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Local investment group backs disruptive fishing app

Brian Hartz

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St. Petersburg-based Seedfunders has invested in Guidesly, a mobile app platform for fishing guides and their customers.

Seedfunders, a St. Petersburg investment group, has thrown its weight behind Guidesly, a new app that aims to disrupt the archaic ways that fishing guides are researched and hired. The concept has also drawn support from DraftKings (NASDAQ: DKNG) and Harvard University entrepreneurship legend Howard Stevenson. 

Based in Boston, Guidesly is the brainchild of David Lord, an avid fly fisherman who has an extensive background in tech startups. Most recently, he led JumpStart Games, a maker of interactive educational games for children, for 11 years, stepping down in 2019 when the company was acquired by NetDragon Websoft Holdings Ltd.

Lord, speaking to the Catalyst, said he contemplated retirement as he was enjoying some much-needed downtime following the sale of JumpStart Games. 

“I was half fishing around the country and half, I guess, thinking about what I wanted to do next,” he said. Ultimately, Lord decided he was too young to retire. But it was the sustained time enjoying his favorite hobby that sparked the idea for Guidesly. 

David Lord is the founder and CEO of Guidesly.

Decades of trying to squeeze in fishing excursions during business trips around the country led Lord to rely heavily on guides and their intimate knowledge of local waterways. He would usually have only a few hours at most to go fishing, so there was virtually no time to research the best spots.

Lord also learned, during conversations with guides he’d hired, that they’re “low man on the totem pole and not getting any support whatsoever … there are all sorts of middlemen that take half of their fees. They’re all taking a piece of the action and not providing anything. All they’re doing is providing a phone number for a customer to call because they don’t know where to find the guides directly.” 

While websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp provide a haphazard network of lead generation and reviews, there’s no Travelocity or Orbitz equivalent for fishing guides. Guidesly wants to seize that space, and it’s offering both a consumer-facing app that takes a small percentage of bookings, plus a software-as-a-service platform for professional guides that makes money from credit card transactions. The consumer app is still in development but the SaaS version is up and running. Lord said he aims to make it the go-to answer for existing professional guides, as well as those who want to get into the industry but lack sufficient business knowledge and experience. 

“We want to be the solution for the guide and charge as little as humanly possible,” Lord said. “We want to provide a solution and we want to make it easy for someone who says, ‘Hey, I want to get into this as a guide, but where do I start?’ They come to us, they register, they get approved and boom, they’re in business. No more ‘Hey, I have to deal with all this stuff. How do I build a website?’ You don’t have to worry about it. We’ll take care of it.”

Outdoor guiding — whether it’s fishing, hunting, charter boating or wildlife photography — is a $30 billion per year industry, Lord said. Thus, once he and his 11-member team get the fishing version of Guidesly fine-tuned, they intend to expand the platform to other types of guides and consumers who seek guides. 

“Whatever your passion is in the outdoors,” Lord said, “that’s where we’re going to be. We’re just starting with fishing.” 

(Editor’s note: Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton is a Partner in Seedfunders)

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