The friendship of two Stanford University undergraduates – and future business co-founders – began with a series of outdoor misadventures.
The first expedition Alex Friedman of Menlo Park and Sasha Landauer of New York shared as sophomores at Stanford was a ‘terrible’ surf trip where Landauer said she almost drowned in Pacifica. Newbies, they chose a tough day to try surfing at Linda Mar and got yelled at by other surfers and roughed up by the waves.
They later went hiking together and one of them forgot a sleeping bag.
It wasn’t until a few years ago, when the two undergraduates became frustrated with the limited options for selling and reselling equipment, that the seeds were planted for what would become Switchbackr, a new plate – online form to sell used outdoor equipment.
At the time, Friedman said he was looking for a place to sell additional camping gear and buy a bike and couldn’t find any online platform where he could easily do both. And Landauer, who worked at Stanford’s climbing gym, said she observed that selling equipment to undergraduates was a messy process that involved sending emails to a large number of students. students asking if anyone was interested in a pair of size 42 climbing shoes, eg.
From there, Friedman began working on the online platform that would become Switchbackr, receiving advice from the Palo Alto-based Pear VC accelerator program for student entrepreneurs.
The week the pandemic sparked shelter-in-place orders and Stanford sent students home last March was the week the company got its first investment, and the two took time off to develop Switchbackr. (Landauer has since graduated from Stanford, so only Friedman can claim Silicon Valley’s illustrious title of founder of abandoned startups, the two joked.)
Fast forward to a global pandemic later, and the startup thrives. It’s a small team of five, including two gap year students who will be Stanford freshmen and a marketing employee.
So far, their business has two components: an online platform where people can sell high quality used outdoor equipment from anywhere, and the “GEARage Sale” program, which is being piloted. locally.
Through the GEARage program, Switchbackr collects high quality used outdoor gear from nearby garages, sells it on the platform, and then ships the items on behalf of the customer. They take a 40% discount from every sale.
Friedman said he wanted to start the pilot in his hometown for several reasons.
Born at Stanford Hospital and a graduate of Laurel, Encinal and Menlo-Atherton High Schools, Friedman said he decided to test the GEARage program in Menlo Park and its neighboring communities, including Palo Alto, Atherton and Portola Valley – representative of a relatively dense population. urban area with a large market of potential vendors and an area where people generally enjoy the outdoors, but not the majority of residents (unlike other communities considered to be Park City, Utah, or Big Sky, Montana). The theory is that if the GEARage model works in the Bay Area, it could work in most metropolitan areas in the United States, they said.
Friedman said a lot of people in the Bay Area are not just outdoors, but very busy. Some probably have high quality hardware, some of which they don’t use frequently. And they’re probably too busy to sell it, but still want to make money from it, so it ends up sitting in the garage.
Instead of bothering to put the item up for sale on Craigslist, coordinate with people to buy it, and haggle over the price, Switchbackr’s GEARage program tries to “eliminate that friction completely,” said Friedman.
“Salespeople get rid of their products and they always make some money from it,” he said.
As a result, he said, the program is helping people clear their garages, keep unwanted items out of landfills, lower the price of outdoor items, and extend the life of equipment.
So far, the local GEARage program pilot has mostly involved Friedman who roamed the Central Peninsula in his Subaru picking up used equipment from all kinds of households, including a Palo Alto grandmother who wanted to consign sleeping bags. that she had bought for her grandchildren, and the parents of one of her classmates at Menlo-Atherton High School who wanted to unload windsurfing cloth.
“It has been incredibly validated,” he said, adding that they were eventually looking to expand to more places in the Bay Area.
Part of their mission is also to reduce financial barriers to enjoying the outdoor experiences, said Friedman and Landauer.
“What we’re trying to do is make the outdoors accessible,” Friedman said. Landauer added that Switchbackr’s blog and communications focus on discussing issues of diversity and inclusiveness and reaching out to communities that are not traditionally represented in the outdoor industry.
They also strive to strike a balance between low cost products and high quality items. Sales are currently limited to items in very good condition, well maintained and not older than eight years. Items sold on the website also come with an “Iron Lotus” warranty which covers items if they do not arrive as described or if they are damaged.
And much of the material for sale comes from outdoor consignment stores across the United States that have an interest in providing good customer service, Friedman said.
Going forward, the duo hope to create a platform that promotes recommerce – a term describing the used item rehab and resale industry – and builds a community, Friedman said. They seek to become a platform where people can resell or rent equipment, but also share trail reviews and outdoor experiences.
“We really want Switchbackr to be the go-to place for the outdoors, period,” he said.
More information on Switchbackr is at switchbackr.com and the GEARage program here.
Email Staff Writer Kate Bradshaw at [email protected]