#121: Jason McCarthy, CEO of GORUCK and Sandlot Technology

Today, I’m joined by Jason McCarthy — a former Special Forces operator turned entrepreneur, who bootstrapped the rucksack and events brand GORUCK into a $30M a year business.

In this episode, we talk about Jason’s vision to make rucking more popular than running, the importance of real-life, social interaction, and his latest venture, Sandlot Technology, that aims to decentralize fitness.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to build a community and your brand
  • Can you grow a community without ads?
  • Why you need to use your unfair advantage
  • The downside of the metaverse and its impact on social health
  • How to create a profitable and impactful business

More from Jason

Follow Jason on Instagram

Jason is on Facebook

Jason’s LinkedIn page

GORUCK’s website

Jason enlisted in the Army after 9/11 and served in Special Forces in Iraq and the Sahel region of West Africa. In 2006, Jason’s wife Emily was a case officer in the CIA working in French-speaking West Africa. Applying what he had learned in war, Jason built Emily a “go-bag”, or “go-ruck,” for her to keep in her vehicle and at home, ready to go at all times.

Jason’s commitment to the Special Forces way of life and the idea for a “go-ruck” led him to start GORUCK in 2008. It took over two years to design and manufacture the rucksacks and ensure they would thrive in both Baghdad and NYC — Green Berets were judge and jury of quality and functionality. In order to raise awareness for the gear, Jason started community building through physically grueling events based on Special Forces training called the GORUCK Challenge.

Over 7,000 events and 160,000 participants later, GORUCK has become The Rucking Company, a people-first organization centered around increasing global activity through rucking, strengthening communities, and the relentless pursuit of excellence. In every way, the GORUCK community represents a bridge between the civilian and military worlds, and there are over 500 Official GORUCK clubs all over the world, accessible and open to all.

In 2020, Jason co-founded Sandlot Technology Inc. with B.J. Naedele, a GORUCK board member and former COO of Nike+, with the mission to unite and democratize fitness, centered around trainers. The platform is making its real-world debut at Sandlot JAX Fitness Festival in April of 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida in partnership with global thought leaders, trainers, and brands in the health and fitness space.

Jason can usually be found rucking around Jacksonville Beach with his wife Emily, three kids—Natalie, Jack, and Ryan—and chocolate lab Monster, who is lovingly referred to as the President of GORUCK Nation.


[00:00:00] Jason:
Trainers don’t make a lot of money. You drive 30 minutes to a gym, or whatever. You lead a class for an hour. You make 20 bucks. You drive 30 minutes home. It takes you all this time. You’re basically making 10 bucks an hour. What if you could just pop up a bootcamp, or a yoga class, or whatever, at a location that you want and make real money? Set your price.

Sure, you have to hustle to get people there. I get it. But put the real work in instead of trying to win the fame lottery. That’s an empowering thing.

[00:00:40] Joe:
Welcome back to the Fitt Insider podcast. I’m your host, Joe Vennare.

Today, I’m joined by Jason McCarthy, a former special forces operator turned entrepreneur, who bootstrapped the rucksack and events brand, GORUCK, into a $30 million a year business.

In this episode, we talk about Jason’s vision to make rucking more popular than running. The importance of real-life social interactions, and his latest venture, Sandlot Technology, that aims to decentralize fitness.

Let’s get into it.

[00:01:04] Joe:
Hi, Jason. Welcome to Fitt Insider. Thanks for joining us.

[00:01:06] Jason:
Thanks for having me, man.

[00:01:08] Joe:
Hey, I’m excited for this conversation. I was telling you a little bit, offline here, I’ve been a big fan from afar. I know you’ve been at it for a while, so I’m excited to get the full download and update on what’s going on.

For folks who don’t know, just introduce yourself and tell us about GORUCK.

[00:01:24] Jason:
Yeah, my name is Jason McCarthy. I started GORUCK in 2008, as I was transitioning out of the Army special forces. My wife was in the CIA. I built her a “go bag.” That’s what we would do in the gun trucks in Iraq; we’d throw extra bombs, ammo, water, guns, and radios—all that stuff in the trunk of a Humvee in case we the mission went a little longer, our vehicles were disabled, we have to fight, we need more supplies, take your pick.

So, it’s just kind of the mindset, the special forces mindset. And my wife told me, “Oh Jason, when you move here, you should do the GORUCK thing.”

I had shoved some stuff into an old assault pack that I had, and had her drive it around in her car with her. I kept one at the house, because they love a good coup in Africa. So, I wanted her to be prepared. And it’s like, alright, you should do the GORUCK thing, because my plan was to go back into the government.

