Bend’s startup community has lost one startup — and gained another. Andrea Bouma and Robyn Gelfand, co-founders of Radventure, told us this morning that they’ve officially called it quits on their peer-to-peer outdoor guide company.
“We poured a lot of our heart and soul into it, but in the end we felt like we weren’t positioned to win the battle,” Bouma said. “The question was whether we continue down this path or cut our losses.”
As we all know startups face myriad of obstacles, from running out of money to finding talent to making sure they have a good product-market fit. In this case, the Radventure co-founders say they had a lot of positive reception to their idea, but ended up hamstrung by something much more technical: the need for Radventure guides to obtain special use permits when taking people onto federal lands.
It’s an issue that many tour and adventure outfitters are familiar with, but it posed real challenges to Radventure’s business model, an Uber-style setup that relied on individuals who had local expertise — but aren’t professional guides — offering to take people on adventures for a fee.
Gelfand says that they knew going into it that there would be some barriers with regulations and permitting, which currently doesn’t address the peer-to-peer marketplace. “But that issue consumed all of our time, instead of building the business and finding customers,” she says.
The idea for Radventure came out of the pair’s capstone project for the Portland State University MBA program last January. They incorporated in July, and the company picked up steam after they were selected as one of the five early stage companies to pitch at the Bend Venture Conference.
The cofounders say the decision to stop wasn’t easy. But they don’t regret the experience. “We were both in business school and focused on entrepreneurship,” Bouma says. “But starting a business, you really have learn by doing. It was an emotional rollercoaster and way more work, but the times you’re feeling great really make up for it.”
Other founders take heed. The pair discussed several lessons learned that we all could benefit from including:
- To save money, do it yourself Bouma says learning some skills herself — such as graphic design software programs — instead of paying others can help save time and money. “You have such limited funds at the early stage, so some little hacks can really pay off,” she says.
- Keep an eye on legal fees She also says to be wary of overspending on attorneys in the beginning; being too careful is costly. Bouma paid for a lot of research by attorneys that she already had done. “They confirmed what we thought,” she says, adding that it wasn’t always necessary.
- Take all those meetings Gelfand said that every connection posed a possibility, and following up with people they met was always worthwhile. “Say yes to all introductions and networking opportunities even if you think it was someone who may not impact your business. You never know what ideas they may have for your business, who they’re connected with and who they can put you into contact with.”
- Be open to feedback “You need to have a willingness to listen to coaching and input. Be open to advice and don’t be defensive,” Bouma says.
So Radventure may be down, but these founders are far from out. Bouma has already jumped to another Bend nutrition and food startup called Magpie and Poppy, where she’s co-founder and chief marketing officer. The company makes Lady Balls (yes Lady Balls!) which are an organic, raw “food-grade therapy used to gently help regulate women’s hormones,” according to the company. They contain different seeds such as flax, pumpkin and sesame wrapped in chocolate. So they’re probably also delicious. We’re excited to learn more.
Gelfand is now spending some time with her six-month-old daughter and working ski patrol at Mt. Hood on the weekends. Bouma likes to point out that Gelfand worked her buns off while pregnant, even meeting with investors on the day she had her baby. “Robyn was amazing,” Bouma says. “She’s proof that there’s no reason women can’t be rock stars.”
Last thought: As we all know, this startup stuff isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of courage, commitment, passion, hard work and time. Even when things go right, they can go wrong. There’s no guarantees. It’s exhilarating and also scary as hell. So here’s a toast to Bouma and Gelfand for being gutsy enough to try, smart enough to make to make the tough calls and … likely crazy enough to do this startup thing again. We know we’ll see you soon.