Business Week in Seattle: Geocaching

On Thursday, February 16th, we had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the company Geocaching located in the northwest suburb of Seattle. We were first given a tour to observe the workplace atmosphere, learn how the departments are organized and see how the company functions. Then, various employees (including one of the company’s founders Bryan Roth!) introduced us to their company.

The company

History

In 2000, Jeremy Irish, Bryan Roth and Elias Alvord created the company Groundspeak to manage the geocaching.com website. It was at the very beginning of the internet, before the smartphone expansion. Today, this pioneer is still present on the market of applications (apps) and maintains the following strong features:

  • Its mission is to support, enable and inspire discovery, exploration and adventure, to create a global geocaching community with everything people need to enjoy the game.
  • Its vision is to make everyone an explorer.
  • Its strategy is to enable story-worthy moments by providing the tools for creation and sharing of experiences.
  • Its values are authentic, effective and passionate.
  • Its biggest asset, according to Bryan Roth, is the relationship that the company has with the geocachers. Indeed, people – consumers but also employees – are what matters the most for this company.
  • Its team is made of 80 passionate employees. They work 40 hours per week in a really positive work environment (good team spirit) and trust in the slogan “work hard, play hard” sometimes printed on their t-shirts!

The Game

The company provides an app named Geocaching. This app consists of a treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Indeed, the app is for locating geocaches (little containers where you can find papers to write your name on, and where you can also find objects!) hidden around you, and finding them is the ultimate goal.

Players can choose what kind of geocache they want to look for (there are various levels of difficulty, various types of boxes). The app helps the player to find the area where the chosen geocache is located, and then they have to find the actual geocache. Finding the geocache is not as easy as it seems. Boxes can be extra small and there might be an enigma to solve in order to find or open them… This app can be used online and offline: users can choose a geocache online, save its geolocalization and then go and find the geocache offline. Users can also choose a place to put a new geocache so that they can participate in the continuation of the game. They can also share their experience on the website, related to the app.

In addition, the company provides special services such as the GeoTours. These tours are personalized excursions built around geocaches which introduce users to new places so that they can discover destinations.

Business model

The company’s business model is based on several different sources of revenue:

  • The premium membership
  • The branded promotions, which are the affiliation with different companies
  • The trackable promotions
  • The Geotours service which combines geocaching and tourism
  • The advertising banner
  • The merchandising sales

Competitors and target

The founder explained that every company which proposes a leisure activity to customers is a competitor for Geocaching. He used PokemonGo as an example of a competitor, however, he was proud to say that his company, in contrast to PokemonGo, is not simply a trend as it has now been working for 17 years. The company does not have a clear target; they have decided to focus on all types of customers.

Strategies

The company developed two main marketing strategies to increase member engagement. The key element of the strategy is to make every gamer feel like a “geocacher” evolving in a community. The second strategy is to develop competition between members for them to develop a feeling of achievement.

The company today

Players can enjoy the game through the company’s website or through the app which is available on Apple Store and Android. It is available in 28 languages. The geocachers can interact with each other thanks to a forum. The majority of the customers are located firstly in the USA and secondly in Germany. France is currently the country where the game is developing the fastest. According to the speaker, the promotion of the game has to be explained in different ways depending on the country.  For example, Germans are looking for sharper challenges than Americans. Currently, there are about 3 million geocachers in the world.

Feelings

The very first thing that we remarked when entering Geocaching headquarters was the atmosphere. The environment was very nice and colorful, open-space offices, a cafeteria offering free food and special spaces to relax. In addition to the atmosphere, many teambuilding activities are organized for the employees, such as rafting or geocaching sessions across the country. We noticed that each employee was taking advantage of this positive environment to do their best at work. Employees are themselves Geocachers. Whilst experiencing the game at first hand, they benefit from a customer’s point of view and implement the new features improving the application.

The hierarchy within the company seems to be quite flat. First of all, the CEO of Geocaching does not have a private office. Instead, he has an office located in the company’s open-space just like any other employee. We think this is a good idea because it allows officers and managers to be closer to their employees and have a better understanding of their feelings and difficulties. Moreover, each employee can provide ideas to develop the app which enables them to be a part of the company’s strategy.

Even though the company’s atmosphere seems very relaxed, working for Geocaching is not a holiday. Everyone works hard while the nice and friendly working environment enhances employees efficiency. Having high growth and business development expectations, the company knows : good working conditions is a key element to success.

To conclude, Geocaching seems to have found the right way to combine work efficiency and employee personal fulfillment. While walking within the different areas, we could feel that the atmosphere was relaxed but also that each employee was really focused on their task and not distracted by the many provided features. Eventually, this has led us to consider that the working environment of a company can represent a real asset to maximize its employee’s efficiency.

 By Marianne Faucher, Pierrick Floch, Audrey Inizan, Inès Kediri and Julie Viudes.

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