Thursday, January 20, 2000
Interview with Randy Hoffman, beOutdoors.com
In my continuing series of interviews with local entrepreneurs, I had the chance to talk to Randy Hoffman of Westlake Village-based beOutdoors.com. Randy was previously a founder and President and CEO of Magellan Systems, and has now moved into the e-commerce field with a web site focused on outdoor sports. beOutdoors is one of the latest companies making Los Angeles a center of e-commerce.
BK: What's the concept behind beOutdoors, and how do you see yourself succeeding in the online outdoors products market?
RH: At beOutdoors we offer a unique combination of fishing, hunting, camping, boating and flying gear for the consumer -- the only web-based "etailer" to do so. With over 16,000 outdoor recreation products, we have the broadest and deepest product selection of ANY retailer, offline or online.
beOutdoors was created in response to the need for consolidation within the online outdoor recreation retailing business. While there are etailers selling traditional "bats and balls", "clubs and rackets", and "purple parkas" outdoor gear, no online retailer was catering to the huge market for the natural sports (hunting, fishing, camping) and outdoor activities such as boating. The outdoor recreation industry was begging for someone to lead it into the digital world and beOutdoors stepped up to do so becoming the "first-mover" in this category.
Our early success speaks for itself---we set a 30 day launch sales record in the outdoor category, nearly equaling the entire first six months of revenue of an online sporting goods etailer who now has a $550 million public valuation.
BK: Where did you get the idea to go into the outdoor products e-commerce?
RH: Having worked in the outdoor recreation industry for over 17 years, first as President/CEO of Bushnell Sports Optics and then Magellan, I know the industry from manufacturing and product development to distribution and retail. Following my tenure at Magellan, I was searching for my next venture. At the same time, the Internet B2C ecommerce sector was heating up. As I looked deeper into web-based retailing I discovered that no one had aggregated the traditional outdoor recreation activities into a single Cyberstore. That intrigued me. And the more I researched the concept, the more convinced I became that this was a terrific opportunity to do something that had never been done before.
BK: How difficult was it for you to find financing to start beOutdoors?
RH: Of all the major tasks that face all startups, this presented the least problem. Thanks to my experience as a founder and CEO of consumer GPS pioneer Magellan Systems Corporation, I already had a successful track record leading a VC-backed startup. And that instills confidence in prospective investors.
BK: To me, it seems like Magellan is a very different kind of company(technology) than beOutdoors (e-commerce). Is this true, and how do you see your experience at Magellan being applied here?
RH: They definitely are different companies, each with a different business model, different infrastructure and different focus. One was a manufacturer and the other is a retailer. But they are probably more similar than they are different.
For example, each company was a ground-breaker in its market. No one had done what Magellan Systems Corporation set out to do, that is bring to market a consumer-level GPS technology product. Likewise, no one has done what beOutdoors is doing, and that is to aggregate the outdoor recreation industry and bring it to the Internet.
Both companies are also similar in that they serve identical markets: boating, camping, fishing, hunting, flying and other outdoor recreation niches. In fact, beOutdoors.com sells Magellan GPS equipment.
Just as beOutdoors is a virtual store (we rely upon a distribution network for fulfillment), Magellan has become a virtual manufacturer relying upon a contract manufacturer to produce its products. So there, too, you can see operational similarities.
While focusing on different ends of the technology spectrum, both companies are very much high-tech in concept, in orientation and in execution. And both companies are very much marketing driven. Branding, image and consumer awareness are key forces in the success of both companies.
BK: Finally, as an already-successful entrepreneur and CEO of a company, why did you decide to start another high tech venture?
RH: I think the answer lies in the question. As an already successful entrepreneur and CEO of a company, why would I want to work for someone else?