Thoughts from my third summit

5 05 2009

This past weekend I attended the third annual Climbing Wall Association summit in Boulder, Colorado.  My third summit was substantially different from the first two — this time I arrived in Boulder with a company, a product, and a purpose.

I officially formed ClimbPoint, LLC back in January, and there are now about eight universities using ClimbPoint at their climbing wall check-in desks.  My purpose for coming to Boulder this year was to pursue connections with others in the industry who could help me get the word out about easy gym management software for universities and rec centers.

In the past I’ve come to the summit hoping to please everyone, including all sorts of commercial climbing gyms.  This year though, I resolved to disappoint commercial gym owners by letting them know I wanted to totally nail the university market first before adding features useful for their facilities.  I was pleasantly surprised by the reception I received.

It’s too early to tell whether many of the connections that I made this past weekend will result in loads of sales, but I’m psyched that I got in touch with everyone on my list, including various climbing wall manufacturers, hold manufacturers, and key CWA staff members.

To top it off, I met 5 or 6 people from Indiana (?!), two of whom are opening climbing gyms at their universities within the next year.  Should make for a very interesting summer!

 

As always, I’m reluctant to share all the details of my interactions and my strategy going forward — I hope the lack of detail doesn’t sap my updates of any intrigue they might have had, and I will say that I’m considering a more open approach to blogging.  More soon…





Update on my sales machine

3 11 2008

Back in September I set out to build a sales machine with the hopes of selling four licenses of ClimbPoint and attending AORE out in San Diego.  I’m happy to report that while I didn’t meet my sales goal, I did sell enough to finance my trip to San Diego last week.

So for those of you who were anxiously waiting for the big October announcement that I wrote about a few weeks ago, that was it 🙂

More info on the conference and the sales machine coming soon…





Recap of the CWA Summit

29 05 2008

At the beginning of this month I was in Boulder, Colorado for the second annual Climbing Wall Association Summit. Last year most of my goals for the summit were chosen to help me understand the climbing industry and the potential market for climbing wall management software. I didn’t yet have a commercial product ready to sell, but I was interested in finding out if anyone else might buy it.

This year I went all set to do some selling, with business cards in hand featuring a sweet logo and a link to ClimbPoint.com. While I didn’t settle on a price point until my first night in Boulder (more on that in a future post), I still felt prepared to offer an ‘official’ copy of my software to those who were interested — and I was even recognized as a vendor at one of the workshop sessions.

My primary goal for the conference this year was to decide how I wanted ClimbPoint to grow over the next year. Should it begin incorporating features that commercial gyms need, or should it grow into a ‘perfect fit’ for climbing wall management at universities and community centers? My perception prior to the conference was that the commercial climbing gym market was substantially larger than the university/community center market, so I was prepared to begin wooing commercial gym owners.

However, I ended up meeting quite a few climbing wall managers from universities, and all of them sounded like perfect candidates for ClimbPoint. They were also interested in trying out the program right away, and thought it could be immediately useful at their climbing wall. This was in sharp contrast to many commercial gym owners, who were only willing to test the program once it could track and complete sales.

I learned a lot about the state of climbing wall management software, which I hope to post about soon. I also met some great people, got to do some climbing in Boulder, and to top it off won a pair of FiveTen climbing shoes at the closing raffle!

Even though I deliberated for a while about going, I’m glad I made the trip this year. I feel like I have a clear picture of where I want to take ClimbPoint in the near term and am confident that the niche market I’ve chosen will at least allow me to break even for the first year.





Going to Boulder (again)

22 03 2008

After some deliberation I’ve decided to attend the second annual Climbing Wall Summit in Boulder, Colorado. I got a lot out of the last conference, and I’m looking forward to this one because of the opportunity to speak with Dan Hague from Climbing Wall Management LLC. Dan helped write the third edition of the CWA Industry Practices, which I reviewed when brainstorming potential features, and I recently sent him a 30 day trial of ClimbPoint.

At the conference Dan will be presenting a workshop on choosing climbing gym software, so I’m looking forward to learning a thing or two about what commercial gyms are doing in that area. I also plan to travel out to Boulder prepared to sell a few copies of ClimbPoint to climbing wall managers at university recreation centers. I can’t wait to make the trip, and I’ve got five weeks to prepare and come up with some objectives for the time out there.

On another note, I got a stellar deal on airfare and hotel from Travelocity. I generally use Farecast to get a feel for the best time to buy (which from my experience is about six weeks out), and this time I tried bundling hotel and airfare together to save some money. To top it off, I got a nonstop flight from Indy to Denver in the middle of the day. I’m psyched.





Deliberating about the CWA Summit

9 03 2008

Last year I received a scholarship to attend the CWA Summit in Boulder, Colorado. This was before I had a version of the software to sell, and so after I freaked out about going I came up with a few goals for my time there.

Looking back on the summit, it didn’t really give me any sales leads, but it did give me a chance to get some feedback on my product from EntrePrises USA. I also spoke with the CEO of EntrePrises, Eric Meade, and got a feel for the potential market size I’d be catering to. Overall it was a great experience, and with the scholarship I only had to pay about $500 out of pocket to go.

So here’s the dilemma: The 2008 CWA Summit is going to be held on May 1-4, and the scholarship application was released just a few days ago. Now that I have a finished product (and a demo version) to show off, I’m slightly inclined to go again to see if anyone wants to buy it. But at the same time, I feel like I already have quite a few contacts in the climbing community…and I’m not looking forward to spending the cash on airfare and a hotel stay for the weekend.

It’s true that if one person decides to buy the software as a result of the trip, then I’ll pretty much break even or come out a little ahead (that gives you an idea of what I’m planning to charge). But what do you think? Is it a no-brainer?

I think I do want to go but am a little hesitant to commit — though I need to submit my application in the next day or so to get the best shot at a scholarship.





Fund Raising Boot Camp at Purdue

28 09 2007

Earlier this week I noticed that Purdue’s Center for Entrepreneurship is hosting a ‘boot camp‘ for two days on October 8 and 9. The theme of the event is “Real World Advice for Starting a Company”.

While I’m not in need of funding, some of the topics that will be covered on the first day look pretty interesting. According to their website, topics include company formation, the importance of human capital, selling your idea, sources of capital, and company valuation.

The second day is designed as a workshop for entrepreneurs who are preparing to pitch their idea to potential investors. The event is free, which makes me slightly more inclined to go check out the first day.

UPDATE: I didn’t go, but would love to hear from others who attended…





Boulder Recap

12 09 2007

Before arriving in Boulder for the Climbing Wall Association Summit I came up with a few objectives. While I wasn’t able to accomplish all of them, I think I made progress on the most important ones. Here’s a recap:

1. Understand the Climbing Industry
There were a number of great workshops related to starting and managing a climbing wall which gave me a window into the world of climbing wall management. The presentation given by Dan Hague of Climbing Wall Management (yes that’s a company) was especially helpful. He covered the latest version of the CWA Industry Practices, which is a set of guidelines and best practices in climbing wall management.

One of the drivers of these industry practices and other guidelines is a fear of government regulation. If the primary focus of the summit was on best practices, government regulation was definitely a close second. While I don’t pretend to totally understand this issue, a few workshops on regulations and the legal responsibilities of climbing wall managers were pretty enlightening.

2. Make contacts
This was one of the primary objectives of the conference, so it was really easy to meet a lot of people associated with the climbing industry. There ended up being at least 200 people at the conference, and I was able to get well acquainted with ten or so. I did hand out a few business cards, though not as many as I could have due to the then ongoing quest for a name. I ended up printing business cards for Chisld and HangDog. In the end, I handed out my Purdue business card to most people.

3. Get feedback on my software
I wasn’t able to cobble together a full demo version before heading to Boulder, but I was able to discuss the possibility of partnering with a few sites to test the software. I also talked with a few managers about the concept of climbing wall management software. With few exceptions, everyone responded positively to the idea and chipped in with a few applications of the software that I hadn’t thought of. Quite a few were ready to buy now, and I told them that I’d be in touch once I was ready to begin testing the software.

After everything was said and done, I did end up sending a demo version to a climbing wall manufacturer — but that will be the topic of another post.

4. Look at the Boulder Rock Club, and pick their brain
No dice here, though I did find out a little bit about their management practices second-hand. So I’m still in the dark about how the largest climbing gym in the US manages their operations, but then again they’re not who I’ll be targeting initially.

5. Find out what’s already out there
I was really able to unearth a great deal of information related to the solutions that climbing wall managers are currently using (or trying to use). It seems that the folks at Vertical Relief Enterprises are the only ones at present with a product specifically geared toward climbing walls — but the reviews I’ve heard have been mixed, and I think there’s room for improvement.

