Outerly represents a fusion of passion, innovation, and a profound love for nature. It’s a unique social network that intertwines people with nature and each other, opening doors to communal outdoor experiences. Our conversation with Outerly founder and CEO Kay Rodriguez unveils the inspiration derived from her venture, Urban Outdoors, and how her enlightening travels around the globe have imbued her with the resilience and creativity pivotal to Outerly’s conception. Journey with us as we explore Kay’s ambitious aspirations for Outerly, its role in combating loneliness, and its endeavor to redefine our interaction with the outdoors.
In your own words, how would you describe Outerly?
Outerly is a social network that connects people to nature and to each other.
What inspired you to take the leap and start Outerly?
In 2020, I founded Urban Outdoors, which helped urban dwellers find outdoor activities in their cities via written articles. We grew that audience to ~250K readers a month, and we’d constantly get emails from them saying, “I want to go to these places and do these activities, but I don’t know anyone who will go with me.”
After hearing this repeatedly, we researched and realized that no one is solving this issue at scale. So, after hearing the same problem statement many times over, we decided to get to work and solve it ourselves through Outerly.
You took a year off to travel the world before founding Outerly. Can you tell me about how your travels shaped who you are as a leader and founder? Did this experience influence how you built your product?
Many people consider long-term travel a “career break,” but I definitely don’t. I learned more about resilience, grit, and resourcefulness while traveling than in any other role or company I’ve worked at.
Traveling solo in places where I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t speak the language required me to get super creative about getting from point A to point B, all skills critical to the success of Outerly. I also learned to celebrate the highs AND the lows…some of my worst challenges while traveling are now some of my best stories.
Regarding product building, traveling taught me that everything is a hypothesis. There’s a lot of value in being flexible and nimble when you miss a flight, get pickpocketed, or face unexpected circumstances. This hypothesis-driven approach has shaped how we build our product, using customer feedback and behavioral data to change course and remain as flexible as needed.
How did the pandemic amplify the need for a platform like Outerly?
During much of the pandemic, the outdoors was the ONLY place where people could safely socialize. Many people took to the trails, the parks, and the waterfront to get a break from the inside of their homes and connect back to their communities and cities. As a result, the outdoor industry saw a HUGE uptick in participation during the pandemic, and those participation numbers have continued on into 2023.
Only 55% of Americans participate in outdoor recreation each year. From our research, the biggest barriers to participation are 1) a need for knowledge of where to go outdoors locally and 2) a lack of people to go outdoors with. Outerly solves both of these challenges.
But our purpose goes even deeper than that. Our collective mental health and loneliness epidemic has worsened despite the larger outdoor participation numbers. Some stats cite that as many as 60% of American adults suffer from loneliness!
Research supports that time spent in nature can help mitigate some of the most prevalent symptoms of mental illness. This is where Outerly plays its most critical role – by connecting people in local green spaces, we can help fight loneliness AND get people outdoors.
Why are you raising funds right now? Will this capital go towards a specific project or goal?
We’ll use these funds to reach product-market fit in Washington, DC. We aim to hit our stride by December and then raise another round early next year. This includes product iterations and new features, marketing, and employee requirements until we are cash flow positive for our DC market.
If we speak again in 12 months, what milestones will you have achieved?
By September 2024, Outerly will be in at least 5 cities nationwide, with 3 generating $1M ARR each year. We’ll have raised our Seed round across VCs, angels, and community members, and we’ll have a community user base of over 1M people. “Outerly” will be synonymous with going outside socially, and we’re growing quickly and consistently using network effects and word of mouth.
Outerly is raising funds on Wefunder.