Wow, what a wild last couple of months in the tech world. If there's one thing we can take away from the changes happening in organizations or the drama unfolding with tech leadership, it's this - we've reached a critical inflection point. The time is now to do tech differently.
As I mentioned in the first issue of Shipping Impact, this inflection point is the focus of this newsletter. There are organizations and people out there right now making positive waves and doing things differently with an eye toward a more sustainable, equitable, and intentional tech future.
So today, we're focusing on the positive opportunity in the tech and impact world. Let's jump in.
Joining us for a Shipping Impact Spotlight is Kay Rodriguez. Kay is the founder and creator of Outerly, a social discovery app for outdoor activities. Kay's on a mission to help redefine what it means to be "outdoorsy" by improving urban access to nature and connecting people with the information needed to explore their city's green spaces.
I was first introduced to Kay when I went online - after moving to the D.C. area - to check out some camping spots that were an hour or less away from where we live. Then as I started my entrepreneur journey, I reached out to Kay because I wanted to connect with other female founders in the area. Kay helped me get tapped into a growing and absolutely THRIVING diverse group of female founders in the DMV area. So, I am excited to introduce y'all to Kay and Outerly.
Q: Kay, what is Outerly?
Kay - Outerly is a social-first discovery platform, meaning that you can use it to research and plan outdoor activities and find people in your network to go with. Outerly is currently an early-stage startup, and we’ve launched a private beta MVP, which will go public in Washington, DC by the end of the year.
Q: What's the problem you’re solving with Outerly?
Kay - It’s hard to get outdoors when you live in a big city. Right now, there’s no central resource where you can find places to go outdoors and people to go with. Plus, trust in existing outdoor recreation apps has been eroded because of a lack of accuracy.
Q: What prompted you to pursue Outerly?
Kay - I’m super passionate about mental health, and the outdoors has been incredibly important to my own mental wellness. Making the outdoors more accessible - through knowledge and community - gives others the opportunity to reap the benefits of this amazing (and underutilized!) resource.
Q: How are you measuring success and impact?
Kay - Our main, overarching goal is to increase the % of people in the US who go outdoors every week. Right now, that number sits at ~18% of Americans. We can start with our community at Outerly - by encouraging our users to get outdoors weekly (and rewarding them when they do), we can help people incorporate the outdoors into their regular routines. That’s when the power of the outdoors really kicks into gear.
Q: What are you looking for right now when it comes to funding?
Kay - We’ve managed to gain investments from several angel investors who are passionate about the outdoors, but we’re still looking for a few more pre-seed/early-stage investors by the end of the year. We plan to raise a larger seed round early next year.
Q: What are one or two challenges you’ve faced, and how did you overcome them?
Kay - We built an initial MVP over the summer this year that we launched to a small beta group …and it flopped. All was not lost, though! We learned a lot in the process and decided to interview many, many more customers as a result. After these interviews, we quickly realized where we went wrong, and now our new version 2 MVP (in private beta) has seen much more positive feedback.
Q: What are some lessons, takeaways, or tips for other founders working on purpose-driven ventures?
Kay - Talk to customers early and often. I often feel those pesky feelings of fear, uncertainty, anxiety, imposter syndrome, but when I talk to customers, it always brings me back to my “why”. I gain so much motivation, understanding, and compassion by simply talking to the people who need what I’m building, and on the hardest days it can make all the difference.
Q: How do you think we break the mold of the traditional tech startup?
Kay - I’m proud of being a female, POC in a largely male-dominated tech world, but I’m even prouder of our majority female team. Moreover, we’re targeting a customer segment - women ages 30+ - that’s largely been ignored in the outdoor industry. I want to see more diverse groups in tech and startups, and I think that change has to start from within.
Wrapping up - How can people find you and Outerly? (cause y’all know ya wanna…)
Special thanks to Kay for joining us for our first-ever, Shipping Impact Spotlight! 🙏
I've been learning about alternative funding methods for different impact ventures. A few weeks ago, I attended Considered Capital's Masterclass on "How to Fundraise." It was an incredible opportunity - I posted about it here. I've since signed up and started Considered Capital's 6-week course on alternative funding to better understand funding options beyond traditional VC.
I want to highlight three great resources I've discovered so far.
📣 Shout out to Esme, Founder of Considered Capital! If you're interested in Esme's work with Considered Capital, consider attending a future Masterclass or browsing their resource library.
I know, I didn't want to talk about Twitter either but bear with me. This WIRED opinion piece written by Eli Pariser, Co-director of New_ Public, highlights that our time is now to choose a different path forward. To do so, we should take inspiration from the lessons we've learned from thriving offline communities.
It’s time to stop relying on a few billionaires or VCs to make key decisions for billions of people around the world. It’s time to invest in public digital spaces that actually serve the public and prioritize healthy relationships, stable communities and, well, people
This piece was exciting to me because the mission of New_Public and Eli's thesis is one I share, and it's driving my work in the startup I am building. A rise is happening in people consuming smaller, more dedicated, more intentional digital spaces that are decentralized from legacy commercial platforms.
As Eli states, "Private and public funders should invest in smaller and more public governable spaces—the digital equivalents of parks and libraries—built toward specific community goals (for example, slower but respectful local conversation) rather than advertiser engagement."
(Shameless plug... if you're interested in hearing more about what I am working on, fill in this quick survey)
I started the 'impact job board' section in the first issue of Shipping Impact. I want to help folx with tech talent move into more impact-based organizations - from startups to the federal government. Your skills are needed in so many places!
Today I will expand on this a bit more and call out different people and places where you can search for impact-inspired roles, and I'll highlight a few open product roles.
To close out, I want to be helpful. If you're a product person considering what's next in your product career and interested in the impact space, please grab some time with me. I would be happy to set up a meet and greet to discuss what you're looking for next.
Product coaching, in general, is invaluable, but sometimes you just need a peer or mentor to serve as a sounding board or a connection. If I can be that for you, let me know.
If you have a question about shipping products or a topic you’d like to see me cover in Shipping Impact, pass it along! Email me at email@example.com.
Cheers and happy shipping!
Shipping Impact is a newsletter highlighting impact-driven people and ventures and how they approach product and service delivery differently. I provide advice and recommendations for applying product thinking and product management to purpose-driven, for-profit ventures and public benefit efforts.
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