Do you remember what it was like in America in 2007, 2008, with the height of the surge? We were just in the thick of it. So, life felt very chaotic. I was rolling with that theme and it led to figuring out how to do manufacturing on the GORUCK side, and then spending years doing that, because I didn’t know anything about manufacturing.

I thought, “Oh, how hard can this be? Let’s just do our own bags.” I put an ad on Craigslist, New York City, for a backpack designer. I found a team in Montana that did it, helped us with GR1, and then figured out how to scale it domestically in the states, which was a completely different game to play.

So, a lot of bumps, a lot of bruises, a lot of scrapes along the way. And then the insult to that injury was when nobody wanted to buy. I thought I had this great product right. As if that’s good enough. And, and, and so then nobody wanted to buy it and I’m like, well, man, I’m in business school at the time.

Like, what am I, what am I supposed to do here? Right. And I just, I went back to kind of my, my roots again, on the special forces side. Cause th the rocks are kind of like Baghdad in New York city, both meant to thrive there. And, and it was like, all right, well, I’m just going to lead training event. And, you know, kind of like a bootcamp, but with smiles and no yelling and a day in the life of special forces training, and I’ll take some cool pictures and I’ll promote them on, on social media and all that.

And like, it’ll be. Like I at least be playing the game hard. So did that. And immediately the first class was September 26th, 2010 in San Francisco. And when we’re hanging out in the parking lot at the end, everyone’s just, you know, worn out. It’s like they’ve been, had these rucksacks on stuffed with bricks, for, you know, hours and hours and hours doing stuff in the surf and all over the city and in the, over the golden gate bridge and all this stuff.

And it’s like, it was just. You know, it was awesome. That feeling of comradery that we all had at the end of it. And so I’m like, all right, this is the GORUCK I can get behind. And that’s when GORUCK kind of changed my heart through those early people. It wasn’t just about the things it was about building community and giving back.

You know what I had learned in, in special forces and in war and all my special forces training and, and all that stuff. And give me a back in a way that I felt really good about, so that that’s when GORUCK became GORUCK to me.

[00:04:55] Joe:
It’s, it’s awesome to see that evolve in, in some of the aspects. Like if you think about the pillars of the business and maybe how that has even evolved, right? So you have the, the rucksack itself and the bag, and then you have these events that you were doing. There’s the aspect of now that’s kind of grown into footwear and even some other types of apparel, and also brand and community.

And those two things. I wanted to maybe dig in a little bit, because so many people say brand and community, we’re building a brand, we’re building a community. And I think for you given the military background and this idea of bringing people together and making a difference and having an impact, were you conscious of that as it was happening in terms of like, oh, this is what we think of as building the community or building the brand?

Or was it just kind of more organic and maybe how have you continued to like stoke that flame?

[00:05:51] Jason:
Yeah. So I’ll start with the brand thing, because that came first for me. And, and I want to go back to that time. I just got goosebumps actually thinking about that time in my life. When I had recently transitioned out of the military and. You know, that’s a really hard thing to do. It was a really hard thing to do back then as well.

Just cause it was so in the front pages of the news, the surge and all of that stuff. Right. And, and so I was trying to, to make my way in the world and the one thing that I was absolutely not willing to do. Was to do something that would disrespect the regiment that I came from, the special forces regimen.

And to me, the regimen is almost an abstract thing. yes, I, owe the generation before me and I owe the guys who are still serving in the regiment, but it was simpler than that. It was the guys on my team. And I was that I had served with that. I had trained with that. I went to war with I was not willing to do something that would Make them blacklist me or be ashamed that they knew me or that they had served just wasn’t willing to do it. And there was plenty of opportunities that, that came along because if you’re willing to play the special forces card, you’ll, get a few phone calls because it’s a great card to have, I guess, you know, I mean it changed my life more importantly than the uniform or the tab or anything.

And it. I think that that’s, it’s correct. Like it is a really significant thing. as I started to think about the brand of GORUCK yes, I needed to tell my story and my past, but I had to do it in a way that honored it and that wasn’t all about me, me, me, and, you know, and, and then I thought about, as I went through business school, it was.

Well, to me, the brand comes first and the definition of marketing is to communicate your brand. I understand that that, that flies in the face of, your chief marketing officers above your chief branding officer and all that stuff. But I mean, emotionally for me, at GORUCK the brand is, is everything.

Right. And so what does that mean? It means when we’re building our stuff, I don’t want our guys to get trash that has a name on it that I’m associated with. And then they’re ashamed that they knew the guy that started the company that sent them this, this gear that they just don’t want to use. Right.

Rule 1 in special forces is always look cool. two things it better look good and it better work really. well that’s one of those things where it’s just, with that as your Northern star, you can, you can ruck forever in that direction. If the absolute and relentless pursuit of excellence is where you’re going and you hold yourself to the standard, which to me was just infinite of those guys that I served with.

