Kaya x Marmot Interview

Kim Ang, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer, from KAYA
Sam Masters, Social Media and Ambassador Manager, from Marmot
Jeff Brandon, Brand Manager, from Marmot.

In 2020 there is literally an app for everything. You can download an app to help you find dispersed camping, find a date, or track how often to water your plants. Whether you’re a super user or tech challenged we’ve got a recommendation for all climbers. It’s the newly released KAYA Climbing App. We recently sat down with KAYA’s Chief Strategy officer, Kim Ang, to learn about how this community- based app came to be the hottest trend in climbing.

Sam: We’re really psyched on about the KAYA Climb App , but can you tell us what KAYA’s all about for those who aren’t familiar with the app?

Kim: We’re creating KAYA to be the digital home of the climbing community. You can track all your climbs on KAYA, share beta, create circuits and tick lists, and just connect with the climbing community, especially now when we are a little bit more separated from each other. Once people get onto KAYA, they typically say to us, ok…it’s like Strava meets Instagram, but connected to your gym? And we go, yup!

Sam: So then, where did the name KAYA come from?

Kim: KAYA comes from a FIlipinoFilipino phrase kaya mo, which means "you can." It's something my mom has said to me my whole life, especially in times of doubt. It's very similar to the classic climbing phrases like come on, venga, or allez—and it’s that same stoke that we wanted our name to represent. We're here to support climbers, keep the psych high, and give an extra little nudge when you're ready to send. That feeling and support is just super special to climbing and exactly what we’re trying to make available to everyone no matter if your climbing community is distant right now.

Sam: So then how did the concept for KAYA come about? And how did you take it from an idea to the polished app that we see today?

Kim: Well honestly, I think most climbers have had the thought at one point— - like why is there not a great app for us? We love tracking, climbers are pretty data and metrics driven, we love beta…it just makes sense. But the exact concept for KAYA was born out of this meeting of the minds between routesetters and climbers. Our Chief Technology Officer, Mark Bourguignon, was an engineer by day and routesetter by night at the Seattle Bouldering Project, where he built out this amazing route- setting software which helps setters go from planning the set and tracking all of the information about the climbs that are available in the gym. That helps manage the routesetting flow, but the magic is also in connecting that to climbers. That’s where the climber’s app and our CEO, Austin, comes in. He was working on an app for climbers for a little while, got connected to Marc through one of our engineers, Bryan Boyko, and all of it started to come together.

In all our partner gyms, climbers can get a complete view of their gym and every climb within it, find out who set it, and even things like the movement style of the climb. They tick those climbs and provide feedback to the setters and the gym, too. It’s this combination that made for a complete platform for climbing gyms and climbers, and that’s our foundation. Somehow Austin convinced a few gyms to let us beta test and refine the platform, and now we are in over 100 gyms!

Behind the scenes, our CPO, David Gurman, and our stellar design team have been creating a KAYA 2.0 that is a complete level up—with a whole new look and feel and feature set. We can’t wait to launch it this September!

Sam: There are tons of great features in the app. Which features are users engaging with most often?

Kim: We're always looking at this and examining as we release new features. First and foremost, the core of the app is logging your climbs, which people are pretty wild about. Folks log about 8,000 climbs per week, and that’s in our COVID context with lots of gyms closed. Beyond that I would say beta videos are one thing that people definitely love within KAYA. It allows users to watch other users climb and learn from their movement, style, and creativity. It's one of the most interesting things about climbing and gets our users inspired by how other people approach problems and how they work beta that's relevant to them. For example, I'm 5’0”, so I love watching other shorties climb and see how they get around what are typical stumbling blocks for shorties.

We also have community Challenges within the app, which are a huge source of engagement because climbers, it turns out, love to compete. And we have some awesome Challenges coming up soon. I can’t give it all away but this fall things are going to get very exciting.

Sam: How many gyms are live in the app? What is the best way for users to know if their home gym is a KAYA gym?

Kim: We have 100 gyms on KAYA right now, mainly in North America. But we're also live in a few gyms in Denmark, London, and Brazil! The best way to know if your home gym is on KAYA is to simply go on KAYA and go to “add your gym.” You can easily search for a gym that you're looking for. And if your gym isn’t on KAYA, send them our way! We give our software to gyms for free and we make it easy for them to come on.

Sam: Marmot was so proud to be a sponsor of KAYA’s Unlockdown League, which was concluded on August 31... How did the contest go? And what was the best way to get in on the action? Will there be leagues like this in the future?

Kim: We were very excited to have Marmot on board as a sponsor of the Unlockdown League. We had hundreds of people signing up and competing in all the gyms that opened since the COVID lockdown.

Participants got in on the action by logging your their climbs on KAYA. They downloaded KAYA and joined the Unlockdown League for free and competed for a chance to win awesome discounts from Marmot. And the category winners from the Unlockdown League won a Marmot Ttungsten 2-person tent!

In terms of competitions like this in the future, we will definitely be running more and they’ll be getting better and better.

Sam: So how is KAYA connecting this virtual community back to the physical climbing community?

Kim: It's a really good question, especially in context of our social distancing needs right now. We are definitely eager for when it becomes okay and worry-free for us to climb together in groups and are not worried about any health impacts or risks. But in the meantime, we’ve never felt the need more to connect virtually with our climbing friends. Since you can’t always have your crew sessioning with you and helping you get beta now, KAYA can help with that asynchronously. You can message your bloc to your friends in KAYA, quickly look up beta, comments, etc. Like having your climbing crew always with you, even if we can’t actually be with you.

Sam: So what is next for KAYA? Can you give us a little sneak peek into what's in the development stages?

Kim: Yes. Really once COVID hit, we began strategizing about how we can be sure to build the best KAYA experience in spite of the fact that many climbing gyms may be opening and closing due to social distancing. Going to the outdoors was the first thing that came to the team's mind. We always wanted to be able to build a complete climbing experience on KAYA, and COVID really just accelerated our push to build our dream climber’s product. We are working on the beta release with that right now, so stay tuned!

We’ve also been going hard on the data side of things and working closely with climbing coaches to develop new metrics and visualizations to help people understand their climbing in a new way, and as a result train and climb smarter. Our goal is to help climbers get beyond just grades and into optimal climbing workout zones where they can really see meaningful improvement.

Those are the two the next big things for us—outdoor logging and new session stats. September 1st!

Sam: Marmot is really psyched on what KAYA has created with the Climbers Pledge and the response from the community has been incredible. Can you share with us how it all came together?

Kim: Thanks, Sam—really appreciate that and really grateful to all the climbers who have signed onto the Pledge and supported our fundraiser for The Brown Ascenders. The long and short is that like many companies and teams, we are starting to grasp in a new way what we can do to combat racism, and for that matter, sexism, able-bodiedism, and other forms of discrimination, through our platform and our product. Publishing the Pledge was just the beginning—a simple yet meaningful set of actions for individual climbers to commit to and show our support for a vision of our sport that is much more inclusive than the one we have today. Lots more to do, but it’s great to feel that support from our community to become better.

Sam: It’s incredible work that you guys are doing, and Marmot is so happy to help play a supporting role with KAYA. Kim, thank you for your time. I truly appreciate it. We are stoked to see where KAYA goes in the future.

The Beta