When one thinks about Internet-based companies, the outdoors rarely comes to mind. You’d probably be more likely to picture a cramped server room than a precipitous ski slope or rows of cubicles before winding rapids. When it comes to startups, it seems to make more sense to picture an office rather than the wilderness.
GearFreedom, which was envisioned and is now being constructed by Veilleux (with the help of a few interns) creates a rare bridge between the digital domain of the tech startup with the visceral world of outdoor athletics. Described on its website as “your gym membership to the outdoors”, GearFreedom hopes to serve as a portal for those interested in outdoor sports (whether they be new or experienced) by which they can rent equipment for their adventures, whether they’re going biking, kayaking, snowboarding or water-skiing.
“For years, I would go skiing, borrowing gear from my friends.” Veilleux explains. “I never wanted to purchase anything because gear is incredibly expensive and I was actually skiing maybe five or six times a year. At the same time, though, I really did want to be able to use the newest equipment. I wanted to rent but I had a lot of trouble researching and locating all-year, all-sport rental places.”
Others in Veilleux’s position will now have that option.
As he explains it, GearFreedom is looking to help those who are interested in participating in outdoor athletics but maybe aren’t looking to participate enough to justify the massive financial expense that skis, a snowboard or a kayak represents.
“Now, people like me can rent the newest, most refined equipment every year, without having to buy new gear each time changes are made or designs are updated,” Veilleux said. “Families who want to travel but don’t want to have to pack up gear for everyone can use the site to research nearby businesses that will rent to them and reserve the gear, then pick it up on the way. As far as I’m concerned, that seems worth the ten minute detour.”
The site will also provide more experienced athletes with a “try before [they] buy” option.
GearFreedom itself will not actually own or sell any of the equipment. Rather, the site will act as a middle-man service, collecting information on all different retailers who do rent gear in the user’s area, as well as allowing users to compare prices and brands.
Through partnerships with various retailers, GearFreedom will give its users the option of reserving what they need for the specific period during which they’ll need it so that they only need to pick up and drop off on the way to and from their adventure.
Though it hasn’t launched yet, the company is already receiving a great deal of attention.
On May 9th, Veilleux won second place in the University of New Hampshire’s Holloway Innovation-to-Market Competition, receiving $5,000. Even more recently, GearFreedom took home first place in the Manchester Young Professionals Network’s 2012 New Hampshire Start-Up Challenge. As a prize, Veilleux received $25,000 (delivered via the much revered avenue of “gigantic check”) as well as various services and benefits totaling another $30,000 in value.
Veilleux hopes to launch in August 2012 in order to test run his company for the fall, working out kinks before winter and the impending public lust for all things skiing and snowboarding comes around.
“I’m so excited to see things working out as well as they are.” Veilleux says.