fishing for help

Houston startup aims to streamline digital booking for aquatic adventures

Houston-based Captain wants to bring the fishing guides booking process into the digital age. Photo by Lum3n.com /Pexels

Fishing is always an exercise in patience, but by the time Jonathan Newar had planned his former work team's trip to New Braunfels, he had already lost all of his. The precious hours he would spend on the water were backed by so much more time reeling in dead ends on potential fishing guides online.

That's because, back then, there were no sites for Houstonians and Texans that compiled information about trips and properly vetted guides, who have to be insured and licensed — until Newar launched Captain in June.

Captain is a business for booking guided fishing trips. It's a little like Yelp for water sports — allowing people to read and write reviews about their experiences with the trips — but they can also book directly on the site, which keeps customers from the hassle of making reservations and lets the guides spend more time on the water and less in the office.

"The guides really love what we're doing," Newar says. "They're jumping on board."

Captain has more than 70 guides, offering over 160 trips, and caters to a market of the outdoor-oriented: fishermen, boaters, campers, the kind of person who spends their weekdays swiveling in a desk chair and weekends spooling line around a fishing rod. That might be a niche market, but it's not a tiny one; In 2016 alone, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported that Americans spent $46.1 billion on fishing-related expenses.

And that's only fishing. Newar plans to cast a wider net, expanding Captain to include all kinds of outdoor sports trips — kayaking, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and more. Right now, he's working alone to vet all the guides and make sure he gets the information right about each trip — for example, what kinds of fish clients can expect to catch, how long the trip lasts, if alcohol is allowed on the boat and whether the trip is family-friendly.

"It doesn't ruin your trip to not catch fish. Sometimes you don't catch fish," Newar says. "But what really ruins the trip is being paired with a guide who doesn't fit your need."

Captain, which recently completed MassChallenge Texas' inaugural Houston program, hasn't raised money yet — Newar wants to grow the company first, to widen his client base; after all, the Bayou City is a quick drive from plenty of fishing holes. And when Captain gets a full crew, Newar hopes it become a premier site for get people off their computers, out of the house and reconnected to the outdoors.

"We think Captain can solve a lot of interpersonal barriers," Newar says.

Houston's Nobel Prize winner, Jim Allison, is the star of Breakthrough, which premieres on Independent Lens at 9 pm Monday, April 27, on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS Video App. Photo via SXSW.com

Not all heroes wear capes. In fact, our current coronavirus heroes are donning face masks as they save lives. One local health care hero has a different disease as his enemy, and you'll soon be able to stream his story.

Dr. James "Jim" Allison won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in battling cancer by treating the immune system — rather than the tumor. Allison, who is the chair of Immunology and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform at MD Anderson Cancer Center, has quietly and often, singularly, waged war with cancer utilizing this unique approach.

The soft-spoken trailblazer is the subject of an award-winning documentary, Jim Allison: Breakthrough, which will air on PBS and its streaming channels on Monday, April 27 at 9 pm (check local listings for channel information). Lauded as "the most cheering film of the year" by the Washington Post, the film follows Allison's personal journey to defeat cancer, inspired and driven by the disease killed his mother.

Breakthrough is narrated by Woody Harrelson and features music by Willie Nelson, adding a distinct hint of Texana. (The film was a star at 2019's South by Southwest film festival.) The documentary charts Alice, Texas native as he enrolls at the University of Texas, Austin and ultimately, cultivates an interest in T cells and the immune system — and begins to frequent Austin's legendary music scene. Fascinated by the immune system's power to protect the body from disease, Allison's research soon focuses on how it can be used to treat cancer.

Viewers will find Allison charming, humble, and entertaining: the venerable doctor is also an accomplished blues harmonica player. Director Bill Haney weaves Allison's personal story with the medical case of Sharon Belvin, a patient diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 who soon enrolled in Allison's clinical trials. Belvin has since been entirely cancer-free, according to press materials.

"We are facing a global health challenge that knows no boundaries or race or religion, and we are all relying on gifted and passionate scientists and healthcare workers to contain and ultimately beat this thing," said Haney, in a statement. "Jim Allison and the unrelenting scientists like him are my heroes – and I'll bet they become yours!"

Jim Allison: Breakthrough premieres on Independent Lens at 9 pm Monday, April 27, on PBS, PBS.org, and the PBS Video App.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.