Four Summit County startups present plans for tech, outdoor training
Locals constantly seek ways to make the best use of Summit’s most valuable resource: the mountains. For some, this might be finding the best line down the slopes, or the satisfaction of biking a new trail. But for others, the next step is to start their own business.
“All of these presenters have really been seeking their passion, and making it work with this lifestyle,” Northwest Small Business Development Center director Lindsey Stapay said. “They were denied at first, but they knew they had a vision and a path. They took that and drove it.”
Four local startups presented at the April 1 Startup Ski Summit, located at Elevate CoSpace’s future Breckenridge location. From brand-new conceptual products to growing companies, they all had one common link: each makes the best use of the resources in their backyard.
James Lee, creator of Fathom VR (and numerous other businesses) launched the virtual reality production and marketing company six years ago. In 2009, they launched the world’s first 360-degree video ski map.
“It just so happened this amazing new product for ski resorts to allow people to explore their ski areas was way too expensive after the market crashed,” Lee said.
Since then, virtual reality has taken off, as more and more companies are producing headsets.
“They’ve created this hardware product for a market that really is still growing. There’s not much you can watch with your virtual reality headset yet,” he added.
Currently, Fathom VR is working to produce marketing videos for the Color Run, and assisting with local marketing and storytelling event, Camp 9600.
“The fact that they’re willing to go out on a limb and give it a shot is pretty cool,” he said.
Lee is also looking for ways to bring 360 video to the real estate market, making the VR hardware affordable and easy to use. Fathom VR is working with Ricoh’s Theta camera to allow marketers to easily shoot, edit and disseminate video.
“We’re working with MLS (multiple listing service) to get them to embrace VR, and 360 content, because we know that’s just where it’s going. So we might as well just help them now,” he added.
Shamus Lahman, co-founder of Fish Conserve, is also looking for new approaches to tech. He and co-founder Katherine Roth are working to create a mobile app to crowdsource data for fish conservation.
“Before, it was just agencies going out and surveying fish, measuring them maybe once a year, and for smaller rivers, maybe once every five years,” Lahman said. “Now, it’s you, me, Joe Schmo, your dad, whoever goes out and catches a fish, we upload the new data point.”
Anglers who don’t wish to disclose their favorite fishing spot need not fear — Lahman does not plan to make the locations visible to the public.
“Everyone wants to hold on to their awesome fishing hole,” he laughed.
While Lahman’s app is currently in the prototype phase, he looks forward to potential future uses.
“I just thought, how can I use my expertise, not necessarily to make money but for the overall good of fishing conservation?” he said. “Today, it could be Fish Conserve. Tomorrow, it could be elk. It’s very scalable.”
STARTUP AND GET ACTIVE
“We all have ideas as entrepreneurs. I had an idea as I was traveling the world, and I really like to take my sports with me,” longtime local Shawna Henderson said. She launched her own business, Adrenaline Escapes, in 2012, with the goal of connecting Summit County visitors with local guides and heart-pounding activities. The idea dawned on her in the midst of a trip to Colombia, when she tried to pull together plans for a mountain biking excursion.
“Luckily, I met a pro who let me use her bike, because we went 60 miles that day,” Henderson recalled. “That experience, bonding with the locals, was kind of what started Adrenaline Escapes.”
From the initial pitch, the most difficult part of starting her business was to narrow down what, exactly, the site would do. Then, with the assistance of graduate students in Regis University’s IT program, Henderson was able to refine the mechanics of how the site would work.
“That got me to the point where I was like, OK, I have a clear direction,” she said.
Another local entrepreneur is focusing on training triathletes and cyclists at altitude. Nadiya Mitelman will launch her business, Elite Altitude Performance, this summer, with the first training session taking place in July. She plans to provide all-inclusive, weeklong training camps for the athletes, with coaches giving instruction at 10,000 feet.
“Most of the athletes want the hardest training so they can prepare themselves not only mentally, but physically,” Mitelman said. “If they can do it at say, Boulder-level, at 5,000 feet, then they can do it at sea level, but if they can come to 10,000 feet, they can do it anywhere.”
Mitelman first looked for opportunities in Boulder, but found a better market after moving to Breckenridge.
“It was really difficult for me to break in, because even though Boulder is a mecca (for cycling and triathlons) everybody is a professional triathlete and nobody needs help,” she said. “I was just one of a million other people without a niche.”
Mitelman said she plans to offer her first camp in Summit County this summer, and an additional one in preparation for the 106 West Triathlon, the highest altitude triathlon to be held in Dillon this September.
“They can adjust and know how they will be feeling if they are doing an event at high altitude and live at sea level,” she said.
Mitelman also hopes to offer training in Leadville and Moab, and in the winter, head to Toussaint, Arizona.
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