Startup Talk from the Outdoor Industry

October 1st, 2007

I like nothing better than when my worlds come together. I just finished listening to a very insightful podcast conversation between Jim Holland, CEO of, and Chris Grover, Director of Sales and Marketing at Black Diamond. Startups, web services and outdoor gear are three of my favorite things.

The former company is an outdoor gear e-tailer and poster child for success by bootstrapping. It was founded in the 1990s, but unlike many of its crash-and-burn contemporaries it never raised outside money. I believe this let them chip away at the online marketing puzzle. Had they raised money, hired lots of people and jumped into lots of things before the revenue path became clear, they might never have made it.

Black Diamond is an interesting example of lemons-from-lemonade. Patagonia used to make rock climbing hardware until someone fell out of a harness, died and his family sued the company. Patagonia decided to get out of the hardware business and divested it- creating Black Diamond. The company has risen from that tricky start to become the major US brand in the Euro-dominated climbing/technical backcountry equipment market.

The podcast has a lot of interesting tidbits about marketing, leadership (esp. the difference between leading and managing), compensation (don’t trust the public statistics) and other important business questions. I wanted to to interview co-founder John Bresee for a Startup Review interview a few months back, but we both got busy and never quite connected. The interview covers a lot of the same ground and it’s well worth the 40 minutes spent listening.

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