You know, it’s a really hard path and it’s, it’s really, really been worth it. And so as we get to community, this was a, a different kind of challenge, because you know, going out there and leading training events or events that are based on special forces training and doing it in a way that doesn’t come across as all gesture, no judge is like, Right.

Like, it needs to be kind of a serious thing, but not like you can’t roll you can’t just always have, you know, a big, giant beard and wraparound shades. And you can’t like talk about, you know, all your war stories and it doesn’t work. And frankly, it didn’t. For me to even like, consider that, right? Because in essence, I needed to build a bridge between the military and the civilian worlds, and I needed other people to help me build that.

And we need to find our communities of trust and the people that can support us. And this is just kind of a happy accident that it happened through GORUCK, but I needed to show myself. There was something outside of that comradery and that awesome time that I had had inside of the military. It, so it was a live action problem.

I mean, it was like every step, every challenge, every class was me kind of pouring my heart into it in, in a way that, you know, then I’m making phone calls to my buddies, right. It’s like, Hey, I need some more guys to help me do this because the response was positive for the people who showed up and they’re like, Hey, I don’t know, man.

I’m like, please, please come and check this out. And so they came near like, I can get down with this. Cause it’s really physically demanding like the early and we have lots of different options for events now go figure. Right. but the early days, I mean, you’re meeting on a street corner one in the morning.

You’re getting bricks to shove inside of your rucksack. You don’t know the route. You don’t know when it’s ending. You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know the other people that are showing up. You, you don’t know anything. I mean, talk about fight club stuff. Like, you know, it was fight, there was nothing on the internet about it, right?

I mean, it was in my head at the

[00:10:52] Joe:
How it sounded when, when people started talking about initially, they’re like, Hey, I’m doing this thing and I’m meeting these people and I just show up, like, it is all of those things as you’re describing it. so yeah, it’s crazy to think about how that has then evolved.

[00:11:05] Jason:
And, and so, you know what I mean? And now you can read about and stuff, but reading and feeling and experiencing are very different things, you know? And so th the community side to branch out of this is, you know, to me, the communities have to share things. And one of the things that you have to share, well, back in the day, you know, tribes would share defense.

Right. That’s a, that’s a community. Family is another word for community, as well as a subset of, of community. you know, you share things, you care about the other people, they care about you. It’s a two way street, right? The word community for everything under the sun, you know, mattress companies have communities now, like, come on, man.

Right? Like you want a little bit of that, that the magic that’s in that word, but that’s not a community, right. A community is in the real world. And, and also you treat people like you’re in a. Right. I mean, not like you’re in a forum online, but a real world community. You just don’t say the things to people’s faces that you see on something like the quote quote, Facebook community, right?

You just don’t or any of them, you just don’t see it because it’s people in the real world, you remember your humanity. what happened at these GORUCK challenges was the people that showed up. They came together and they had this awesome, challenging experience together. It brought them together we didn’t care if you were black or white or military or civilian.

Or purple or polka dotted or pink or gay or straight or any of that stuff. It’s like, can you do the work on this team? Can you be a good teammate? Can you lift that log up with me and carry it with me? Can we, can we do this together? And you know, it was really, really inspiring and it still is. I’m removed from leading these every weekend anymore, but man, it was it was really inspiring to see of All people—all different kinds—come together and do this stuff. what happened was these little pockets of people, they met each other and then they wanted to do more stuff together because like finds like active people, the kind of person that shows up to this kind of thing, right. Those are your people You know, and so then they started these, these GORUCK clubs where they were, and they became community-led pockets where they would just get together sometimes they’d go, burn it down on a Friday night in the bar district.

And other times they’d meet up in the afternoon after work and bring some sandbags or some rucks and go for a ruck or do some training in the park or, or whatever. that. It’s like the best thing that we’ve ever created is this real-world-centric community that’s out there that meets in the real world, because I think that it’s, it’s enormously gratifying and rewarding.

And I think it does a lot of good for, for those people’s lives—very much including mine because I’m part of the, the community, not just the online stuff, but the, real world stuff.

[00:13:52] Joe:
As you’re talking about that, and I’m just thinking about, you know, the. Two years, basically being shut in for various stretches of time, not interacting with people. The things that now have come to define as people talk about it, community, it is online interactions and forums and Facebook groups, and, you know, people that maybe you’ve never met before.

Cool. And that’s great, right? Especially in times where that’s all you have. but this element of like a shared experience, the, the, in this case shared suffering, right. That you’re going through this with somebody that you’re finding your people in your tribe, and really.

I think now more than ever this, the need to have these like transformational, like meaning making events and experiences.

