Interview: Nick Wilder's Return to Mountain Project
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Climbing partners Nick Wilder and Andy Laakmann started Mountain Project in 2005. The site was an extension of Myke Komarnitsky’a ClimbingBoulder.com, which had been documenting rock climbs since 2000. Komarnitsky was starting grad school and helped import his data to the new site. Since then Mountain Project has grown into the definitive resource for climbing route information in the US.
Mountain Project expanded into other sports in 2012, under the Adventure Projects umbrella. Wilder recalls mountain biking the same old local trails with a friend and saying “I wish we had a Mountain Project for biking!” This lead to the launch of the MTB Project platform, which the team would later expand into “Project” sites for trail running, hiking, and backcountry skiing. In 2015, REI purchased the Adventure Projects network.
On Monday, May 18, Wilder announced on the Mountain Project forum that he is back at the helm of Adventure Projects. In a statement to Climbing, REI explained their decision to part ways with the brands:
“The COVID-19 outbreak has had significant impacts on our business and prompted us to reevaluate our priorities across the co-op. As part of this effort, we chose to wind down the Adventure Projects platform and its digital assets. While we continue to see the potential in Adventure Projects, the platforms are simply not among our highest priorities moving forward. As we made this difficult decision, we also learned the original founder of Adventure Projects had a strong interest to reengage. We are so pleased he has taken the resources over and will foster these outdoor communities into the future. “
I spoke to Wilder about the new development.
What lead to the initial sale to REI back in 2015? Had you been looking to sell the Adventure Project sites?
Nick Wilder: We weren’t looking to sell it, and didn’t talk to anyone else about selling it. But I’ve admired REI for a long time. They do a lot for local non-profits (and don’t get enough credit for it), and they treat employees really well. It was a great honor to be part of REI for a while.
REI was looking to expand in the area of digital resources that help their customers get outside more and many folks, from employees in the shop to the executive suite, used our products personally, so it was a solid fit right from the first meeting.
Were you involved with the Adventure Project sites during REI’s ownership?
I was an REI employee, except for the last 12 months. In those months, I’ve become addicted to paragliding, in addition to the other sports we cover. I was about to start building a new product, but when this opportunity came up I couldn’t pass it up. I missed the communities and having fun and popular products to work on, so I’m glad to be back.
You mention in your announcement on the forum that REI had a positive impact on Mountain Project. What did they contribute?
They really stabilized the platform and helped make sure it’s going to run well for a long time. We rebuilt 12-year-old code from scratch, made it much more scalable, mobile friendly, etc.
Now, going forward, is REI retaining any ownership?
They have been very supportive of the communities and really did a great job to make sure they will continue without REI, but they are not involved anymore. I own Adventure Projects along with a few other past employees of Adventure Projects and REI.
What does this development mean for Mountain Project users?
Not much in the short term, but we have an exciting partnership to announce in a few weeks. Sorry, no details for now.