REI Path Ahead Ventures, a support program for startups owned and led by Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, is launching the Navigate accelerator program with an inaugural cohort of six companies. The 16-week Navigate program will bring founders together in person and online to provide funding, mentorship, curated programming and access to REI’s production, distribution and marketing expertise.
Path Ahead Ventures’ Navigate program, developed in partnership with R/GA Ventures, will offer a customized learning experience designed for founders and their companies’ individual needs. Each participating company will receive a $25,000 equity-free grant and have access to additional equity funding opportunities from both Path Ahead Ventures and R/GA. Companies may also be eligible to be featured in REI stores and online.
Navigate also will connect founders to a network of peers, mentors and industry experts to support their continued growth. The program includes unique features such as leadership and life coaching to support mental and emotional well-being; connection to experts within REI and the outdoors industry; R/GA’s services in branding, messaging and presenting; and access to Path Ahead Ventures and R/GA entrepreneurs in residence, who will provide office hours and guidance throughout the program.
The participants in the first Navigate cohort are:
- Allmansright, which specializes in designing and making environmentally-conscious ultralight gear;
- Alpine Parrot, a public benefit corporation committed to encouraging participation of underrepresented people in the outdoors through the production of technical outdoor apparel in sizes 14 to 24, with plans to expand its range to size 30 by the end of 2022;
- Kobee’s, an all-organic lip balm packaged in cardboard tubes that are biodegradable and compostable, and aluminum tins that are recyclable and reusable;
- Outdoor Element, which aims to make outdoor adventure accessible for everyone by providing quality multifunctional gear for novice and experienced outdoor enthusiasts alike;
- OYA Femtech Apparel, an athleisure brand that helps athletes fight feminine health issues by absorbing moisture, reducing bacteria and increasing natural ventilation; and
- PYNRS Performance Streetwear, which makes high-performance running apparel using streetwear design concepts and recycled fabrics, with a focus on serving diverse body types.
“Our Navigate program uses the substantial internal resources of REI and our external industry networks to support and mentor this unique group of founders,” said Dan Kihanya, Director of REI Path Ahead Ventures in a statement. “We’re excited about the products and perspectives they are bringing to the industry and look forward to partnering with them for their continued success throughout the program and beyond.”
Path Ahead Ventures, launched by REI in October 2021, represents a $30 million commitment. The program graduated 27 founders from Path Ahead Ventures’ Embark program in 2022, which is focused on supporting early-stage founders as they launch their businesses. Path Ahead Ventures is part of REI’s broader commitment to build a more inclusive, affirming and welcoming co-op, industry and society.