The founders of Cairn announced today that they raised $1.7 million to further the growth of the startup, which is innovating how outdoor gear companies introduce products to consumers and receive feedback.
Started in March 2014, the company offers monthly subscription boxes to outdoor enthusiasts. But the vision of its founders, Rob Little and new, full-time CTO and Apple alum Jared Peterson, extends beyond the box and into creating an engaged community and gathering invaluable data for brands.
It’s that notion that caught the attention of Cairn’s first investors, who include Brian Spaly, founder of Bonobos and founder and CEO of Trunk Club; Rick Dalzell, former Amazon SVP and CIO and board member of Intuit; and Jim Collis, private equity partner at Seaport Capital and HydroFlask board member.
“Cairn is a cutting edge brand that is more than a subscription box service. Cairn is changing the outdoor industry and creating a unique community built around innovation, inspiration, quality, data and a love for the outdoors,” Spaly says via the company’s news release.
In an interview this morning, Little and Peterson, former classmates at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said that they focused on finding strategic investors who had experience in related industries, including outdoor gear, data and e-commerce.
“We were interested in people who had relevant experience in our line of business and who were also comfortable serving as advisers,” Little says.
They began officially pitching potential investors in November. Investors were immediately intrigued by Cairn’s high engagement rate with its subscribers and the detailed feedback the company receives, the founders say.
About 40% of Cairn subscribers offer feedback on the products they get inside their Cairn boxes, a rate that’s exceptionally high for the industry. Then of those who do provide feedback, 60% offer additional, written comments regarding the items.
“The subscription box has been the means to an end of building an engaged community,” says Peterson. He’d been moonlighting with the startup since its inception, and left a 10-year career at Apple to join Little in Bend last December.
With his background in IT and business operations, Peterson says there are vast opportunities for Cairn to use technology to leverage that consumer data. His responsibilities include building a technology and infrastructure platform to support the startup’s expansion as well as a seamless user experience.The company has already been providing brands with reports on consumer feedback.
In addition, with the launch of its bigger, more expensive Obsidian box, brands can now introduce larger-sized products to Cairn’s subscriber base. The company did an under-the-radar debut of that box in early November to just its current subscribers. “The response was phenomenal,” Little says. “We sold out before Thanksgiving. From a brand perspective as well as a consumer standpoint, there’s definitely a demand.”
Up until now, Cairn has been truly bootstrapped, using the company’s cash flow to grow from two to 10 employees. Little says the funding will help hire more team members, specifically in marketing, brand relationships and business operations. It will also help Cairn grow its subscriber base and invest in new technology, both subscriber and brand facing.
The company is headquartered at The Bridge, a hub for outdoor gear startups, in southeast Bend, and plans to stay and grow right here in town. Congrats on an action-packed, first two-years! We’re excited to see what the future holds.