In 1998, avid rock climber Karl Guthrie saw a desperate need for innovation around safety in his sport. So he did something about it.
Guthrie, then a native of Wimberly, Texas, designed and created equipment that would more securely anchor him as well as his fellow climbers to the rock surfaces they were climbing.
Word spread. Shortly thereafter, Guthrie was approached by Ceco Concrete Construction asking if he could create a removable concrete anchor that could support 5,000 pounds of weight.
“I said yes,” Guthrie said. “We’ll just make them bigger.” This was a simple solution for someone who had been designing his own anchoring devices for years. Nonetheless, it was a defining moment. ClimbTech was born.
Over the next decade, ClimbTech revolutionized the entire world of anchoring technology, saving countless lives with reliable products.
Along the way, Guthrie maintained his passion for rock climbing, knowing that one day he might start catering to his fellow enthusiasts again.
That one day finally came this summer. Guthrie, along with CEO Roberto Fiebig, decided to launch ClimbTechGear, an online store that provides rock climbers and rope access professionals with direct access to their state-of-the-art technology.
I sat down for an interview with Guthrie to learn more about his beginnings, explore his great success and discover what’s in store for ClimbTechGear. Here’s what he had to say:
CC: Did you ever imagine that ClimbTech would get to be this big?
KG: I only imagined ClimbTech becoming an established climbing equipment company. It started out as a hobby business and I figured that I could make some money doing what I love (Climbing). I also figured I could stay with my construction business and do both until the climbing paid enough. The industrial market never entered my mind in the beginning.
CC: What was the defining moment when you realized, “Hey, I can make a business out of this”?
KG: I got a call one day in 2000 from a very large concrete construction company (CECO) asking about our removable bolts we designed for climbing. They asked if we could make one for concrete that would support 5,000 lbs. I said yes, we just make them bigger. We did and this lead me to learn about the industrial safety market called Fall Protection. Fall protection is where a worker wears a harness and has attachments that prevent the worker from landing on the ground or floor during a fall at work. The defining moment was when I was at a safety trade show looking at all of the fall protection manufacturer booths. What I saw was that it was basically rock climbing equipment but 20 years outdated. I thought to myself what a bunch of old, heavy outdated crap this stuff was. Then it occurred that ClimbTech could make a killing taking our climbing knowledge and converting it into Hi Tech safety equipment. And we did just that.
CC: What made you want to take this business venture now?
KG: I love ClimbTech and I want it to succeed. We have an amazing team working here, we all get along very well and push each other, it’s just AWESOME. The company has been focused on industrial safety for years and now we are focusing back into climbing and it is very exciting. Back to our roots and what we truly love – Rock climbing. Everyone one here is either a climber, biker, skier, or some extreme sport. Highly motivated group of people.
CC: How difficult was it bringing in someone else to run the company? Was it hard to let someone else come in and direct this creation of yours?
KG: Nope, not at all. I was very excited to bring on a CEO. I knew I needed someone to bring this company to the next level. I am good at creating ideas but I am not business savvy. Roberto Fiebig is our CEO and is kicking butt. Roberto is an athlete, not a climber but a biker and skier. He gets it and the company.
CC: What kind of feedback have you received from your fellow rock climbing enthusiasts?
KG: For the most part they are very happy that we are doing so good, they like our equipment. Our Perma Draws are being used at a lot of the popular sport climbing areas; this is giving us big recognition in the climbing market.
CC: Do you still climb as much as you used to?
KG: YES I do. In fact I just got back from Tahoe in California where I was climbing some 500 foot granite walls. If I get busy I will climb at the local climbing gym to keep up with my climbing strength. I climb on real rock at least once a week.
CC: What’s next for you and for ClimbTech?
KG: We will build ClimbTech up until it’s the most renowned innovated safety company going. We are also looking at expanding in foreign markets. There are lots of opportunities outside fall protection too. There are endless uses for removable anchors. We are looking at some currently for the near future.
With safety always a top concern of industries across the world, one can only imagine the opportunities awaiting Guthrie and ClimbTechGear in the future.