The state of software for climbing gyms

15 08 2008

When I started blogging about software for indoor rock climbing gyms back in 2006, there wasn’t much available in the arena of rock gym software. Just two short years later I’m amazed at how much has changed — a number of existing companies have spun off their health club management software into more specialized climbing gym applications, and I’m sure more are on the way.

As someone who has been developing and selling software for climbing gyms for over a year, this is very encouraging for me — contrary to what one might think, competition is good…it means that there’s actually a market for the product or service.

Signs of Growth

My first clue that this was a market searching for a viable product came at the first annual Climbing Wall Association Summit in 2007. During the summit, Vertical Relief Enterprises led a workshop on using their software to manage a rock climbing gym. The eye opening part for me occurred during the Q&A session — I couldn’t believe how many climbing gym managers were dissatisfied, even disgusted, with the software they were using.

Just one year later, at the 2008 Climbing Wall Summit, there was some great constructive discussion among climbing wall managers and representatives from three software companies about the real needs in climbing gym software.

So where do we stand now?

Well, it appears that climbing gym managers now have a few viable options when choosing software to help them manage billing, memberships, check-ins, and wall activity.

The newest entry for commercial climbing gyms is Rock Gym Pro, created by Andy Laakmann from Wyoming. I met Andy at the CWA Summit, and he seems like he has a great no-nonsense mindset about how software should work. I haven’t tried RGP, but I would bet it’s worth a look if you run a decently-sized commercial gym.

The best option for recreation centers and university climbing gyms is ClimbPoint. As the creator, I may be a little biased when gushing about how simple and intuitive it is to use, but others seem to agree.

There are also a number of health club management solutions that some climbing gyms seem to be working with. Among them are Club Sentry, Gym Assistant and Check Free / Aphelion. FirmPOS was also in this boat just a couple years ago, but now seems to have a special version tailored to climbing gyms.

The future

While there are a number of offerings available now, I believe we’ve only scratched the surface in truly streamlining climbing wall management. I expect that ClimbPoint will be on the cutting edge in developing creative solutions for climbing walls, and with the increase in players in this market, I’m hopeful that the real winner will be climbers and climbing wall managers.

Back to school

3 09 2007

After a life-changing summer, it’s now time to head back to school and once again turn my attention toward this software commercialization experiment. I’ve attempted to get back on the blogging horse before, so I’m not going to make any promises in terms of post frequency.

That said, over the next ten months I’ll be completing my Master’s Project at Purdue, which happens to be commercializing climbing wall software. So I would hope that there wouldn’t be a shortage of post ideas. I would expect, though, that there will be a shortage of time.

Before I fill you in on what I’ve been working on over the past couple weeks, I’m going to bring some closure to my trip to Boulder. So for those of you who have been perched anxiously on the edge of your seats, the details will be coming soon!

Allow myself to introduce…myself

8 04 2006

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog perhaps it’s because you know me, or perhaps it’s because 3 dogs software went big time (of course, it’s probably not even called 3 dogs anymore but more on that later). I’m writing this blog to chronicle the journey of an idea to a product, and even more than that: an idea to a business.

I’ve been taking CIT 581U: Technology Product & Service Commercialization with Jim Goldman this semester. In the class we’ve analyzed five phases of the commercialization process, beginning with imagining a product and ending with sustaining growth related to the product. If you’d like to read along, Google Book Search has placed the entire freaking book online. It’s completely searchable and mostly viewable, so it should be a great resource for those of you who don’t want to buy it.

Throughout the course I’ve taken an idea for recreation management software and thought through all five stages, completing marketing and financial plans along the way. Somewhere around the incubation stage, however I realized that recreation management software probably isn’t the way to go. For one thing there are waaay too many kids in the pool, and a lot of them have contaminated the water if you know what I mean.

The basic idea of recreation management software is that recreation centers (in universities or in the community) need a way to keep track of how many members they have, and their members’ activity. As I found out this past week at NIRSA 2006, everybody and their dog has some sort of software to keep track of users, check out equipment, do locker rentals, make sandwiches (or at least sell them), and generate reports on user activity. All of these software solutions are ghetto in their own little way (though on a side note, if I had to choose one I’d probably go with MultiSite Solutions).

Since ditching the recreation management software, I’ve latched onto the idea of software to manage climbing walls and outdoor programs. It does sound like a niche market, but based on the feedback I got at NIRSA I do think there is a market for the software. So I’ll be describing the commercialization process along with other random stuff that I have to figure out as I begin the journey toward “bidness”.

In future posts I’ll be agonizing over a name for this venture, figuring out what phase of this “commercialization process” I’m in, and ranting about financial plans and real options (which are for me right now the astronomy equivalent of super-massive black holes). I’ll also post links to potentially useful stuff, mostly for my benefit (after all, who’s reading this thing anyway?).

So if I haven’t lost you yet, I’m glad you’re here and I hope that we can both learn a lot from this experience.