Friday, January 25, 2008

NearbyNow CEO In It For The Long Run (San Jose Biz Journal)

The San Jose Business Journal did a professional profile on me, and I thought it was neat how they incorporated ultrarunning into it. Lindsey Riddell is a talented writer, and Dennis Hendricks braved the storms and trails to take some great pics. Read on...

NearbyNow CEO In It For The Long Run
By Lindsey Riddell, 1/25/08 (edited by Scott for clarity)

In his 38 years, Scott Dunlap can pinpoint several transformational moments.

There was the canceled meeting on Sept. 11. There was the scene of that bike accident where Dunlap was one of the first to arrive. There was that first 100-mile race where he went down at mile 96. There was the birth of his daughter.

Dunlap says he's realized he's been given a gift. And he's using that gift to test his limits, to connect to people, and to, as he puts it, "Live in this world and not on it."

And now his company NearbyNow Inc. aims to change the way people shop, making malls searchable by Internet and cell phone and bridging that gap between offline and online retail.

It's a big gamble. But, if he can pull it all off, it might be his greatest transformation yet.

"NearbyNow is one of those that is still up in the air," says venture capitalist Howard Hartenbaum, a NearbyNow investor. "It could be really big. For other companies, people might be happy if we make two times our money or if it's big, then 10 times. NearbyNow, if everything works, could be a multi-billion dollar business."

And that probably won't end up being the most amazing accomplishment by the blogging, screenwriting, ultramarathon-running millionaire.

Born to a doctor father and a university professor mother, Dunlap was a music composition major at the University of Oregon with an aptitude for writing software, but more of an aptitude for selling it. Andersen Consulting gave him his first taste of the tech world.

He got an MBA from Stanford University in 1998, and interned at Netscape Communications Corp. during his MBA study where he met Netscape executive Ben Horowitz, former vice president at America Online Inc., and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. Dunlap then worked as vice president of e-commerce solutions for E.piphany Inc., a software company, until it went public in September 1999. In the same month, Andreessen and Horowitz summoned him to Loudcloud Inc.-- the company that eventually became Opsware Inc. before being acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. last summer -- which helped Fortune 500 companies like handle their Internet traffic.

The move would make Dunlap a millionaire by age 32.

After four years of start-ups and IPO's, he wanted to slow down and catch his breath.

Around Sept. 2001, Loudcloud was preparing to sell part of itself to Electronic Data Systems Corp. It was at that time Dunlap would take a severance package and "get my life back."

At the time, he didn't realize how lifesaving that decision would turn out to be.

While at Loudcloud, Dunlap had gone to New York nearly every week to meet at one of the smaller World Trade Center buildings with a group of investors, investment bankers, and work associates. When he quit on Sept. 8, 2001, his meeting for Sept. 11 was canceled. Three of the people he'd met with regularly were killed that day in the terrorist attacks.

Dunlap had a hard time reading newspapers or watching television for some time after that. Instead, he hiked, admitting he'd never been "much of an athlete. "

And when his wife got him an abnormally active pug dog named Rocky a few weeks later, Dunlap took up trail running.

"People would always say to me: 'You shouldn't run your pug like that,'" he says, "but I was just trying to keep up."

The trail became a kind of therapy for Dunlap, a way to regain focus and keep life in perspective.

"On the trail, I had a lot of time to digest what had happened and that's when I realized I'd been handed this big gift," Dunlap says. "We spent the next couple of months running every trail from San Francisco to Santa Clara. And I got really fast."

Dunlap wasn't just fast, he won the Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series in 2004 for marathon-and-shorter distance, the largest trail running competition in the nation. And he eventually worked his way up to ultramarathon distances -- 26.2 to 100 miles and beyond -- something even the most famous ultramarathon runners like Dean Karnazes, author of UltraMarathon Man, and a personal friend of Dunlap's, have noticed.

"The thing that distinguishes Scott is his range. From short distance all the way to the 100-miler, he's very competitive at all levels," Karnazes says.

And like with his running, Dunlap shows brain range, too.

His blog about ultramarathon running: A Trail Runner's Blog ( gets 80,000 unique hits a month. Forbes magazine named it the Best Health and Fitness Blog on the Web in 2005. He's also written four screenplays, one that got optioned just after he started NearbyNow in 2006, timing that made Dunlap unable to pursue its production.

