Northwestern alumnus develops app to connect outdoor community


(Source: Katie McBroom)

Zack Grimes is the chief analytics officer for GoWild. Grimes, who graduated from NU with a master’s degree in 2017, developed the app to connect people with interests in the outdoors.

Elizabeth Byrne, Assistant Campus Editor

Growing up in rural Indiana, Zack Grimes (SPS ’17) said he wanted to promote and encourage an outdoor lifestyle. So when a friend asked him to help design an app, the two began the process of creating GoWild, a content-based social network for hunters, hikers and others who enjoy outdoor activities.

“The app is all about creating a safe, inclusive environment for people who have a variety of interests, not just about hunting or fishing, but all types of outdoor life,” said Grimes, who earned a master’s degree.

GoWild allows users to curate their feeds by selecting topics to follow, instead of following specific people. Topics include hunting, hiking, cooking and paddling. The app was released for iOS devices on Sept. 9, according to its website. Grimes said he anticipates an Android release this winter.

GoWild features a scoring system developed by Grimes with an algorithm to “gamify” hunting and other activities, he said. Users can earn points based on the activity’s difficulty, including the size of the animal killed and the distance of the shot.

Users also have the ability to comment on others’ posts and view statistics on public profiles.

“The algorithm is all about creating a level playing field, regardless of your activity and assigning a score, so that you can compete with your buddies, even if you’re not doing the same activity,” Grimes, who serves as the chief analytics officer, said. “It’s all about bringing transparency to bragging rights and the entire experience.”

Gabriella Hoffman, a GoWild user, said the app is changing how the outdoor industry is viewed and is making it more accessible to individuals of all skill levels.

“GoWild is trying to target a multitude of people, especially younger (people) and those who weren’t early adopters of outdoor activities,” Hoffman said. “They’re trying to help promote conservation and get more people, usually people in our generation, involved in the outdoors.”

Grimes said he was encouraged by his NU professors to be creative, which helped him create the app alongside CEO Brad Luttrell.

Luttrell said other social media platforms can be ineffective for hunters trying to find an audience with similar interests. GoWild, he said, offers an online space to socialize and share tips.

He added that on other platforms, online threats and nasty responses can discourage novice hunters from expressing their interest in the activity.

“Social media is a dangerous place to play if you’re a hunter,” Luttrell said. “If you post something, there’s a good chance that it will come into contact with someone who doesn’t agree with you. Believe it or not, there’s a lot of death threats towards hunters.”

The app is unfinished, Grimes said, as the GoWild team is still exploring new ways to earn points and gather data to maximize user experience.

Ultimately, Grimes hopes to change the way members of the outdoor community connect with both technology and each other, he said.

“What I hope for the app itself is it becomes the one-stop shop for all things outdoors-related, regardless of your interest,” Grimes said. “I want it to be a way to welcome people into the outdoors community.”

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