Well I guess maybe two parts to this question as I get there in a long-winded way, how has the past couple of years affected what you’ve been doing at GORUCK? And then do you see this continuing to evolve in the direction of the events and experiences and an opportunity for.

[00:15:00] Jason:
So it certainly has changed things for, for us. I mean, you know, we went from just under 30,000 participants at these kinds of live events to a fraction of that, right. To like 13,000. But what we did was we doubled down on further decentralization. Of like, how do you define event, right? And if you say, Hey, is GORUCK and events company like no go ducks.

Revenue is now like between one and 2%. Are these events, right? If you, if you rewind here’s for the kind of entrepreneur hustle side of it, like I used to launch a ton more events back in 20 10, 20 11, because people would pay me today for a future service and I could then take that cash and I could put down payments on gear orders, which accountants will never allow.

Because it’s like funds and all this it’s like, man, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know any, whatever it was like I had the cash, this is what I got to do. Right. Anyway, now we’re in a different spot with our business. So, what we did was we essentially, figured out how do we go back? Cause the secret sauce of GORUCK is the community, right?

The community is, is a big word, but it’s really a community of communities, right. That unite around this central flag. If you will, American flag up top go to flag gloat, right. at least in America. And so we said, how can we, how can we support. These ruck club leaders. And there were 360 or something like that.

Rock clubs around the country at the start of the pandemic and there’s over 500 now. So we said, how can we better support them with, you know, ways that they can bring their people together? So patches are a big thing, a GORUCK. I came by this, honestly, right? When you pass ranger school, which I did not, but they give you a ranger tab when you pass special.

Two quarters, which I did. They give you special forces tags. You put them on your uniform with your unit stuff and you have all this. And it’s like, all right, cool. You know? And so that was what happened at these GORUCK events was you would do one and then you’ve earned a patch. Awesome. It’s not. Not for sale.

And so we went back and we said, okay. So we started coming up with, with, we do these events called star courses. They’re like a scavenger hunts around town, all different distances, everything from 50 miles to 5k, you get a piece of paper. Or, or, an email here’s your hip points go to the hip points and a it’s like way points.

And then, you know, you come back to the end and you get a patch. We decentrally, we opened those up entirely to the community and said, Hey, we believe that you need to go outside. We believe that that’s safe. That’s a risk that we’re willing to take. And we did this early on in the pandemic, like here’s a little nudge, go, go outside, do this.

We’ll send you a patch. Maybe the rock club leaders started organizing. they started organizing other kinds of monthly workouts or monthly challenges that we started to put on. And it was, Hey, you can do this by yourself at your house or in your garage or whatever. or you can get together and you can organize your friends.

The ruck club leaders can organize their friends. Right? I mean, so what we basically wanted to do was free of. Right. Not on the left side, not on the right side. We did want to encourage activity and specifically outdoor activity and specifically outdoor activity together. That’s kind of our way of life.

And so meanwhile, at that time we started developing some, some technology solutions as well to that. we had talked forever about building a GORUCK. Which is fine. I just, I never could really get behind it. And I’ll say why? Because, you know, you have your, you have your community or your followers and you say, okay, you know, you can bake in a rewards program.

You can bake in all this stuff and it’s great. And some percentage of them will adopt it. But the question as a business that, that we started to ask was how do we get new people? at GORUCK, we have this big, hairy, audacious goal that, that rucking becomes bigger than. running there’s all sorts of physiological reasons, like less, less load on your body.

Every time you strike, it’s 9 times your body weight onto your knee. When you’re running, it’s 2.7 when you’re walking. Right. then you say, okay, well, if I have a rock on and I’m walking, then it’s still 2.7 because the gate determines it. Anyway, we can go into this like 3 times the calories of walking.

One third, the stress of running on your body from rucking Th that’s a, that’s a really longterm play that takes a really long time to kind of see through, through to fruition. in the meantime, we need to grow the business and we need to do it in a way that isn’t just Facebook ads or something buying mercenaries.

Now, how do you actually do that? Right? How do you actually. Get people that come into your brand and that are warm to it so that it’s not just, oh, I bought an email list and you know, like I sold to some percentage of them all of that makes sense. that’s great. You can play that game until the end of time, And I’ve never been good at playing that we’ve never been good at playing that like part of the reason why the GORUCK challenge came about was because I knew nothing about Facebook ads and Google ads. I said, okay, a GORUCK app is fine, but it’s not really going to attract new people. It’s just a retention thing or a rewards program or whatever.

And we’ll have to have e-commerce and it will have to do this. you know, on our board is a guy who started, was the COO of Nike plus through their launch and put 4 number-one apps in the app store. we got to thinking about something bigger. That would be, that would allow for this community of community that anchors off of these trainers Who are the Ruck club leaders, right? That bring people together and that is decentralized and let them all kind of co-exist into a single, a single place where it’s, it does become kind of a community of communities. naturally we can seed that to the GORUCK community and in our, and to all of the, the Ruck club leaders.

