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Software and services firm for fishing guides reels in pre-seed capital

Margie Manning

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David Lord (right), founder and CEO, Guidesly, with a guide at Sanibel Island

David Lord has turned his passion for fishing into a startup hoping to tap into a multi-billion dollar potential market.

Lord founded Guidesly, a technology company connecting consumers who are enthusiastic about outdoor adventures with guides. The company’s initial focus is on fishing.

While there are companies with similar services on websites, Guidesly is the first one offering services through a mobile app and the first company to offer business management for guides through that app, Lord said.

The company has just raised $600,000 in pre-seed funding, in a round led by Drive by DraftKings, a Boston-based organization building a support system for sports tech entrepreneurs. Guidesly is the first investment for Drive by DraftKings, Lord said. Seedfunders, an early stage investing firm in St. Petersburg, and Launchpad Venture Group, an angel funding group in Boston, also participated.

One reason Seedfunders is supporting Guidesly is the significant backing from the other investment group, said David Chitester, co-founder and CEO of Seedfunders. And while Guidesly is based in Boston, their biggest market is Florida.

“They will bring out-of-state residents to Florida to fish and create jobs and income for guides and others in the industry,” Chitester said.

David Lord, founder and CEO, Guidesly

Seedfunders is a great investment vehicle, Lord said. “It’s important to have investors who know the market and understand the industry.”

Guidesly has developed an app that makes it easier for fishermen to book a guide and for a guide to manage his or her business.

“For consumers right now the way you would book a guide is to go online, do google searches, call, email, wait days, figure out where you are going and when you are going, and even then there’s a bunch of intermediaries who are trying to get money out of this transaction,” said Lord, who is CEO of Guidesly. “On the other side, we want to provide software and services to guides. There’s no solution to that today. If you are a guide, you have no software package you can turn to and say, you know how to manage my inventory, my schedule, communicate with my customers. So we’re solving that problem for the guides.”

The app for consumers, Guidesly, is expected to be released by the end of the month. The app for guides, Guidesly Pro, is already live, with 11 guides online and 35 more on-boarding, including 27 guides in nine Florida target markets.

“I not only want to solve the problem for a guide, but I want to put it on their phone. I want them to be able to manage their business from their phone. A guide is a busy person, especially in Florida … The last thing you want to do is go back to the house to get on a laptop,” Lord said. “We want to manage all the things a phone takes care of, like geolocation, territories, meeting spots, weather alerts. We take care of all that and let them manage their business.”

Guidesly makes money by taking a small percentage of a transaction managed through its platform.

Lord started an ecommerce company in 1996 that sold to Disney, then served as CEO of RazorGator, an online sports ticketing marketplace that grew to $150 million in sales under his leadership before it was acquired. Most recently, he was CEO of JumpStart, with learning-based games for children.

“This one I’m doing for me,” said Lord, who described himself as a die-hard fisherman. “I’m doing something I have passion about and that I love. If we build a huge company, great. But I can tell you it will be the most fun company and we’ll do what’s right for the guides.”

He has thought about the concept for many years, but only in the past year has it become a real opportunity.

“The cost to develop this is much lower than it ever was. Five or 10 years ago this same solution would cost a lot of money. Today, the technology enables us to focus on the things we want to focus on, delivering solutions to guides and consumers, rather than building infrastructure. The tools and the technology have significantly changed over the last three or four years,” Lord said.

The market potential is in the billions. The U.S. Department of Commerce has estimated there’s a $27.7 billion market for all kinds of outdoor recreational guides, in fishing, hunting, wildlife, boating and water sports. Lord wants Guidesly to be in on all of those vertical markets.

Note: St. Pete Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton is a partner in Seedfunders.

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