fishing for help
Houston startup aims to streamline digital booking for aquatic adventures
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.