Want to get out and go climbing or biking, but having trouble finding people to go with? A group of friends in Denver had the same problem. So they did something about it. The result is Gociety, a social network for finding trail buddies and ski partners. Founder and chief executive Alex Witkowicz told us why they started it and why it's OK to make friends on the Internet.
Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to get rolling?
If you've participated in action sports long enough, you've experienced a time when you wished something like Gociety existed. Your buddy bails last minute on a powder day, you've got a week off work and want to explore, you're new in town, or whatever the case may be. So really I see Gociety as an inevitability for the outdoor adventure crowd. Our startup story isn't all that glamorous—it's taken more than two years of hard work to get this thing moving, and I don't think it ever gets easier. But now we've got some momentum, our members are excited, and the future is promising.
Did people look at you weird when you told them you were trying to make friends on the Internet?
I think the web is just an extension of how our generation interacts with society, and if you're not using it to meet new people, then you're missing out in a big way. I wish we still lived in a world where people made new friends in pubs and bars, but everyone is buried in their smartphone these days, so why fight it? Gociety isn't going to change people's habits, so we're here for those adventurous souls who want to be social and live a little bit outside their comfort zone.
Meeting a group of strangers does take a leap of faith, though, but we're appealing to people who climb mountains and think jumping out of an airplane would be a cool way to spend a Saturday, so meeting people online is exceedingly normal by comparison.
What have been some off the coolest things that have come out of it? Trips? People? Stories?
The community passion for Gociety has been overwhelming. We get emails all the time from people who are simply excited we exist, and that's been really cool to see. We're based in Denver and have a growing presence in Seattle, but just today new members have signed up from Finland, Kuwait, Israel, France, Nebraska, Alaska, Hawaii, and dozens of other places. I have no idea how half of them found us, but I see it as an affirmation of our concept and the message we're putting out there.
I don't think people want to send selfies on Snapchat or buy crap on Amazon until the end of time; they want to do something meaningful with their lives. And I think Gociety can be a path for that. It's amazing – being active and trying new things is a whole lot easier when you've got a supportive community with similar values. It almost becomes hard to say no.
You're moving to new cities (Seattle and Salt Lake City); how are they going to look different from Denver?
Denver has been great to us—it's taken a tremendous amount of trial and error to figure out how to build a community from scratch, and now we're taking all that knowledge and applying it to new cities. So, Seattle is the big test for us right now. We're making a big push there throughout the fall season. The grand vision is that one day, you'll be able to travel to any city in the world and connect with a local Gociety community.
What else is coming down the line?
The Gociety app is coming! iOS in October, Android soon after. Gociety is all about spontaneity, and what better way to support spontaneity than by having the community accessible on mobile, wherever the world takes ya. It's gonna be rad.
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