After two years as head of worldwide marketing and product management at Avolent and with three years ultrarunning guiding him, Dunlap decided to return to startups as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Redpoint Ventures in 2005, this time with "a much clearer focus and vision." Soon after, NearbyNow was born.

The idea for the searchable mall came to Dunlap on a shopping trip with his wife to the Stanford Mall. She wanted a pair of boots she had seen in a magazine and was going store-to-store.

The venture capitalists who have backed NearbyNow believe Dunlap's vision for the company could literally transform the way people shop.

"I thought, if I could just search the inventory of every store from my mobile phone, find that pair of boots in her size at a store they have here, I'd be out of here in 30 minutes," Dunlap says.

From that idea sprang NearbyNow, an Internet/consumer/mobile company that stores mall inventory data and allows shoppers in the mall or heading there to find exactly what they're looking for either through their computer or their phone. Shoppers can even reserve merchandise to pick up later, ensuring their size and color will be available when they walk in. And retailers can send text coupons and ads to shoppers through their phones.

Dunlap just had to overcome the first few challenges to prove that it worked. No. 1: getting stores to share their inventory data. And once they did, figuring out how to mesh all the data formats together into one giant database.

Once he convinced the stores within the malls that luring high-intent-to-buy shoppers was valuable, and soothed the fears of mall operators by promising his company would not use the inventory data for e-commerce purposes, they agreed to give him the information.

Then he recruited a team of founders from E.piphany and Loudcloud to figure out how to read all of that inventory and make it searchable.

"There's a $1 trillion trend of people who research online but buy locally," Dunlap says. "If we get it right, there's no need to sell to Google, Yahoo, or eBay. We can become a very large company, and create whole new ways for retailers to connect with nearby customers."

Draper Fisher Jurvetson was the first venture firm to invest, followed by Draper Richards and both were attracted to Dunlap's desire to do something market-altering.

"When we met Scott we said: 'This is a guy with a really big opportunity, who was passionate about it, and knows what he wants. He isn't in it for the short term,'" says Emily Melton, who led Draper Fisher Jurvetson's investment in NearbyNow.

NearbyNow, which has raised $7.5 million in funding, offers its service in 200 malls and expects to raise a Series C round of funding this year. It is already used by millions of shoppers each month.

Hartenbaum says he liked Dunlap from the first time he met him because of Dunlap's strong and convincing belief in himself.

Dunlap may have been born with that. But he might have developed it through those transforming moments of his life. On his first 100-mile run, Dunlap fell and injured his leg at mile 96, then hobbled for 2 hours and 20 minutes to the finish line. He calls the experience "refreshing in that I found out I had much more in me than I would have guessed."

"He has a clear vision for the future and doesn't waiver from it," says Hartenbaum of Draper Richards.

You can try out the NearbyNow service at these shopping centers in the Bay Area - Westfield Valley Fair, Westfield Oakridge, Eastridge Center, and the Westfield San Francisco Centre. Just search, click a product, and check to see if it is in stock.

[Note - I did edit this story a bit to correct spelling, a couple of factual inaccuracies, and add hyperlinks.]


  1. Great to know more about you, Scott- nice article. Thanks for sharing it! Your life has certainly changed in the last few years. Glad to know you!

  2. Now I have a better idea about what your company's about--hope it does become one of the next big things, and in hindsight it was your destiny.

    BTW, finally finished answering your tag questions regarding 2007 (remember, a long time ago, you tagged me...) I didn't want to do a sloppy job for you...

  3. Wow, I knew none of this about you--I just really liked your blog (I'm a trail runner too). It's good to get to know you a bit more. Thanks for posting the article and congratulations on all your successes!

  4. It's been great working with the team at NearbyNow, and we have had some wonderful successes. Still have a ways to go though. We're at mile 40 in the 100 mile race. ;-)

    Looks great, Mark!


  5. FYI, got this e-mail about an Adidas casting call for runners in the SF area:


    Sorry for the additional email, folks. But, Adidas has changed the date of the casting call. Hopefully, that means more of you will be able to attend!

    Adidas is looking for 'real' runners for their next advertising campaign and YOU could be a part of it!

    Here is the lowdown:


    The casting will take place on Sat. Feb.2, 2008 @ 9am.


    The casting location is:

    Nancy Hayes Casting @ 400 Treat Ave Suite E
    San Francisco, CA 94110
    Treat Avenue is between 17th & 18th Street, parallel to Harrison and Folsom.
    Directions can be found at the following link:

    Nancy Hayes Casting


    Adidas is looking for runners that ideally fit their sample sizes:

    Footwear men US9, women US7

    Apparel men M, women S


    The actual shooting we are casting for will take place starting on Sat. 16. Feb - 19. Adidas will reward the chosen runners with an attractive package ($$ and product).


    Interested runners please drop an email to Claudia-





    Matt Forsman

    Marathon Matt-Personal Coaching for Runners



    web: http://WWW.MARATHONMATT.COM

  6. I'm going to be the exception on this site for sure. Scott, we met in business but I didn't know you were a ultramarathon runner. Plus a screeplay writer! Very intersting. I hope to do business with NearbyNow.

    Bob Dahlberg

  7. That's a very well written article! I had no idea about the beginnings of your trail running and what surrounded that. You have quite the story!

  8. Nice article!

    I have been reading your blogs for a year or so after I had started distance running two years back. Your blogs have been great and show true spirit of distance running.

    Wish you success in your new business venture. Hope this won't make you deviate too much from ultra running that I got a feeling, makes you happy.

    A fellow runner

  9. As someone who just recently found your blog, I felt like I had just entered the theater half way through the movie. Thanks for filling me in on the 1st half. It'll make the 2nd half much more enjoyable.

    It's also nice to know ultra-runners can have success off the trail too! Balance in everything.

  10. That's a great profile, Scott. It reads like a screenplay all by itself.

    Good luck with NearbyNow!

  11. Congrats Scott. What a great write up! Wish you the best with your family, business, and running career.

  12. Great article! Thanks to car pooling, I had the chance to learn about all these amazing stories. Feel like I was an insider, but not anymore as the word got out! ;-)

    And now I won't see you at WTC, sorry about that. Next time will probably be on the WS trail.

    Good luck in the meantime,


  13. Great article! I admit that I have read up on NearbyNow before. So between that and our interview, I felt like I had a lot of the inside scoop Jean referenced. But I still really enjoyed reading about it again. That lady did an excellent job tying everything together and to present the 'holistic' you.

  14. Screenplays,'s, ultra marathons, millionaires, revolutionary ideas! I can't wait for the movie! Great article, Scott. Congrats on your success. It has been a pleasure getting to know you in a cyber sense over the past few months.

  15. Hey scott.. You are kind of a role model for me. When I started off my blog, I was an active reader of your blog and even now I am. Though I don't fancy becoming a ceo, I have an arduous task of doing a phd in the next few years and ofcourse running marathons and ultras before I finish.
    Keep blogging and keep inspiring.


  16. So, that's your story. Very interesting and inspiring. You do have a talent for writing, and obvioulsy you are an intelligent person. What impresses me the most though, is yor ability to express the human spirit in your writing. We all have experiences in our lives that have motivated us to accomplish great things or to embark on the road to achieve meaningful goals. Reading your blog inspires me to stay on course. I rann WS 100 in 2007. It was my first, and I completed it in 30:17, over the 30 hour limit. My goal was to go the distance, and I did. The awesome part of being the last man to cross the finish line, was that I got to receive a special award in front of all the elites for not quiting, and for going the distance no matter what. This year I'm running TRT, and I'm ready to do it in less than 30 hours this time.

    Marco Denson

  17. amazing story scott!

  18. Scott, I realize that you can't give away all of NearbyNow's secrets, but can you give us any insight into how you can get stores' inventories into a format that allows for such detailed searches (by color, size, etc.)? I'm imagining that each company stores this info differently and can't imagine how you merge it all together.

  19. You are all too kind with your comments - thank you for leaving them! It's hard to figure out who is reading this blog sometimes, so I appreciate you letting me know how/when you found it. No worries about cutting back on ultras due to start-ups - I think the ultra races and community are a big part of what allows me to put so much energy in NearbyNow. Each race and new friend just fills me with optimism, and my thinking is crystal clear when I'm out on the trail. I always chuckle when I hear somebody in the tech industry say "this is not a sprint, it's a marathon" four marathons in a row and you'll get a REAL appreciation for that quote. ;-)

    Marco - What an amazing story of perseverance at Western States! It's an inspiration that you kept on it right to the finish. I think you will do very well at TRT.

