Reflecting on Three Months of Building on the Shores of Lake Michigan

By Rob Auston on August 29th, 2014 / Comments

I grew up in Battle Creek, MI, and went to school at the University of Michigan, but after graduating and leaving, I never imagined I would back in Michigan for an entire summer. I definitely never thought I’d be living two blocks from Lake Michigan in Harbor Springs working on a company I started. You never know where your life will take you, but the important thing is to make the most of those experiences.

A bit more our company. Our mission at outdoors.io is to make it easier for people to have outdoor experiences. What we do is connect people who have outdoor gear & local knowledge with those who don’t. We are kind of a combination of Airbnb and uberX for the outdoors.

We are based in Denver, CO, but early this year we realized that we needed some help to get us through our proof of concept stage. We applied to a handful of accelerator programs and were fortunate enough to get selected to join a few different ones. The thing that attracted us to Coolhouse Labs was the idea of getting away from everything and just focusing on building our product.

Twelve weeks later we are now at the end of the program with two demo days coming up in Harbor Springs on Aug. 28th and Chicago on Sept. 4th. Overall after you finish an accelerator the question you have to ask yourself is simple: Has your business been accelerated? We have certainly had some challenges, but at the end of the day the answer to that question is yes.

The biggest challenge was building a business in Denver from 1300 miles away in Harbor Springs.  We could have grown more if we had stayed in Denver, but we still managed to double revenue each month. More importantly, our next stop is San Francisco and we now understand what it takes to launch and operate a market where we don’t have a day-to-day presence.

As an avid runner and cyclist, Northern Michigan also provided some great opportunities to ride along Lake Michigan, run for miles on the Little Traverse Wheelway, or camp out on the shores of Lake Superior. I believe that experiences are the most important things in life and these are all things that I could not have experienced if we had stayed in Colorado.  

If you have the opportunity, I definitely recommend the accelerator approach and if you leave home to do it, just embrace the opportunity. Just don’t forget to get out of the office every now and then to explore.

Check out more on Outdoors.io to see for yourself how their company has jump started. 

About the Author

Rob Auston

Rob Auston is the founder of outdoors.io. Before starting outdoors.io, Rob worked at Accenture, Exclusive Resorts, & Vail Resorts. Rob resides in Denver, CO and is an active runner and cyclist who regularly participates in events ranging from marathons to endurance mountain bike races. He is currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall.