PelotonPosts is a monthly interview with a member of PelotonLabs, a co-working space in Portland’s West End with a mission to connect and encourage people stepping out of traditional modes of employment. This month, Peloton’s founder Liz Trice caught up with artist and entrepreneur Tom Ryan, who is helping to start a peer-to-peer marketplace for guided outdoor adventures called Back40.
Tom Ryan & Back40
Henry Gilbert, who is the founder and a friend of mine. He comes from a background in education and community agriculture. We’ve been working on it for the better part of four or five months and are hoping to launch it by spring of this year. We’re currently spreading the word to potential guides and adventurers.
Your background is as an artist, is this a technically difficult platform to make?
We’ve been able to customize some existing software platforms. There have been some difficult elements, and there are some elements for which we’ve looked to outside help. It’s the most complicated web project I’ve worked on.
Have you gotten any support from the entrepreneurial community? Where are you meeting people?
We’ve gotten a lot of advice from tourism and guide associations, and also people in the tech world. We’ve met a lot of people through Peloton, and Henry worked at a charter school in the mid-coast and has met people through educational associations. We’re working with $25,000 in early funding to really help us improve our product and get the word out.
If someone is a guide and wants to offer an adventure on your site, what should they do? Do they have to be a registered Maine guide?
They can dream up any kind of adventure they want to offer, and we’ll handle booking and payment for that adventure. They need to have whatever licensing is required to carry out their offering. In some cases, they may need to be a Maine Guide, but we hope to work with all kinds of people. Right now, they should contact us or sign up for our mailing list at back40adventures.com.
How big do you hope this will get?
We’re starting with Maine, but hope to keep expanding our reach. The number one goal currently is to onboard a lot of hosts, and ensure that our hosts and trips are high quality.
AirBnB has started to offer trips, but not in Maine yet – is that scary?
No, we’re empowered by that. AirBnb and a lot of other companies are focused on big cities and urban experiences, so we see it as an opportunity to focus on rural and outdoor adventures, and to support the economy in smaller communities.
There’s a small cluster of adventure travel professionals at Peloton – has that been helpful?
Yeah. We talked with Sam Frankel, who heads the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and has been very helpful, and have talked with Ryan Linn who makes a hiking guide app. We’re looking forward to talking to more folks.
You came to Peloton as a freelancer originally, how has your experience changed?
Yes, I came here as a freelancer, and this job came originally as a freelance gig. I’m still doing some gigs on the side. Peloton has given me a space to foster the relationships I’ve made through networking – whether it’s a room to meet in, or a community of entrepreneurs to work with. When customers work with me, they tap into a whole network of people through Peloton. A space like this provides a place to foster the connections I’ve already made and turn them into long-term relationships.
We’re always looking for more connections to the outdoor industry. People can email Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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