"Don’t let others convince you that the idea is good when your gut tells you it’s bad." -Kevin Rose, co-founded Digg
April of 2020, one of the most unstable times in American history, a pandemic is bearing down on the country, people are unsure what their lives will look like in a few weeks. People knew that the only thing safe to do was to go outside. Walking, cycling, home gym equipment, camping, and hiking gear was sold out everywhere due to an increase in demand for social distanced activities. This is when I identified a need in the market place. Bikepacking gear.
The short answer: it’s backpacking with a bike.
Longer answer: any bike ride that includes an overnight stay. This could be anything from ultralight singletrack tours to fully loaded dirt road touring (e.g. on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route)
It was the perfect way to fund my new cycling hobby. I quickly got on craigslist and started looking for an industrial sewing machine. Perfect! There was one close to my house in rough shape but my mechanical instincts told me if I could fix a boat engine, a sewing machine was no big deal. I scheduled to take a look at it and convinced my most intimidating friend to come along to encourage no horsing around from the seller. After getting to the gentleman’s house and seeing his entire garage full of thousands of dollars in industrial sewing machines, we were escorted over to the most rundown one of the bunch.
Long story short I paid $250 for a 1959 singer Industrial sewing machine that had been taken apart and put together backwards. The sewing machine repair man told me it wasn't worth the money to put it back together right and the seller was nowhere to be found. This seems like a good point to give up my dream.
This downtime encouraged me to do more research into the outdoor retail industry and ultimately led me to the conclusion that there is almost no money in bikepacking gear. The reality was there is just not that many people spending hundreds on dollars on this type of gear. If you can think about how many people you know that are crossing the country or state on their bike it explains why theres no market. In the case we did continue we would have to fight tooth and nail to win over those customers who are very loyal to their gear because you have to really trust what you have on a multiday bikepacking trip. The market that exists is run by two big players, Ortlieb and Revalate designs which makes it very hard to fit into the industry as a small handmade producer.
Identifying a market fit
Some of the basics of identifying a sound startup idea begin with how hard it will be to compete with the companies who already exist. If the market is worth enough money, but ruled by a few big companies there may be an opening for an entrepreneur with a unique idea. You have to convert the customers from those companies and offer a more customizable experience or product. I’m sure a new player will pop up in bikepacking gear in the future but we moved on to greener pastures. Tune in next Wednesday to find out how we pivoted.
Thank you for reading.
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