First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Bryan Roth: All things considered, we are doing well. We are social distancing, wearing masks, and going on daily walks to try to stay healthy and maintain some semblance of normalcy. We’ve cancelled our annual trip to New York to see my family, which is really unfortunate, but we can’t risk exposing my parents, or anyone in my brother or sister’s families. I think we’ve got a good mental perspective these days, but it’s discouraging to see new Covid-19 cases growing nationwide.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Geocaching:
Bryan Roth: I moved to Seattle over 20 years ago after practicing law in New York City. I was working at a dotcom when I met Jeremy Irish and Elias Alvord, my business partners. A friend brought a GPS receiver to work one day and showed it to Jeremy who then went online and discovered ‘The Great American GPS Stash Hunt’. He purchased a GPS, found his first stash, and then decided to build a website to make the game easier to play and more accessible for others.
Jeremy launched geocaching.com in September 2000 as a hobby site for the game and then invited Elias and I to join him and formally start a company. We were all friends, outdoor enthusiasts, and technophiles, so we were very excited to join forces to support a game combining GPS technology and outdoor recreation. Now, almost 20 years later, we remain a bootstrapped business determined to inspire and enable adventure, exploration, and community on a global scale.
How does Geocaching innovate?
Bryan Roth: We pay a lot of attention to the global geocaching community (what they are saying and what they are doing) and focus innovative efforts on addressing their current and anticipated future needs. As a technology-enabled outdoor recreation company, we generally focus our attention on projects that will help inspire people to get outside, exploring and adventuring. We also look for ways to incorporate new technologies into the game where it makes sense to do so.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Bryan Roth: For individuals and families, geocaching is an inexpensive and effective way to get outside and explore while maintaining proper social distance. Countless recent news articles worldwide have focused on this fact, and helped to spread the word. As a result, we’ve seen significant membership growth over the past few months. It feels good to know that we can contribute positively to people’s lives during this challenging period. At the same time, tens of thousands of geocaching events have been cancelled (including our 20 Year Celebration Event) and we miss seeing geocachers in our Geocaching HQ Visitors Center and elsewhere in person.
From a company perspective, it’s been a big transition to move to 100% remote working when we have historically been an office-based organization. It’s admittedly a test we would not have conducted, but we are appreciating the opportunity to learn and reevaluate our policies on remote working, among others. It’s been almost 18 weeks now, with presumably many more to come. We are pleased to see how the company has responded to this new challenge and it will undoubtedly set the stage for significantly more remote working flexibility in the future.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Bryan Roth: I realize that it’s a matter of perspective, but when I look at the extremely difficult choices that many other companies and individuals are being forced to make, I don’t believe any of our choices have truly been difficult. We have been very fortunate and we don’t take it for granted. When remote working and other Covid-related actions went into effect, we told the company that our goal was to look back on this period of time and be proud of the decisions we’ve made. Since that time, we have consistently put the health and safety of our employees and customers first and we have no plans to change our approach.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Geocaching in the future?
Bryan Roth: Getting outside and staying physically active really helps me to maintain positive mental health and attitude. Inspiring and enabling others to do the same feels good, and also helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Business isn’t easy, but having 19+ years of perspective allows me to properly frame the difficult things and understand that moving forward on our path is critically important for the health and wellbeing of our current and future customers.
Our plan for the future is to continue expanding our services and the audience of people around the world who can benefit from participation. At a time in the world where there are many things that divide us, we believe that geocaching can continue to be a driving force in bringing people together and creating a stronger global community oriented around outdoor adventure and exploration.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Bryan Roth: Geocaching is a recreational activity, so arguably any other form of recreation (outdoor or otherwise) could be seen as a competitor. However, we don’t look at it that way at all. We believe that outdoor recreation is good for the world, and that it’s critically important for people to get outside and leave their televisions and couches behind. Geocaching has easily been combined with other activities such as mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, walking, and more.
So, our plan is to continue focusing on our mission of inspiring and enabling adventure, exploration, and community, while celebrating and engaging with complimentary communities and activities that share a similar focus. Going forward, we believe that we must earn the right to be the global HQ for geocaching through dedicated, value-added, generous service to the community and game.
Your final thoughts:
Bryan Roth: There are so many positive reasons to get outside and play, and certainly something for everyone to enjoy. So, please stand up, find the door, walk through it, and keep going. You are not too far from a geocache and a world of adventure, exploration, and more…