First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Ankit Jain: COVID-19 has certainly impacted everyone in some shape or form, including my family and me. Fortunately, none of us has been infected by the virus, but we have been impacted economically and in our day-to-day lives. I am coping with the pandemic by staying busy with starting a company from scratch, and by going outside for camping, hiking or road trips. Outdoor recreation is one of the safer activities recommended by experts not only for physical and mental health but also for socializing and traveling. In fact, I did the 170-mile thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail over this summer, along with other smaller adventures.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Pathloom.
Ankit Jain: I am an Aerospace Engineer and an avid outdoors person. I’ve been traveling to the Himalayas with my family since my childhood which led me to become the avid traveler and adventurer that I am today. After completing my Masters, I jumped into the Newspace startup ecosystem by working with a few early-stage startups. After getting significant exposure to early-stage startups, and realizing the current problems that exist with the outdoors trip planning infrastructure and analyzing the market potential, I decided to start Pathloom in 2019. At Pathloom, we’re on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often.
How does Pathloom innovate?
Ankit Jain: At Pathloom, we’re building the first holistic app for easy outdoors discovery and trip planning. Within our app, one can easily find camping facilities or hiking trails based on their preferences by applying filters, apply various overlays and plan a trip. Pathloom is innovating on the experience of how people discover outdoor places and plan their trips accordingly; it boils down to the user experience.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Ankit Jain: The pandemic has impacted us like most other businesses when it comes to remote work, fundraising and other aspects. However, the demand for outdoor recreation has surged through this pandemic. According to a recent report by the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, 80% of Americans have participated in outdoor activities, 32% of them being for the first time. There are a lot of newcomers in this space as the pandemic has forced a shift in travel behavior. At Pathloom, we’re working hard to cater to the needs of the newcomers and experienced outdoors people in their quest for their next outdoor adventure.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Ankit Jain: One of the difficult choices that we had to make was regarding our product launch timeline. With the pandemic and a recent surge in demand for the outdoors, we had to shift our product release cycle to launch sooner. This meant we would have to launch with less features in our private BETA and build out additional features with feedback from our early adopters. At the end of September, we did launch our early BETA and have been seeing users signing up for it. However, we’re in the process of rolling out additional features over the upcoming weeks and months to offer a more comprehensive trip planning experience. The feedback that we’ve already received has helped us align our product features roadmap more closely with the needs of our early adopters.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Pathloom in the future?
Ankit Jain: I have always tried to minimize stress and anxiety by striving for a balance in work and play, but it’s always easier said than done. I’ve tried to get out on a couple of weekends each month to get some relaxation and reflection time which has really helped me deal with the pandemic. As we go forward, I am optimistic about the stickiness of the change in travel behavior through this pandemic, leading more people to recreate in the outdoors, and hence the success for Pathloom.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Ankit Jain: Our biggest competitors are other outdoor activity-related apps like Alltrails and theDyrt. We plan to closely monitor the pivots by our competitors, if any, and learn from them so we can better align Pathloom for success.
Your final thoughts?
Ankit Jain: The pandemic has impacted everyone in some shape or form. At Pathloom, we’re keeping a positive and optimistic outlook for the future, and hope that the casualties from the pandemic diminish sooner than later. We’re here to support those looking to get outdoors through this pandemic and beyond.