    Greg - You are right that not all retailers are able to give detailed inventory information for our search engine. We tend to take snapshots of inventory each 24-48 hours, and then check in real-time when a shopper requests a size/color (sometimes computer to computer, sometimes a call to the store). You will notice that we tend to say "here is the range of sizes available" more so than "there are four size 8's on the shelf right now". Most of our patents are on the inventory collection and checking mechanisms, and how they can address the myriad of options for inventory systems. The NearbyNow engineering team are miracle workers, and I am consistenly impressed with their ability to do the impossible.

    You guys will be happy to know that every NearbyNow employee gets a free pair of Inov-8's too (and an iPhone). How fun is that?

    Hope you are all enjoying the trails this weekend. I got a long run in during the storm break, and am amped for the Woodside 50k.

  20. Hey teammate (x2), that is absolutely awesome! Really loved the article.Keep it up champ!

  21. Scott..interesting story. I run but am always interested in how data fusion projects can be a success. From my experience it surly is not the technology that makes projects a failure..its the people this my data and I won't share that often makes it hard. Appears you have cracked that egg...Good are your really "fusing" or doing some SOA work on bringing things together...Now if your interested in looking at the spatial components on retail prices...structures to how that goes we should talk...simple google maps or virtual earth etc...low maybe able to provide valuable return to the retailers with some good spatial analysis...


  22. I had no idea it took you over 2 hours to finish the last 4 miles! That is intense! Hope your runs this year are going off to a great start! Keep it real.

    Mark S

  23. I've been on similar "quests" at Stanford Shopping Center with my wife. I'm sure she'll be a NearbyNow user. Best of luck with that.

    BTW, I noticed that there's a For Sale sign in your driveway. I hope you're not moving. I always liked the local flavor of your posts.


  24. All of this seems so ironic to me. A Business Journal article about a man who gives up the "rat race" to see the outdoors, but now is going after a huge business opportunity. But whereas before you were grasping after millions, now you are after billions, plus the trail trophies, and blog awards, etc. All of it is fine, but just let go of the "got out of the rat race" blurbs. You are still very much on the wheel like the rest of us, reaching, grasping, non-stop go, go, go. Again, totally cool to do that, just don't be a martyr for "dropping out".

  25. Hey Scott,

    This is a great idea. Being a web dev I got it instantly and have also thought about this sort of app when I am staring at those "Mall Maps"...

    best of luck.


  26. Ron - No worries about moving; that's my neighbor who just sold her place.

    CharlieM - I'm not sure how you read "get out of the rat race" and "dropping out" from this article, for that is surely not the case. I took some time off at one point, but was eager to jump back in with a new sense of balance. I don't think I could ever stop the go, go, go since I love it. And I don't consider myself a martyr for anything.


  27. Well, after a good night's sleep, I woke realizing my bratty comments were probably just sour grapes, but I still do believe there are some paradoxes in the way you present your image. If the September 11th bombings really did "wake you up" and make you "want to get your life back", then I just think you wouldn't be going full throttle with new business ventures and flying all over the country to garner as many points for a trail running series, etc. Like I said, I'm not blaming you, it just seems like some media articles paint you as this relaxed mountain runner who has recognized what is really important in life. And I don't think taking a million dollar severance so that you can fly to trail races is much different than flying to New York for business meetings. You're on the go, and that is cool, but you haven't changed're still the type of carbon-consuming, frenetic American that we all are. But I'm sure once you're on the trails, you find your bliss, just like most everyone does who takes up the sport. Anyway, the blog is great, the reports are great, and I'll stop picking on you now.

  28. You should have stayed in bed Chuck...

    As for my own pervasive sentiments of jealousy & envy, I just feel fortunate I have the opportunity to whip Scott's tall, friendly, handsome, and rich ass on his home course this Saturday.

    Will G.

  29. Bring it, Will. ;-)

    Bev Abbs is going to be there, so I suspect you should worry more about getting chicked than beating me!


  30. Good to know the business is moving along! You got a great e-Commerce/Click-n-Mortar mixed business model for sure.

    I'm still amazed at how you're able to juggle family, career, and your endurance passions. You're one very blessed dude.


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