Startup Tour Profile: Active Junky

by Nicole Relyea
May 10, 2013

Active Junky's founder and CEO, Kevin McInerney, chatted with us about his company and passion for outdoor sports. 

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ActiveJunky.com is an online shopping community that rewards and incentivizes users for their passion for gear and the outdoors. By simply clicking through ActiveJunky.com to the online store of their choice before making a purchase, users earn cash back rewards on every gear purchase they make. Users can also browse, search and compare prices and reviews on all of the best outdoor gear products available.

Active Junky is partnered with over 250 of the top outdoor gear retailers, including REI, SportsAuthority, Patagonia, and UnderArmour, as well as smaller and local companies such as Outdoor Divas and the Wilderness Exchange. 

 

Where did the idea for ActiveJunky come from? 

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Originally, I wanted to start an outdoor gear retailier like a Christy Sports, just an online shop to sell gear. After a bunch of research, I noticed that there were hundreds of online stores that sold pretty much all of the same products at the same prices, and none of them differentiated themselves much. There was a real need for a company to act as an intermediary between the millions of consumers and the retailers that are selling this stuff.

We initially developed a viable product, a price comparison tool. Then we went out and raised some money to build this cash back tool. Our initial round of funding came from Galvanize – we were one of the first companies that Galvanize invested in. Then we launched the cash back program in August of 2011. We’ve really been building on it ever since. We’ve had revenue ever since the day we launched.

 

Obviously landing that funding was a big deal. What have been some of your other successes or turning points? 

After that first holiday season right after we launched in 2011, we knew we had something. It was that moment you see on TV where people are sitting around and watching their online business and all of the suddent he numbers go through the roof. Then in 2012 we got over the hump where we knew we weren’t a struggling idea anymore, but a viable business that was not only revenue positive but growing month over month. 

 

Any bumps in the road to this point? 

The largest challenge for us is growth. We have a produt that is extremely valuable for millions of consumers and we need to grow fast. We want to grow faster and faster month over month, and that’s getting harder to do.

One of the hardest parts is communicating what we do to the consumer. We’re doing something that no one has done in our vertical and not a lot of companies have done in general – consumers are very confused by it. It’s very hard to communicate the value to our customers. The consumer’s first thought when they come to our site is usually "what’s the catch?" So we're tryingt o figure out how to overcome that barrier. 

 

What's coming up over the next year?

We're working on building out a way that nonprofits and causes can use our site to fundraise. We want to give people options about the cash back - currently, they just receive a payment quarterly. But it would be really cool if just by shopping, people could donate the money they would otherwise get back to a cause. So, we're working on partnering with some outdoor and environmental causes right now. 

We're also looking to bridge the gap between what we're doing online and brick and mortar storefronts. We'd like our users to be able to go to REI or one of our other partners and shop and still be able to get the cash back. 

 

How big is the company currently? Are you looking to grow?

We have five full-time people at the moment, and we'll probably add a couple more to the team this year. 

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What advice do you have for other companies who are just getting going?

Number one – you have to be passionate about your idea and what you’re pursuing. There are times you’re going to want to quit, but if you have that passion for whatever you’re building or whatever your idea is, that will be your fuel when you’re at that point.

For me it was easy because we’re in a pretty fun space. Just knowing that I have passion for outdoor sports and this industry really kept us moving this whole time.

This goes for hiring, too. As you look to bring on other members to your team, make sure that they have the same - if not more - passion as you do. That’s really a big part of the "secret sauce." There has to be that passion, from you, all of your cofounders, employees,and even your investors. We have extreme passion for our industry, and I really think that's what has made us so successful. 

I would also say find a mentor, somebody that can help push you to do it. Somebody who’s been down the road before, who has made mistakes, who can make introductions for you. It’s key. To be honest, the people that don’t have that struggle. Whether its an investor or a friend who’s built businesses, that person is invaluable.
 

So what outdoor sports are you most passionate about?

I'm a big skier. I grew up being a ski racer, and then went to DU. I moved to Calfiornia for a job for a while, but the whole time I just really wanted to move back to Denver. I love Colorado, I  love Denver, I'll be here forever.

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Is that why you're based in Denver? 

Yes, but there are lots of great reasons for us to be here. Colorado is amazing. For us it’s super relevant. Our content guys can walk out of the office and in an hour be at a resort filming a pro skier. Having that acess is a huge advantage for us.

Now that Galvanize has spearheaded this startup movwment, it’s only helping us and keeping us here. The startup commuity that’s in Denver is growing – that’s why we like being here specifically. 
 

What do you see are the greatest needs of Denver's startup community? What do we need to do to grow it? 

We need more money paying attention to what is happening in Denver. We've been seeing a lot of very promising companies that don’t have access to capital. Investors around the country need to come visit Denver, visit Galvanize, and just see what’s happening. What’s being built, the type of people that are here, there are some really great investments to make, but the capital environment is just not that favorable here.

The folks that have come to visit, recognize what’s happening and are taking action.

 

Learn more about ActiveJunky in their company profile, on their website, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @activejunky. If you're an outdoors enthusiast, sign up! 

This week we also visited Prosperent and MedPassage. Learn more about Built In Denver's Startup Tour and read profiles from past weeks here

 

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