While on a climbing expedition in the Bugaboos Range of British Columbia, Matt Segal, a North Face climber from Boulder, Colorado, envisioned an instant coffee that could taste good and simultaneously be affordable. Segal brought his vision to life in 2015, when he co-founded Alpine Start instant coffee. As a longtime adventure athlete and professional climber, Segal knows the importance of well-crafted instant coffee. The products of Alpine Start are a blend of Segal’s knowledge of climbing, entrepreneurialism, and sustainability. Read our conversation with Matt Segal and learn more of his story.
“You can’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who are better than you and people that have different skills and different personalities.” -Matt Segal
How does a rock climber end up becoming a coffee magnate in just a couple years?
Matt Segal: The same way I’ve been successful on any of my first ascents, by first trying and not being afraid to fail.
Was this product born out of caffeine addiction and predawn expedition starts?
Matt Segal: Well, I definitely think my caffeine addiction has gotten worse since I founded Alpine Start. But yes, coffee is such an integral part to my life as a climber and I wanted to create something that would be convenient without sacrificing flavor and quality.
What life lessons have you learned from starting your own business?
Matt Segal: Biggest life lesson that definitely carries over from climbing is choosing the right team. I’ve been super fortunate to have amazing partners in both climbing and business. You can’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who are better than you and people that have different skills and different personalities. The reason Alpine Start has seen such great early success is a hundred percent due to our diverse team of go-getters.
You just added two new products—dirty chai and coconut creamer—to the lineup. Where do you see Alpine Start going in 2 years, 5 years?
Matt Segal: I don’t think I can give all of our secrets away, but I will say my favorite place in the Alpine Start office is my lab (aka a small desk in the corner) where I experiment with different flavors and concepts. So you can expect us to expand our line in the future.
What has surprised you about who buys Alpine Start products?
Matt Segal: I obviously created Alpine Start with outdoor enthusiasts in mind, but it’s been amazing to see how many other folks drink instant coffee. I think my favorite consumers are new parents. We seem to be a big hit with that sleepless crowd.
Are there any eco/sustainability aspects to your products?
Matt Segal: Our boxes are made from a hundred percent post-consumer recycled paperboard, and we use minimal amounts of plastic on our sleeves. We are always researching more eco-friendly packaging and our hope is to constantly evolve our packaging with that in mind.
You had a very serious accident paragliding last year that left you with several broken bones and a lot recovery. But now you are back “on your feet” and adventuring again. Are you a hundred percent recovered?
Matt Segal: Last summer I crashed my paraglider on Mount Tom outside of Bishop, California, and broke a dozen bones. My recovery has been going really well, and, yeah, I’m back on my feet! I chose to focus on skiing most of the winter since my arms have been the slowest to heal—yes, I broke both arms–But now that spring is here and the snow is melting, I’m getting more and more psyched to climb! I hope my body will feel a hundred percent by the end of summer!
How did that accident impact your outlook on life and adventure?
Matt Segal: For starters, I was able to spend a lot more time with Alpine Start, which was amazing for our early growth. But now that I’m nearly all healed, I’m getting more and more excited to go on adventures. After being so hurt and not knowing how I was going to heal, I sorta adopted a zero-F’s mentality and have just been psyched to go on wild adventures! Earlier this spring, I traveled with ten guys I didn’t really know to go on a rafting / ski link up in the Yukon and Alaska. Was totally insane and it actually worked (kinda like a derelict monkey starting a business).