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They say that very often the most successful start-ups focus on a niche. Sally White takes a look at one that has pinned its hopes on extreme sports

What luck, to find that your passion in life leads you into a multi-multi dollar leisure industry, one growing at over 40% year! That’s what’s happened for Maud Mathe and Philippe Bichet, co-founders of Adrenaline Hunter, both extreme sports athletes.

Extreme and adventure sport is growing so fast that almost any figure can be put on it – India-based online research platform Sandler Research carries one report that talks of around $8 trillion. These two entrepreneurs are content with the industry figure they cite of $40 billion.  

This France-based start-up, which the founders believe to be the first extreme sports booking platform, began only a couple of years ago and already it is offering 2,600 activities in 48 countries. These are spread over six elements – water, air, land, snow, urban and crazy! The business model is a B2B one, with the commission coming from partners.

“Today the challenge is to offer a complete list of activities for travellers who are looking for adventure experiences when they travel,” explains Bichet. “Consequently, we thought of the best spots around the world to find partners for every sport we offer. We targeted Philippines for scuba diving, Annecy for Paragliding, Cape Town for kitesurfing and the list goes on."

"It wasn’t always easy due to the time difference and the language barrier, but after countless hours of work we managed to expand our list of activities all over the world and to offer today activities in 48 countries - all that only a year after launching our website.”

Adrenaline Hunter came into the world as “a basic website on wordpress” offering some activities in 2013. That had the core idea, but it was only the beginning.

Now the team comprises “people coming from the four corners of the earth - 16sport lovers from France, New Zealand, UK, Mexico, Greece, Argentina and Norway”.

The founders have differing sports tastes and split managerial functions. Mathe, who is in charge of product and communications, is into free-riding, kitesurfing, wakeboarding and, of course 'adrenaline'. Bichet is a skydiver, rock-climber, and speed-rider, among others, and acts as chief financial officer and web marketing director.

Last year they brought in, as advisor, Denis Fayolle, who has co-founded or helped in funding a number of booking platforms. Most well-known is reservations service La Fourchette which he co-founded and sold to TripAdvisor for €100m. But he has also been involved in property sales technology platform Habiteo, Zensoon, a booking platform for beauty and wellness services and ManoMano, the DIY & gardening marketplace.  

Flying start

The three believe there is a long way for Adrenaline Hunter to go yet. Having raised €600,000 initially, the company attracted a further €600,000 last year and is about to embark on a major funding round. The last tranche of money was used to enhance the website, strengthen the back-office and technology, expand the activities list, grow the team and create a mobile application. More of this will follow in 2017.

“We also aim to develop in 2017 our mobile application allowing the customers to search for activities from a mobile and book outdoor activities. For our partners, the objective is to build an online booking software allowing them to manage their calendar and the bookings on their own,” says Bichet.

We want to create a mindset in the end to buy experiences, not stuff.

There is talk of raising the number of activities to 5,000. Helping the growth of the industry is the rapid increase in low-cost airlines flying to adventure destinations.

“When we launched the website in 2016 we were really surprised with the reaction of our customers,” says Mathe. “Outdoor lovers, travellers, professionals embraced the idea, and agreed that this is what it was missing from the market. A marketplace where you are able to find in a few steps what you are looking for. It may be a fun activity like quad biking that you can share with your friends in Malaga, a kitesurfing course in Cape Town, or a scuba diving certificate in Santorini.

“When looking back at the first website, it’s true that we grew a lot in a surprisingly good way. But what we expect is to get even bigger and to cover all possible adventure spots around the world! “

Bichet adds: “There is lots to be done and what we are looking for is to become the first website when somebody’s travelling to a new destination. We want to create a mindset in the end to buy experiences, not stuff. And that’s what we are here for… to offer a unique adventure all over the world!”

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