Byron Carney has his own six-inch rule: he checks the grill on his deck to see how much snow accumulated overnight. “During the work week, I hate to play hooky. But if there are three-to-six inches of snow on my grill, I figure there’s double that on top of the mountain,” he says. “I need to work. We all need to work—but you also need to pursue your passion.”
Carney is Co-Founder and CEO of Trekz, an outdoor adventure app that will provide an interface for outdoor enthusiasts to explore, document and share adventures. Founding his own tech start up company is a path that has finally allowed Carney to fulfill his dream of living in the mountains after living in the Denver suburbs and working in technology for over 15 years.
“I realized, why the hell are we living in Denver and dealing with I-70 every weekend so we can go to the mountains when I’m already working remotely?” Carney says. “I was haunted by a quote from a Warren Miller film that said, ‘If you don’t move to a ski town this year it will be one more year before you do.’”
Over a bottle of wine one night, Carney convinced his wife to make the move to Steamboat so he could create a business that would fuse his career with his passion and live in a place where he could celebrate his love for the outdoors.
He had his “ah-ha” moment after a fishing excursion to Fish Creek Falls. “On the way home, I was sharing photos with family and friends who wanted to know where I was. I came home and said to my wife, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was an easier way to do this?’ And that’s how I came up with what is now Trekz.”
Carney is part of a growing demographic of telecommuters who are settling down in Steamboat and working remotely from their homes. According to Jane Blackstone, economic development director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber of Commerce, Steamboat Springs now actively markets itself as a destination for location-neutral businesses. “We are getting the word out that it’s possible to live where you want to live in a community like Steamboat Springs and do your business,” she told the Sky-Hi Daily News last July. The number of people working in home-based businesses has doubled from 5 percent in 2000 to 10 percent in 2009. “These folks want to live in beautiful locations.”
Carney has raised over $450,000 to date and his mobile app is scheduled to launch in the end of October. He says despite investor’s advice that he needs to be in Boulder or Denver, he’s made more connections in Steamboat than he would have anywhere else. “I’ve raised more money out of Steamboat than both Denver and Boulder combined. Some of the most influential people I’ve met were on the chairlift,” he says. “The ten minute ride is the perfect amount of time for me to make my pitch. I’ve learned to bring business cards skiing with me.”
Between negotiating with angel investors, buying a new house, and raising his two kids, life is pretty hectic, but by living in the mountains he’s able to strike a balance that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else.
“I’ll race home from the mountain and won’t even have time to change, so I’ll be sitting there at my desk in my ski pants with this big grin on my face because I skied waist deep powder all morning,” he says. “That’s how I clear my mind from the start up world and all the stress that comes with it. You come back from an epic morning and people can hear it in your voice.”