But then at that point, you know, you, you have run clubs, you have Ruck clubs, you have, all these different types. Of communities that, that something like that can, can serve. So that’s the other, you know, other project that’s been going on for, since almost two years now

[00:21:20] Joe:
Yeah. And so Sandlot technologies, you’re you’re talking about, so as you build this and this being separate venture from GORUCK.

[00:21:30] Jason:
GORUCK investors. Right. And then BJ and I both put some funds in and then our first partner was a Niantic. So on the GORUCK side, they’re the creators of Pokemon go. So we have a long standing. partnership with, Niantic on the GORUCK side. Cause we would activate some of their, their live events and they became, you

Know, friends since the time they were at Google. so before everyone knew about Pokemon go swarm in their parks and, and so they, they kind of. Really believed in us from the standpoint of, you know, democratizing fitness and all that stuff, but go outside and empower people to use parks and trails and driveways and garages in a way that you saw people swarmed a Pokemon.

Like we kind of brought some ethos of that, like a geospatial fitness app, if you will, to, to what satellite technology.

[00:22:20] Joe:
And that working towards, when you think about a launch, rolling that out, where are you? And you said basically working on it the past two years as that makes us way out into the world. what does that process look like? How are you approaching really ramp up?

[00:22:35] Jason:
Yeah. So we have an MVP that’s that’s live we’re about to reboot it on it’s iOS only, you know, like the lean startup model of like iterate, iterate, iterate. And so we started seeding it to, to some early adopter GORUCK clubs for just constant feedback on the problem was in a, in a true community, a true community building or communication software like this or app like? this.

When, when Android breaks or it’s not there, like the community breaks down and people go back to Instagram DM-ing and all these 50 ways that people have to communicate over when they’re going to meet in the field and do pushups, right. Facebook messenger, and all of this text message, and then all this stuff, which is which hugely complicates, why new people don’t show up.

Right. And, and so, so we’re about to launch it, you know, February 1st, say on annual. Something along those. And then we’re building towards a real world activation the first ever fitness festival of its kind in Jacksonville, Florida, where I’m based and located and kind of called up all the gorup partners in the Rolodex and invited everyone to come.

And so we have kind of global thought leaders and brands and communities, and it’s, it’s really a community of community. So when we say Sandlot, what that means to us is we’ve invited a lot of these trends. Speakers brands, communities to come and activate. So we’re building an obstacle course. There’s, you know, rogue fitness is a rope.

Fitness is, is providing some equipment. there’ll be plenty of, you know, famous quote, quote or trainers that you’ve heard of. We’ll say. And then there’s kind of like fit talks, w one T in our case, where we’re filming them, like Ted talks and then there’s kind of panels that go along. So for a few days, and then there’s live.

And so for a few days, people get to come and participate and activate their own bodies and meet other like-minded people in the real world. And we get to kind of, put the technology on kind of full display. Cause it’s, it’s a full scheduling thing and you know, the way that the classes are scheduled, it all comes back to kind of the trainer in that model.

So it’s, it’s empowering probably sounds kind of complicated, but in essence, we’ve got a geospatial fitness. It’s giving trainers all the power to kind of organize classes. Eventually they’ll be able to set prices. How many people want to show up and where do they want to show up that that’d be completely up to the trainers.

And then this is kind of bringing all of that to life. Except here there’s a, there’s an admission, you know, it’s like a ticket. It’s not like once you’re in, you.

[00:25:12] Joe:
I think it makes a lot of sense. And it’s exciting to think about the experience that you’re bringing to it from having this kind of natural evolution of leading events and then other people leading events, and then these communities forming it’s something. We’ve kind of talked about when you look at different, you know, your story in some ways reminds me of TRX and Randy Hetrick, who was like, Hey, I kind of made this thing and I put it together and I didn’t know how to make it, but I figured it out and has certainly grown that business into, and it evolved over time, but also like a camp Gladys.

That is doing like these outdoor workouts and they’re empowering people, but it’s all kind of under their brand and they’re managing it. But this idea of saying Like Hey, here’s a turnkey system that if you want to go out and meet people and host an event and charge them for it, whatever it might be, as long as people are coming together and being active and hopefully, you know, getting better in some way.

We don’t care what that looks like. We want to give people a way to do that. So it’s, it’s kind of actually very organic right out of that that, evolution of GORUCK itself. So I think it makes a ton of sense.

