Revolution! Maybe....
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Gear That Matters: A Call to Action
To put it in inappropriately Marxist terms, the 'relationship between capital and labor' in the outdoor biz is a preoccupation of mine.

It began when I saw Sierra Designs barely survive the ravages of a succession of Harvard MBAs. An obsession with short term numbers led to a series of bone-headed decisions and SD shrank by 35% in a single year.  

And then it got worse!
(Continued after video.)
Click to view video: Wefunder - Becoming a Nation of Owners
Worse, a failure to focus on core design values left SD vulnerable, with a clothing line split between stale insulated clothing and a color blind attempt to break into main stream ski (hey it was a big market.)  De-evolution continued for the next three years.

Things only started to turn around when corporate headquarters decided we were hopeless and started ignoring us. Left unmolested we could return to the thing that actually counted: creating gear that mattered to our customers.

Quite frankly, it wasn’t even that. We typified our customers.

We were creating gear that mattered to us!

At MHW the relationship between the money side and the core brand values (which did include having a profitable business, btw) was somewhat better but still often suffered along the same fracture lines.

The thing is, outdoor equipment brands are rare beasts. Tents, for example, are a 50,000 year-old technology. Innovation can’t happen every quarter. Market niches are captured when a brand can introduce something truly new, not when an annual report is due. The long view is key.

Hence, though it seems an odd statement, as best I can tell, the successful outdoor brands are the visionary brands.

Yesterday, Monday, 5/16/2016, a change in stock offering regulations could shift the balance for new outdoor companies toward visionary brand building. A new regulation, JOBS Act Title III, allows everyday outdoor enthusiasts to fund the growth of outdoor brands.
  
Today a switch got flipped and our customers can become the money people with many small investors underwriting brands they love.

The JOBS Act requires that all such investments happen through ‘kickstarter for equity’ portals. There will be a number of these portals opening up over the next few months.

The one I’m familiar with is Wefunder.com. It’s live now and has two familiar brands: SlingFin and the GoLite reboot, My Trail. Slingfin has more info about this on their blog.

My hope is that we will all at least consider participating.

A significant difference from traditional investing is that a company can offer perks.

If you’re thinking of getting a tent, here’s a good way to get one at a significant discount with some equity thrown in for good measure. If you’re thinking of adding startups to your investment portfolio, here’s a good way to do that at precisely your comfort level and get great gear for yourself or buddies, too.

The perks, to my mind, are a key element in aligning all stakeholders. They will appeal to a particular range of potential investors...and those are the folks we want!

Lots of investors (big or small) will push the outdoor brands towards the top of their charts…and might even be newsworthy. At Wefunder there’s great potential for a virtuous cycle where more brands attract more supporters which attract more brands which attract more supporters and so it rolls.

Check it out.

Best,
Al

 Disclaimer. I have a small investment in and whole lot of love for SlingFin.
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