Uphill Designs

In 2013, Dan Sedlacek (the co-founder and CEO of Uphill Designs) set out on a trek to hike from Mexico to Canada. He was unsatisfied with conventional equipment that added weight and detracted from the clarity of the experience. Dan teamed up with Mounica Sonikar and David DeBey (who I interviewed last week) to start Uphill Designs, where they design hiking equipment using sustainable, natural materials. Their first product is a bamboo trekking pole that is both stronger than aluminum and as light as carbon fiber. These trekking poles are made from close to 95% sustainable materials and in the spirit of giving back, a percentage of sales will be returned to the communities.

Trekking poles are not a new invention. Currently, the majority of trekking poles available in the market are made from aluminum or carbon fiber, which are heavy or expensive. Uphill Designs is entering an existing market is gaining attention by presenting a sustainable alternative. For consumers who care a lot about the outdoors and value a clean, uncompromising design, Uphill Designs is one of the few innovative companies that provide equipment that combines the simplicity and today’s best engineering. This is because Uphill Designs uses simple raw materials and only what is necessary for the functions that the gears are serving.

In late 2014, Uphill Designs launched the “Walk With Nature” campaign on Kickstarter. Over the course of 30 days, they had over 120 backers and successfully raised 150% of their goal. They then talked to local retailers and won the interest of REI to put their poles in their stores. In the meantime, they are focusing on manufacturing the 100 pairs of trekking poles pre-ordered through Kickstarter. The majority sales are from Seattle, but they also have a lot of sales from other regions, including China, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and Finland. It seems people all over the world are excited about the product.

The products that we bring with us to nature are reflection of who we are. There are a lot of options for outdoor activity consumers in terms of sustainable apparel, but less choices for sustainable gear. Uphill Designs’ vision is to allow people to explore the outdoors with sustainable gear and add to the legacy of innovative outdoor companies born in the Pacific Northwest.


Ad on Sina Weibo

I’m considering applying for a new credit card and I have been comparing different credit cards using different websites. When I logged in my Sina Weibo (a Chinese microblogging website) account, this ad showed up. These ads are not very effective for me because I only search for products when I am in the mood. If I’m checking my Weibo, I will not switch to other website.Screen Shot 02-08-15 at 11.00 PM


Wingz provides scheduled rides to airports in the Bay Area (SFO, OAK, SJC) and in Los Angeles (LAX, BUR). It is similar to Uber and Lyft but Wingz rides can be scheduled in advance, even at 5am.

Three bloggers I would reach out to are:

Sarah Lacy (@sarahcuda)

She has been covering technology news for over 15 years, most recently as a senior editor for TechCrunch.

Clover Hope (@clovito)

She has 10+ years of experience running print and digital, with a focus on digital and mobile programming.

Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen)

He is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed.


FitBark is a wearable device that allows pet owners to monitor the well-being of their dogs. It is positioned as the world’s tiniest wireless activity monitor for dogs and it attaches easily onto any collar and fits dogs of any size.

The value provided by FitBark is it collects physical activity and rest levels 24/7, providing pet owners with useful insights into their dogs’ behavior and activity trends. For example, FitBark monitors the time a dog spends at various energy level. If the dog gets 4 extra hours of sleep, maybe it is sick. The owner can observe and take action accordingly.

Currently, FitBark has a company website and accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.  FitBark focuses on Twitter and Facebook where it has the most followers. It has over 4000 followers on Twitter and the content is almost identical on Facebook and Twitter.

I think the target customers of FitBark are young professionals who care about their dogs’ well-being and are willing to spend money on their dogs. They are busy during the week and may travel sometimes. Personally I feel that FitBark’s website is well-designed and the FAQ section provides answers to all sorts of questions. If I am a potential buyer, I can get all the information I need from its website to make a quick purchasing decision.

Ritani — Market Analysis

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”. For men, it could be overwhelming to pick an engagement ring. Ritani is a jewelry company which specializes in custom-designed items. A customer can create his own engagement ring by selecting a diamond and a ring setting.

After ordering the ring online, the customer can go to one of Ritani’s participating stores to see the ring in person. Customers do not need to commit to a purchase and can walk away if they don’t like it, which differentiates Ritani from other online diamond retailers.

Ritani targets young professionals who have high income and shop both online and in-store because the company found that segment spent significantly more than those who interacted solely with one retail channel.

The jewelry industry has become more and more competitive. Among Ritani’s competitors are other online diamond stores, such as Blue Nile, James Allen, Union Diamond, B2C Jewels, Brian Gavin, Diamondwave, etc.