Source: 2021 Outdoor Participation Trends Report, commissioned by The Outdoor Foundation
Runway for growth
It’s often said nowadays that the fitness industry has become largely digitized. And if you think about sports such as running and cycling, you might be right - performance-based apps like Zwift and others do all point in that direction.
But you shouldn’t confuse fitness with outdoor recreation. There is crossover, yes, but one of the key differences between the two is that the outdoor experience market is only in the very early innings of digitalization. The space is a long way behind fitness on the penetration curve and hence represents a market that is not only growing today, but also one that has huge potential for faster, continued growth over the long-term, driven by the growing adoption of wearable devices that allow consumers to track their activities conveniently.
We know both categories well. In 2020 our growth strategy invested in Zwift, the global online fitness platform for cyclists and runners, and today we are working with management to help scale the company’s global expansion to become the leader in at-home fitness subscription services. And crucially, the investment also allowed our team to delve into the key structural drivers of the fitness and outdoor recreation markets and discover the significant opportunity that exists today.
The latest investment from our growth fund – AllTrails – sits firmly within the outdoor recreation category, and one of its key USPs is that it offers more than just performance tracking. AllTrails allows consumers to find their next adventure with ease by browsing and filtering its proprietary database of more than 300,000 trails globally. The businesses serves to democratize our public lands and encourage people from all corners of the earth to socialize outdoors with family and friends – it’s just as much about the social and mental health benefits as it is the physical ones.
Reconnecting to nature with AllTrails
AllTrails provides a digital guide for those looking to get out and enjoy outdoor recreational activities. The business was founded 11 years ago in San Francisco and has built a mobile app and website for hiking, biking, climbing, skiing, and other outdoor activities. Today, the company is home to the largest collection of digital trail guides across the world, with over 300,000 hiking, running, and mountain biking trails in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, and a global community of outdoor enthusiasts.
The business currently serves over 30 million free and paid subscribers. Its ‘freemium’ service gives users access to a database of trail maps and its premium version offers user-generated ratings, reviews and photos. We love that it is a distant vertical leader within its niche in each geography, but with a sizeable and truly global addressable market – after all, everyone can be a hiker!
But while the basic service that AllTrails provides is access to the largest trail library in the world, the most important value it delivers has to do with kindling the spirit of adventure, the delight of discovery, and the hiking experience itself. With AllTrails, users can share what it feels like to hike a particular trail by leveraging tens of millions of photos, reviews and ratings globally which provide real-time feedback on highlights, conditions and potential risks.
Through crowdsourcing and a vision to foster happy, healthy communities, it encourages people to become more active, to spend more time outdoors and to lead healthier, more balanced lives. AllTrails is fundamentally about building awareness of our place in the natural environment and a constituency for its preservation, not to mention the safety benefits it provides users with offline map functions and live weather updates.
A management team with the right mission
Outdoor recreation, however, is only one part of the AllTrails story. Driven by the visionary leadership of Ron Schneidermann, AllTrails’ CEO, and his team, the company is serious about protecting our environment too. It partners with various organizations that are wholly devoted to improving the natural environment, including:
- One Tree Planted: Employee birthdays and new subscribers are celebrated with tree plantings. The company's goal for 2022 is to plant one million trees!
- 1% For The Planet: AllTrails gives back 1% of its gross revenue to organizations that champion conservation and help protect the wild places we enjoy.
- Leave No Trace: The company works closely with Leave No Trace, Center for Outdoor Ethics to help preserve outdoor spaces and educate trail goers on safety and responsible recreation practices.
Beyond supporting the environment, AllTrails recognizes the social impact of connecting with the outdoors. The business was founded with the principal belief that everyone can gain tremendous benefits from engaging with nature – again, anyone can be a hiker! Indeed, research has continuously supported outdoor recreation as being tied to improved mental health and wellbeing.
Research is one thing, but what stands out for us is the clear evidence that Ron and his team truly believe in not only the product, but also the ways they can give back to both people and the planet. Their passion to do well by doing good is unbounded – this is the kind of management team we love to back.
Transforming the market for outdoor recreation
The investment in AllTrails will help accelerate the release of new and meaningful features over the next year, making the value-add of the app even greater. The investment will facilitate the introduction of new product features and a vertical social community for the outdoors to connect users to their friends and the growing hiking community.
And, crucially, our proven expertise in helping businesses expand internationally to new geographies such as Europe and Asia will enable the business to extend its reach around the world and unlock huge potential on a global scale. AllTrails is already the clear market leader in the U.S. – now is the time to build on its amazing product and serve even more hikers globally.
Beyond that, the AllTrails management team is mission- and vision-driven. They want to do the right thing and they want to find the right partners. They realize that a passion for the outdoors ultimately yields a passion for conversation. They’re focused on the outdoor experience and they want to build an essential product that encourages everyone to become healthier, better connected and to spend more time outdoors.
This is a really exciting time – stay tuned for more updates on our partnership!
With our support, AllTrails will:
- Become an essential product for all hikers around the world
- Build the definitive vertical outdoor community, connecting enthusiastic trail goers from all countries through an ever-growing library of user-generated content
- Through its global trail library, help users and communities spend more time outdoors, an invaluable investment in their own physical and mental health
- Further develop its approach to ESG and Sustainability