working and networking in the outdoor and sports industries, so we intended to combine everyone’s individual expertise in order to develop growing businesses who share visions similar to our socially and environmentally conscious movement.

We’re now ready to offer mentorship, resources, and our invaluable connections in the industries. Alex, who specializes in market validation, has collaborated with a variety of entrepreneurs and startups to determine the success and sustainability of their business models. Additionally, he teaches a market validation course at UCSB’s technology management program and has noted that “there’s a trend every year — a team [of students] that proposes a business idea to encourage millennials to get outdoors.” Having studied those students’ ideas alongside existing outdoors startups, we’ve noticed that they can all be placed into one of five categories — indicating that ideas in this field are ultimately not so different from one another.

So if that is the case, what are we looking for?

We’re searching for startups developing new and innovative products or services that inspire people to spend more time outdoors. In particular, we’re interested in apps or websites built to aggregate information and compile data in an efficient manner. Unlike blogs and web search results, there are apps and sites today that are designed to present information in user-friendly formats so that anyone and everyone can feel like participating in the outdoors is doable and accessible.

A key element we look for is traction. With his background in market validation, naturally Alex targets businesses that already have some momentum and have done sufficient work to affirm their ideas, prototypes, or services. Most importantly, the businesses we’re interested in working with would want more than just money.

Offering partnerships is what distinguishes C21 from other accelerator programs. Our ultimate goal is not just to provide money in exchange for a certain percentage of several companies. Rather, we’re looking to invest in a select few businesses that truly facilitate and inspire outdoor activity by working closely with them on whatever they need most.

In the process of searching for suitable partnerships, we have already encountered several startups, entrepreneurs and unique ideas in the marketplace that have caught our attention. To spread the word on these noteworthy ideas, we’re beginning a spotlight series in which we’ll explore and share the stories behind these people and products.

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