Alex Fletcher (BSBA ’19) was well on his way to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a professional athlete when a horrible bicycle crash left him with a broken back and confined to bedrest for months.
During his recovery, he began to feel lost, not sure whether he could compete again. So he read and researched everything under the sun to distract himself. That’s when he found himself going back to his home roots of Silicon Valley and tapping into his interest of startups. His goals shifted from wanting to become a professional athlete to wanting to help other people access outdoor activities.
Combining passions for both the outdoors and tech
“I realized the outdoor industry hadn’t been touched yet by sharing economies like Uber, Airbnb and Turo. I also saw a huge problem, where the guides and workers weren’t getting nearly as much money as the big companies they work for, even though they are the ones providing their expertise.”
As Fletcher observed, “The industry standard for guides and instructors is around $10 to $15 an hour, whereas the daily services they perform can cost [participants] upwards of $700. Guides are then left to rely on gratuities, and many have to get other jobs to make ends meet.”
Fletcher saw this as an opportunity to develop a website, Origin.
“Origin is for people looking to have an authentic adventure experience in a new community, the kind of experience that is possible only through connecting directly with a guide, what Origin calls a ‘Local,’ someone who knows an area better than anyone else. You can have an insider experience and see what’s beyond the crowded trails and summits.”
Origin allows travelers to experience the outdoors just like locals do. People sign up with a local guide to take them mountain biking, hiking, skiing, snowboarding, or even on a backcountry photography session. In a major departure from typical guiding services, which are often restricted to certain areas like ski resorts, Origin’s Locals can show travelers what else a place has to offer.
“It has become common to describe the outdoors today as being ‘loved to death.’ People want to get outside, but they all go to the same places. By showing travelers new places to explore, we can alleviate some of the stresses on the most-trafficked areas.”
The user experience is very similar to Airbnb, and individuals search for activities in the areas where they’ll be traveling.
“Once you create your account, you can browse and book any adventure on the platform. You can also message Locals directly to ask any questions you might have about their adventures.”
The travelers then pay for the Local’s time and outdoors expertise. This is how Fletcher is flipping the typical price structure for the adventure industry upside down: Instead of the bulk of the fee going to corporations, the Locals receive 70% of the total payment, which helps reduce the overall cost and thus enables more people to afford these experiences.
Allowing people to share their passions
The site has been live for a nearly two years. In that time, Fletcher has partnered with an amazing team to help him with marketing and the tech side of things. The team also plans to offer more guide services, in more states, with more locals. As of right now, Origin connects users to guide services in 14 states via 62 locals, but over 400 additional locals across the country have expressed interest in becoming guides through the site.
“Amazing, pristine, undisturbed natural places are out there—you just have to venture out a bit further with the help of someone who knows the way.”