Fridays from the Frontline: Olin Alum Roams into Global Scavenger Hunt Success
While working as a Quantitative Associate Analyst at Allstate in the greater Chicago area, Harding was also putting 50 hours per week into a scavenger hunt app.
Let’s Roam co-founder Mike Harding took to the Olin Blog to discuss the origin of his scavenger hunt tour company, which re-imagines “the way people explore and connect, at home and abroad” through custom hunts that foster team-building.
According to the company’s page , “Mike wrote the first scavenger hunt, in St. Louis. He walked around downtown on one of the hottest days of the year, connecting the best landmarks, crafting games and providing historical perspectives. [He] realized that scavenger hunts could help people travel and connect. The dream was then to design hundreds of city-wide scavenger hunts around the world, a project that Mike could work on [with his brother Charlie].”
The following post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the Olin Blog.
Olin alum roams into global scavenger hunt success
Mike Harding, BSEN ’14/MBA ’16
Helping people explore and connect around the world while working with clients like Nike, Amazon, and Google: Just two years after graduating from Olin, this is where I find myself.
At Olin, I studied quantitative finance. After graduating, I quickly landed a job at Allstate. But my true passion was entrepreneurship, which I also studied. I had already created two companies in my life, which both failed, but I was ready to try again.
While working at Allstate, commuting two hours a day, I was also working 50 hours a week on a new venture: a scavenger hunt app.
Let’s Roam is a scavenger hunt tour company that helps people explore their surroundings, connect with others, propose to their partners, and raise thousands of dollars for charity through donations and Charity Fundraising Scavenger Hunts.
On each scavenger hunt, questions, facts, and photo challenges are tied together with a smartphone app. Everyone works together to answer questions, learn about their surroundings, and take quirky team photos. I founded the company along with my brother Charlie Harding.
I wrote the first scavenger hunt in St. Louis. I walked around downtown on one of the hottest days of the year, connecting landmarks, and crafting games. After getting dehydrated, the end of the hunt was nearly incomprehensible—but I was quite literally pouring sweat into scavenger hunts.
After I made that first hunt, I thought to myself: “Why couldn’t we build a company out of scavenger hunts?” One of my most profound moments at school was when I doing an independent study with John Horn, my professor of practice in economics. I researched the businesses that exist all around us and found that the simplest idea can be turned into a successful company. All you need is a market.
There were plenty of others selling scavenger hunts online, but as I learned from Cliff Holekamp, who was my professor of practice in entrepreneurship, it’s OK to jump into an existing market. At least you know there’s a demand.
We weren’t worried about hurdles or mistakes. They would surely come. We weren’t worried about investors either. We grew our company one scavenger hunt at a time.
Let’s Roam slowly built a team, which had its own learning curve. Apparently, you can’t just hire a developer and say “go develop.” I had to understand every angle of our business to know how to manage employees and know what to expect from them.
My brother and I combined our mutual love of travel, complementary skills, and a brutal honesty honed over a lifetime of butting heads. Our chemistry seems to be working. So far, these scavenger hunt tours have spread to more than 300 cities around the world, enjoyed by thousands of adventurous travelers and hometown explorers. A revised version of the original St. Louis Scavenger Hunt tour has been played thousands of times.
We’ve also been offering team-building scavenger hunts for companies big and small (see name drops above), as well as bachelorette scavenger hunts and charity fundraising scavenger hunts.
In the last few months, we have created a highly refined product. My brother and I, along with our ever-growing team, work tirelessly behind the scenes to enhance the scavenger hunt experience every day. The Let’s Roam app has a 4.9-star rating and 300-plus reviews.
In the coming year, we’ll be expanding into ghost hunts, food tours, and bar hunts while inspiring fellow travelers through our blog.
With the help of Olin, I’ve been able to pursue my passions, travel the world and build an ever-growing, fulfilling company. I don’t mean to brag. I want everyone studying at Olin to get their degree and soar!
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