At Cronometer, ski boots meet bootstrapping
Meet the self-funded, Revelstoke-based health tracking app that’s giving back to its hometown.
The posts that adorn the feed of the Revelstoke Community Facebook group are exactly what you might expect from a small resort city. There are repeated requests for guides or tips to navigate Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Beer and food are also hot topics. But a certain post on March 3 sticks out amongst the requests for information on ski runs and IPAs. It was penned by Eliisa Tennant, community manager for local company Cronometer.
The post blew up, garnering significantly more engagement than others—with all due respect to outdoor sports and libations, Tennant’s post does have the best CTA as far as I could see. One local even comments, “I’ve considered quitting my profession to come work for Cronometer because everyone I meet that works there is so awesome and sounds like they are treated amazing!! Great to have such an innovative, growing local company in town!!”
So, how exactly did a tech company gain such a following and experience tremendous reach (6 million users is nothing to sneeze at) in a town like Revelstoke? To get the answer, you have to follow the journey of founder and CEO Aaron Davidson. A commitment to his parish is driven, perhaps, by a life that verged closer to nomadic than rooted. Davidson describes his childhood as “restless.” His family moved a lot, including a few years above the arctic circle in Inuvik. A constant for Davidson was technology.
“I was just a nerdy kid. I think in my junior high days we had our first old Atari computer and then later my dad brought home a work machine to do some writing at home. An old Mac. I was just drawn to it and started poking around and learning how to program. By high school, I was pretty much self-taught. I ended up writing lots of little video games for that Mac, it was my foray into tech,” Davidson recalls.
Moving and technology continued to be constant in Davidson's life. He enrolled in computer science at the University of Alberta after completing a master’s degree, he landed a gig in Dublin crafting AI that could play poker—an early sign of what would become the online poker craze. After an experience he describes as “high flying and high stress,” he decided to move back to Canada (Canmore, Alberta, specifically) to become a self-titled ski bum.
It was there, in a time of relaxation that only a hard day of skiing can provide, where he started Cronometer as a side project. Davidson is a disciple of the CRON diet, which stands for Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition. He combined this with his passion for software and built an app to track his diet. Not long after, Davidson moved one last time (at least at the time of this writing). He opted for another outdoor enthusiast’s paradise 306 kilometres and one province west. Finally settling in Revelstoke, he discovered Mountain CoLab, a coworking space in town.
Jean-Marc La Flamme, synonymous with tech in the Kootenays, founded the space in 2015. He remembers when he first met Davidson. “These guys came out of the woodwork from Alberta,” La Flamme tells me. Davidson had just hired part-time employee number two. “I sat down and looked at their site. I'm like, ‘This is impressive, guys,’” La Flamme recalls. “‘How many new users a day do you have?’ They're like, ‘1000.’ I'm like, ‘What? Holy shit, let's get on this.’ Literally within a year, they moved out of the co-working space, got their own office, and jumped to 20 people. Now they’re 35 people and wildly, wildly successful.”
So successful, in fact, that the company’s community manager can hand out free subscriptions on Facebook. Aside from the obvious commitment to the Revelstoke community, Davidson speaks highly of the work-life balance living in the resort town can provide. He tells me of the positive culture and robust social element in Cronometer’s office, but is quick to add the caveat that attendance is light on picture perfect days on the mountain—exactly how Cronometer wants it to be.
It’s a perfect marriage considering how active the Revelstoke population is. The company’s About Us page says as much. “Revelstoke is a health-centric mountain town brimming with endless options for staying active and a growing tech community—the perfect combination to call home. We are an eclectic mix of web developers, designers, nutrition scientists, business majors and personal trainers brought together by a love of nutrition. While our company has grown, our mission and values have remained the same; we believe full spectrum nutrition is the best way to understand your diet’s effect on your health.”
Another key value for Davidson and Cronometer is the commitment to bootstrapping. Despite the high growth the company has exhibited of late, Davidson concedes that it could be even faster if they had taken an injection of capital. Growth, ambitions, dreams—they’re all constrained by cash flow or by what your bank account balance reads if you go that route. Davidson details that he sometimes has to wait for revenue to come in before he can sign an offer letter to an exciting new hire. But, doing this all on their terms, he’s happy with the growth.
“Even still, we’re growing 50 percent almost every year. Even that feels slow. What we could do if we had an injection of cash... But, again, we just prefer the fun vibe of the office, our method of working, growing locally,” Davidson details. As they continue to rewrite what it means to shop local (imagine your favourite local shop supporting you), Davidson teases that more exciting branding and R&D projects are on the horizon, but remains steadfast that growth will be organic. Bootstrapping it is. Those boots probably look a lot like ski and snowboard boots. This is Revelstoke, after all.
Subscribe to our Sunday Briefing to meet more high-growth, B.C.-based companies.