[00:26:15] Jason:
Yeah, thanks. I mean, we, what we did not want to do was to do something proprietary. Like one of the things that they’ll they’ll teach you in special forces is don’t fight. fair You know, like if do not fight fair because, if you go into—you might as well bring the air force with you, you might as well have the best weapons you might as well have the best training you might as well do all of that.

So you stack the, every advantage that you can have, you need to have that advantage. our advantage is not in, in jumping into the Hey, you know, Here’s your virtual training app and here’s a subscription model business. And, you know, we want to attract everybody that won the fame lottery. everybody’s doing that right.

Now That’s what everybody’s doing. the, the fame fame lottery keeps growing other brands and pop up and they’re real Brent like camp gladiators, a real brand. That’s a real business. Right. I just, I mean, at some point you have to keep attracting people to your own brand. You know, and that becomes a limiter over time.

For us, it’s like, sure, if someone’s a trainer and they have a certification or, you know, like they get to pick, you know, they get to pick where, where to go, what to do. It’s just completely decentralized. So, you know, the, the model that we saw, the economics. for Trainers don’t make a lot of money. You know, you drive 30 minutes to a, to a gym or a box or whatever you lead a class for an hour.

You make 20 bucks, you drive 30 minutes home It takes you all this time. you’re making 10 bucks an hour. what if you could just pop up a, a bootcamp or a yoga class or whatever at a time that you want at a location that you want and make real money, set the price. Sure. You have to hustle to get people there.

Got it that’s who this is for. If you want to put the real work in, instead of trying to win the fame lottery, then I think that that’s, an empowering thing. And so, you know, I’m, I’m for decentralization, I’m for giving the big tools of the little guys I’m for empowerment and letting, letting the marketplace adapt to that.

[00:28:22] Joe:
Yeah, it’ll be very cool to see how that plays out. One thing, it, it also, you know, you mentioned seeding this with GORUCK and seeing the opportunities to leverage that there, circling back as we get towards the end of the conversation, as it relates to go rock, I was curious to know, like, to the extent that you share anything publicly, how kind of big has the business gotten to this point?

And you mentioned events being, a small percentage of what you’re doing. The vast majority of that, Is that coming from the bags and footwear at this point? what does that roadmap look like going forward?

[00:29:00] Jason:
Yeah. So, the interesting part is that we, early on, we tried to have some, some partnerships with apparel brands and footwear brands and stuff like that. And it did not go well. Right? I mean, they, it goes back to the brand. They kept kind of wanting to attach to the brand of GORUCK, but they wanted to kind of cheapest.

They wanted to cheapen me or my past more than I was comfortable to do. Right. to make. Bad stuff or they, or some of them, they also made backpacks. And so they saw it as a threat. And, you know, those were just kind of messy conversations. I’m sure that I’m sure that there, were partnerships that could have existed.

There was an acquisition from a. really big Apparel company or footwear company early on, An offer that just didn’t feel right. But th th so to go back to supporting our own community, they kept saying you know, well, what should I ruck in? Or what should I those kinds of things. we kept saying, sure, we’ll solve that.

Problem Right. And so, you know, On the footwear side, we brought in the guy that invented the Reebok pump. He sold a billion pairs of shoes, right? Like he’s a shoe dog, man. he manages that and we kind of trade a lot of trade, a lot of R&D and then, and then we have these, these in cadre and ambassadors that we let test all of our stuff.

So it’s kind of like, it gets. put Run through the gamut. You hear about people that, they, go off site wherever and they rent, you know, half of Iceland orsomething to put something through hell. we, do it every weekend at these events that we’re already putting on. So it’s kind of a secret testing sauce for us, but rucking and becoming the rucking company, which we are and keeping the, take the continually taking the high ground on that.

I mean, rucks are overwhelmingly are our driver. I mean, we’re a little bit. you know, sub 30 million a year right now. no outside funding at all. We, you know, we’re profitable, businesses. is Good. And like we’re, just kind of driving it.

[00:31:07] Joe:
It’s pretty incredible. You like at this point, all the work and kind of charting this course while maintaining true, like staying true to the values, not only of yourself, right, but of the special forces and the brand. I think it’s refreshing to hear this conversation in this path, especially like you talked about not only from like the fame perspective and raising. You know, huge rounds of venture capital and continuing to kind of leverage now for what comes down the road, your path, the, the word that keeps coming up Is authentic. So I think it’s, I think it’s very refreshing to hear and, certainly inspiring as other founders are getting out there thinking Hey, how do I build something that has an impact that, that I can, you know, be proud to stand out there and point to.

So yeah, it’s just really cool to hear.

[00:31:57] Jason:
I mean, you know, the sirens call a lot. Right. And the sirens are, Hey, wouldn’t it be easy if wouldn’t it be this or that? look, if you go back to what, like, what do you want to do with your life? You know? And. To me. It’s like a part of me says GORUCK should be 10 times bigger, 100 times bigger by now.

