REI confirmed it acquired Mountain Project Inc., which hosts what may be the most popular online community for rock climbers and is moving into mountain biking, trail running, skiing and hiking.
While Mountain Project will continue to operate autonomously, the deal will presumably provide REI with exclusive insight into how and where outdoor enthusiasts are recreating and how they are using digital tools to build global communities based on a shared love for the core outdoor categories REI serves. REI ads began appearing across the company's sites last week.
Since being launched in 2000 by a rock climber seeking to catalog the best climbing routes, MountainProject.com has emerged as a hub for the world's more than 3 million rock climbers. Climbers can find information on more than 125,000 climbing routes, search for climbing partners and subscribe to RSS feeds on thousands of chat room threads on the website and its accompanying mobile app. The app, which is available in seven languages, is free thanks to sponsorship by the Black Diamond climbing brand.
The sites' success prompted Boulder, CO-based Mountain Project Inc to launch MTBProject.com, TrailRunProject.com, PowderProject.com and HikingProject.com and accompanying mobile apps to provide those communities.
The two companies announced REI's investment to employees two weeks ago, according to Megan Behrbaum, REI manager, strategic communications and programs for new ventures.
“We have made a significant investment in Adventure Projects because we think that what they have built in the last few years is amazing and we want to help them scale the service they already offer to the outdoor community,” said Behrbaum.” The information and advice that Adventure Projects provides to the outdoor community is impressive and unmatched it’s a living digital guidebook for anyone who loves to explore outdoors off the beaten path.”
“We plan to help the Adventure Projects team remain very focused on what they do,” said Behrbaum. “While technically REI now owns Adventure Projects, they will be operating largely independently apart from some of the back-end services that will speed up their work.”
REI executives were not available last week to discuss potential synergies, but the acquisition basically provides the cooperative – which was itself founded by a group of enthusiasts seeking better access to quality mountaineering gear – exclusive access to thousands of digitally savvy core enthusiasts across the globe.