By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
Dr. Eric Compas and Steve Muller met while in college. The pair shared a passion for geography and outdoor adventure. They developed a lifelong friendship while scaling mountains and battling currents in their kayaks.
Life took them in different directions. Steve relocated to the Rocky Mountains and became a mountain guide. Eric became a professor of Geographic Information Science and began teaching at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Throughout the years, the friends would periodically meet to continue their pursuit of shared adventures.
Several years ago, the men had plans to spend a long holiday weekend in Utah. An unexpected weather system blew into the area and derailed their plans. Determined to salvage the weekend, the men scoured the internet to find hiking trails that met their needs, while avoiding the incoming storm.
The experience was the catalyst for the creation of their company, AdventureCast.
AdventureCast is an app that, Compas said, “combines weather forecasts, long-term climate data, and recreation info to help you find the best time and place for your favorite outdoor activities.”
He adds, “the key is that it’s an integration.” The app does all of the work the men did manually when a storm threatened to ruin their Utah excursion.
“We had a problem on that trip,” Muller said. “We did figure it out. We did land somewhere where we were able to have a great trip, but it was unexpected, and it took a lot of effort. We were both on our computers constantly looking, talking, and texting back and forth.
“The idea was primarily Eric’s. He said, ‘what if we were able to do this a lot faster? We could take all of my knowledge of spatial data analysis.’ We were in college together in geography, learning the same stuff, so I do have some background in that as well. I did that for a living for a while before I became a mountain guide.”
Compas added, “Steve is in a great place for outdoor recreation. He’s got a lot of experience and connections within the outdoor recreation community with his background as a mountain guide. My skill set that I’m bringing to the table is the technology.”
To turn the idea into a reality, the men enrolled in Ideavance, a Center for Technology Commercialization program, which is a part of the Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship in the University of Wisconsin System.
Designed for companies that are “exploring new technology, solution and/or market with business innovation,” Ideadvance requires candidates for the program to include a UW System affiliated alumnus, staff, student or faculty member. The UW System team member does not need to be a founder or hold equity in the company participating in Ideadvance.
The men enrolled in the Stage 1 Ideadvance program in 2021.
“We did the full program with Idella Yamben. I went through customer discovery and did learn how to start a business. They did a great job of getting us through,” Compas said.
The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has been an integral part of the progress made toward releasing the app. The team has worked with the Whitewater Innovation Center as well as the Small Business Development Center. Current students have worked on the company’s strategic marketing plan, as well as collecting data, coding, and working on prototypes.
After completing Stage 1, the co-founders enrolled in Stage 2 of the Ideadvance program. Stage 2 has introduced the budding company to new challenges.
The labor crunch has made it difficult to hire coders, which may delay the release of the beta version of the app. Additionally, Stage 2 Ideadvance funding requires recipients to match the funds received. Compas and Muller are currently investigating which fundraising method will work best for AdventureCast.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with angel and VC folks,” Compas said. “There’s always this chicken or the egg when you’re early in the idea stage. They want to see traction. They want to see a product. They want to see customers before that big influx of capital. So, we’re trying to fill that gap and looking at what we would use to fill that gap. We’re considering regulation crowdfunding. We may do a Reg CF round in the spring.”
Regulation Crowdfunding allows companies to sell securities online through an SEC-registered intermediary, either a broker-dealer or a funding portal. A company may raise a maximum of $5 million a year through crowdfunding.
The AdventureCast team has targeted the Spring of 2023 for the launch of their beta product, in time for the Moosejaw Outdoor Accelerator competition. The well-known competition brings in businesses that cater to outdoor enthusiasts from across the nation. AdventureCast hopes to be chosen to participate in the fourth cohort of the accelerator.
To follow the development of AdventureCast, or to become a beta tester for the app, connect with the company here.