We’re just so far behind the power curve that it drives me crazy. Another part of me says, man, in 2010 we did $53,000 in revenue and that’s a bad day. now You know, and it’s kinda like, you know, I just there’s, there’s, there’s no correlation between your happiness once you reach, Maslow’s basic needs of, of, you know, community and support and medicine and enough to sustain yourself money doesn’t make you.

Happy I believe in excellence and in going after the causes that I believe in with all my might and I believe in building the best business that I can around that. Like, it’s not this, isn’t some stated desire to, to be a mom-and-pop shop forever. Right. I mean, we’re a. Stated goal rucking is bigger than running.

Started a technology company with the old COO of Nike like that, that could scale to whatever, we’re doing the fundraise circuits. we’ve got a couple, a couple other investors through the Niantic channels. it’s a different world over there. It still starts with this fundamental problem that we believe in is we want people, we want real-world communities to thrive.

We want. People to be healthier and more active. Our way of life does not involve, you know, the metaverse. I believe that that is very much a dystopian nightmare as John Henkie has, said, right? Like this idea that we’re just going to be so private and live our lives on a screen, like it’s not working.

And so, I’m for training. And, and physical fitness, I just think there is there’s mental health and their social health. And when our whole life is wrapped into everything and all the avatars and all the badges that we earn on online, we have to remember that we’re still homo-sapiens and we need to get out in the real world and breathe fresh air.

We know all of this. is true Right. We know we need to go outside. We know we need to see other people, but all of the economics of everything is pointing us to stare at our phone more. And so we want to make technology a tool. We want to bring people together in the real world, like in the real world. And we want to, we want to build that off of.

Some trust, right. That, that works and we can build a great business around that. And from the Sandlot technology side, does that mean it’s going to be a bigger business than Amazon? probably not. Right. It’s going to be, it’s going to have an opportunity to impact the people that are willing to, to go with that way of life and technology as a tool.

Like we want to make it easy. For people to, to remember, to go outside, to meet their buddies, to, to go to the park, instead of like, you know, you walk around these big cities, and it’s Friday night and you’ll see people, you know, on the, StairMaster staring out the window with headphones on, there’s rows of people doing this.

I’m like, I’m glad that you care about your health. I’ve actually been there and done that. And I was not in a happy stage in my life when I was doing that. I find that You can be really happy if you pour more of your energy into other people And into spending time with them in the real world, your family, your kids, your friends, the friends that you don’t know yet, because you’re staring at your phone too much and you need to go, you know, someone when they invite you to go work out in the field, go workout in the damn field.

Man You might meet some really awesome people that are like-minded And when you do that, that opens up so many other things like, Hey, want to go grab dinner? Hey, we’re doing this other race over here. Let’s go do it. Hey, next summer, we’re going to go climb a mountain. Do you want to come? Right. And action begets action.

And so that’s kind of the underpinnings of, of the way of life that we believe in and are promoting and, and want want to make that part of, of what people want to do and make it easier for them to do that.

[00:36:26] Joe:
I think that’s, that’s really amazing. And those are a lot of the same things that, you know, I often think about and, you know, down the path of questions that one has asked you, that you just crossed off the list one by one, in terms of technology and at-home fitness and wearables, and all of these things that are positioned as health and wellness and fitness.

You know, Hey, if that works for you, that’s fantastic. And I think the more people that choose to live a healthier lifestyle, more power to you, right. But also the elements of coming together, building community, forming communities, in person, meeting those people, being physically active outdoors, really powerful that way.

Kind of last question, as we look to wrap things up here, down that path, is that a matter, do you feel that. Need or desire to then go out and kinda message everything that you’re doing. It GORUCK now and Sandlot as, Hey, we are this alternative to the metaverse to fitness, to digital fitness, to connected fitness and health.

Or do you say. By us doing it and bringing people together around it. We’ll attract like minded people and it will grow that way. So is this like an external, like war that you feel like you need to wage? Or is it more a matter of like, Hey, we’re going to do what

We’re going to do and things are going to kind of play out in our direction.

[00:37:47] Jason:
Well, I think it’s both, frankly. I mean, defining what you’re not is, is like the hardest thing to do as, as you build a business, at least according to, to me is, is to cut through the noise, to get your. True adopters to get your first big fans in like, cause once you have those people, if you build, if this is a big, if, if you build something great, then they will tell their friends, right?

So our job becomes the force, multiply them. Some of that is through the technology itself. Some of it is through the way of life that we lead. I think the problem right now with being, with not picking a fight is it’s really hard to cut through. Right. It’s like, it’s just, it’s really hard. And so I think that we’re going to have to pick a fight a little bit more and to be clear, like there’s going to be, you know, virtual or in on the GORUCK world, we call them anti virtual events because we encourage people to do them together.