Many managers that I spoke with were using one of a few recreation management software systems. FirmPOS seemed to be a popular choice, as did CheckFree/Aphelion. Other software that was mentioned was ClubRunner, FitnessTrax and GymAssistant. One owner was using QuickBooks POS for everything and was desperate for something better. So to summarize, I didn’t find a product that was already doing what I want to do with ClimbPoint — and that’s a good thing.





Goals for the CWA Summit

12 04 2007

About a month ago I sat down and thought through what I wanted to accomplish by going to Boulder (this, of course, happened after I freaked out). My top 5 are below — they haven’t changed much in the last month, and I’m posting them here mainly for reference.

1. Understand the Climbing Industry
Despite my chiseled physique and spiderman-like climbing ability, I really know very little about the climbing industry. The knowledge that I do have comes from my friend Mark, who manages the climbing wall at the University of Kentucky.

But I don’t just need the scoop on the climbing industry in general; what I really need is some beta on climbing wall management: what it is, who’s involved, what the challenges are, and potential applications of technology. So my goal is to get a clear picture of the needs in the industry, especially as it relates to climbing wall managers.

2. Make contacts
This one’s a no-brainer. There will be around 100 people at this conference, and one of the stated conference objectives is to build community. If I’m able to meet a few people who are passionate about climbing and willing to guide me in refining the software, I’ll consider this one a success. Maybe I’ll even meet a few people who are interested in testing the software at their facilities.

3. Get feedback on my software
Although my software doesn’t yet have a name, it is complete enough for another facility to pick up and use (well, I would need to make a few small changes…). This is because the software was custom crafted for the needs of the University of Kentucky. The program logic, data structures, and icons were all chosen to fit that particular climbing gym and university environment.

I know the application needs to be much more flexible than it currently is if anyone is going to pay money for it. What I don’t know is what parts of the application need to be flexible. Do people need to be able to take payments? Does everyone use ID card readers? How do people certify climbers?

4. Look at the Boulder Rock Club, and pick their brain
This is one of the things I’m looking forward to. The BRC was one of the first climbing gyms in the country and boasts a massive 10,000 square foot facility. I don’t know what sort of software they use to manage their operations, or what they like/dislike about it, but I’m sure they have some opinions. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk with one of the managers there to find out what’s on their wishlist for a climbing wall specific management solution.

5. Find out what’s already out there
I’ve only talked briefly with a few climbing wall managers, so I’m in the dark about what the popular membership management solutions might be. I know from my own research that there are quite a few tools out there for fitness centers, but I have yet to find something for climbing gyms specifically. My guess is that climbing gym managers cobble together their own solution using a couple of the available software tools.





I must be crazy

13 03 2007

It’s been about ten days since I accepted the scholarship to attend the CWA Summit, and I’m beginning to think I’m nuts for going out to Boulder. It seemed like a no-lose situation before (and I think it still is), but now I’ve sunk a decent amount of cash into a hotel and airfare. Now I’m really committed.

These uncertainties I’m sure will pass as soon as I figure out exactly why I’m going. One thing that is certain, however, is that I won’t be going out there trying to sell my finished product. In fact, I don’t plan to sell anything. At the moment I’m thinking that the conference could be beneficial in helping me understand the potential for the idea (in terms of both product scope and market size). But for now I’m going to take another few days to freak out before I try to do any planning…





Going to Boulder

4 03 2007

I received word back this weekend that I’ve been awarded a scholarship to attend the Climbing Wall Association Summit & Managers’ Symposium. I was surprised to hear back so quickly (the deadline for submitting an application was last Wednesday), and was even more surprised to discover that only 150 people will be attending the event. This should be a great opportunity to connect with some prominent people in the industry, and so now I need to figure out why exactly I’m going.

The Summit runs April 12th – 14th, so I’ve got some time to figure out what my objectives for the time will be. I do know that I want to have a name and website for my climbing software ready by then. I talked with Mark this weekend about a potential name for the software, and we came up with about 10 potential candidates. Among my faves are DeskBelay, GymRat, and DataBetaBase (Beta is a climbing term for information).

I’m planning on reviewing the list of candidates according to the guidelines in step 1 of the 25 steps to starting an ISV. I’ll post an update on the name (and maybe even have a vote!) in the next week or so.