Bend’s startup community has a new addition in Trailhead Labs, a San Francisco-based duo, whose CTO Jereme Monteau recently relocated here. The company combines an enthusiasm for the outdoors with tech know-how to create a software product that helps public agencies and nonprofits make more accurate, interactive maps of their parks. The end goal: To get more people outside. We get it. StartupBend caught up with Monteau and CEO Ryan Branciforte to learn more.
Startup: Trailhead Labs
Location: San Francisco, Calif. and Bend, Ore.
Founders: CEO Ryan Branciforte and CTO Jereme Monteau
What does Trailhead Labs do?
Branciforte: We’re focused on building innovative technology to get people more connected to the outdoors. Our business is built around a platform called OuterSpatial, which we designed to help organizations manage and publish their outdoor assets so that they and others can build better maps and apps.
How are your clients using the product?
Monteau: Our clients are really demonstrating all the ways you can put our platform to use. For example, we have one nonprofit in Portland that is using the product to aggregate GIS data across dozens of jurisdictions and build more comprehensive maps and an interactive website. We also just launched the Bay Area Ridge Trail map, which details the hundreds of miles of trails overlooking San Francisco Bay.
What sparked the idea for Trailhead Labs?
Branciforte: Jereme and I were friends before we were business partners. I was working for the Bay Area Open Space Council, a coalition of land management agencies and we had developed a print map that illustrated trails that you could access via public transportation. Jereme saw a version of it and wanted to make it interactive. We started to develop a prototype for that for Open Space Council and the Bay Area community.
Monteau: We realized during that process that managing all this information about public lands is a challenge for a lot of organizations — and for consumers looking to find accurate data. There are tens of thousands of groups that work with public lands and they’re using different maps and information sources. People often have to piece it together themselves. We realized that we could pull all this info into one application.
Beyond creating better maps, you mentioned wanting to foster a more open way of publishing public park data. Why is that important?
Monteau: Public agencies aren’t really in the business of building web applications for consumers, but they can make that data easily available. If we can provide a pathway for the public agencies to modernize their content, then other developers will find cool ways to use it to make additional applications.
What’s your previous experience?
Branciforte: My first job was with the National Park Service, and I’ve spent the nearly all of my career working with agencies and nonprofits, mostly using technology and GIS mapping for conservation planning purposes. Lots of my previous work was focused on conservation. I see this as helping people get more connected to the land, which is how people grow to appreciate it — and that drives them to want to protect it. It’s a subtle shift.
Monteau: I feel like I was born into tech. In high school, I was a programmer — and the first employee — for Alaska’s first Internet Service provider. I moved to the Bay Area in 1999 and was part of several startups, either founding them or as early employee. When Ryan and I started work on the Transit and Trails project, that when I saw opportunity to combine my passion for outdoors with tech.
Does your product have any application to the private sector?
Branciforte: We’ve dabbled in that a bit and it’s part of our longer term strategy. I think our product would work for any outdoor brand that has an interest in ensuring their customers have the most updated information about the places where they’re using their products. We’re excited to be the platform that can provide this — there are a lot of possibilities.
Jereme, you just moved here. What brought you to Bend?
Monteau: I’d been in the Bay Area for 16 years. After my wife and I had kids, we started to get excited about exploring another area. We were looking at Portland over the summer, but then we made a stop here first. We wanted to get back to the mountains (Mounteau is from Alaska and his wife is from Santa Fe) and Bend felt really good to us. Within a month we’d packed up and put our house on the market. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find a vibrant startup community here, and a real connection between tech, startups and the outdoor industry.
Lastly, what’s the next year hold for Trailhead Labs?
Branciforte: It’s going to be a big year. We’ve been heavy into customer development and product development over the past year, and now we’re ready to launch a bunch of stuff. We’re acquiring customers — we currently have a dozen — and we plan to grow, refine the produce and develop some new ideas.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].