Right. So even if it’s typed through your phone or it’s, it’s, a remote, remotely organized challenge, we encourage you to go find a friend and do that. but you know, there’s no money in social health. There’s not, that’s why nobody is serving that market. Right. Except like restaurants. I mean, that’s it.

Yeah. Like, Hey, come together, meet people, restaurants and bars, there’s social health there, but it’s, it’s like kind of health, you know, but you come together and people, people do that and people need that. And so, you know, I don’t want to be just the anti-war on, on Facebook guy, so to say, but to get people to recognize these things, like, I think it’s important to point out that none of this is.

Right. Like anti-social media is not social at all. It’s anti-social, it’s not making us, you know, Facebook is teaching us to play crush candy and hate our friends. I’m like, that’s not healthy for anybody to like sit there and stare at ads and, and like, Learned to get all into the politics side of everything, because, you know, uncle Joe is posting whatever, and that feed is going to find you because everyone hates it or they love it or whatever, right?

Like how about we take some health stuff off of that. So you don’t even have to open it up and, and present like a way, not in an angry way. Right? Like, I don’t want to get on the bull bull pit and like start screaming about like, I’m so mad. I’m not mad. Like a part of me wants to kind of just like live my life.

You know, like I know this way of life. I learned it in the army. It’s very fulfilling. I have my kind of community of trust that, that I’m around that I get a lot of value out of. Right. And then I, hopefully I provide value just through friendship with them, you know, on the weekends we made in my driveways, we burned it down with some sandbags.

We drink some beers. We talk about the world. Right. It’s great. You know, my family, my kids, my wife, these are the like, life is really good here. And yet, you know, at a really, really deep seated level. Like, I feel like I learned so much from, from the opportunities that, that America and my country and special forces and those guys gave me and what they taught me that I feel like I owe.

And so that way of life, it really burns brightly inside. And I want more of us to lead that way of life. Not exactly how I do it, but in a way that, that works for more people, because you will be healthier, you will be happier. You will be more fulfilled. You will start to prioritize the things that really matter in your life.

And that’s, that’s empowerment. And, and, you know, our nation needs that our, our people needs, need that. Like, you know, and so that this is the hill I will do. Right is getting people to see that way of life. And at the end of the day, man, I’m going to keep leading that way of life. And it’s a lot of fun to do that.

[00:41:51] Joe:
Yeah, it’s awesome to hear you talk about it. Probably now, folks are listening. You’ve got some of them fired up to run through a brick wall, come meet you in an event. So, we’ll wrap it up there, and actually get you outta here by telling them where folks can learn more about GORUCK, keep up with what you have going on at Sandlot, and just connect in general.

[00:42:11] Jason:
GORUCK is on all the, should I call it anti-social media? Should I call it social media? We’re not sitting here taking moral high ground. We’re on social media. It’s how we communicate with people. We’re just trying to push people towards the real world.

We have a really big fitness festival. You and your brother, and anybody that’s your friend is very much invited. I have massive respect for the work that you guys do at Fitt Insider, and everything that comes through my inbox and all the insights that you guys provide. I think you provide a fantastic service that connects a lot of dots.

We’re putting on this really big fitness festival called, Sandlot Jax. It’s in Jacksonville, Florida, April 21st to the 24th. There’s global thought leaders. There’s trainers. A Ted talk style things on all sorts of different health, and to me, that’s mental health, social health, and physical health.

You get to participate. You get to be in some classes. You get to discover some new stuff. You get to climb some obstacles. It’s on the river. It’s in Florida. Florida’s the capital of freedom these days. You can be outside and love it all the time. It’s great.

So, that’s where I’d love to meet people. I’m also on all the social media stuff. Find me there, send me any notes. DMs, or stuff are very welcomed.

I try to use those platforms for what they are, which is there’s real people out there that are buying the products that have feedback, and I never get tired of hearing people’s stpries. Feedback is a good thing. I learned the hard way that silence is a terrible thing to get from people.

So, feedback is welcomed, and I hope to see you at Sandlot Jax, or in a park, or a trailhead, or something near you.

[00:44:03] Joe:
That’s awesome. I appreciate you taking a few minutes to chat with us today. Definitely grateful for the kind words, and really glad to hear that the Fitt Insider stuff is making its way to you, and you’re finding it valuable.

So, we’re hopeful we can continue to do that.

Otherwise we’re talking about trying to get to Jacksonville for the event, hope other people will check it out as well.

Thanks for being here.

[00:44:25] Jason:
Thanks man. Really appreciate it.

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