Slush Conference Startup Winner FishBrain Looks to Scale Niche Social Network

As the trend shifts from one-size-fits-all approaches to social networks to more niche tools, Swedish startup FishBrain is looking to be to go platform for what CEO Jens Persson said are the 200 million anglers and fishermen worldwide. The startup launched its iPhone app in Sweden over the summer, and the web and mobile app combined have almost 8,000 users to date. The platform also won first place in the Slush startup conference’s lightweight startup competition in Helsinki this week, where it also announced that the service was now available in both Finland and Denmark.

Originally founded when Persson was frustrated at the lack of data and tips available to help him catch more fish himself, he went on to build out the platform after realizing that others were probably facing a similar dilemma. “I Googled it to see if anyone else tried to catch fish in the area we were fishing, but it was only speculation not any fact-based tips and that’s why I created the first prototype,” said Persson in an interview with BetaKit. “We understood that it would be much more fun with more accurate information if there was more people, and we opened it up to Sweden.”

It started out with just listing a few details about the fish they caught, but the platform now features the ability to create a profile, and will automatically log as many as 18 different data points while users are out fishing. They can range from the weather, air pressure, wind direction, map position, and more to keep followers and friends on the platform up to date. Once someone catches a fish, the mobile app lets users quickly snap a picture and upload the what, how, method, and situational variables behind their catch to keep others in the loop (they can also hide the map feature in case they don’t want others finding out about their favorite fishing spot). Once that all that data is logged, Fishbrain provides analytics like which bait works best in which area, and what the best time is to catch a particular fish.

“We try to optimize the fishing result by presenting catch per hour, is it more likely to catch Pike, or wind direction, everything we’re collecting in we’re churning out so you can find out [things that] can help find and catch bigger fish, that’s our mission,” Persson added.

The startup is focused on user growth right now, but Persson several potential revenue streams. The company will be rolling out a freemium model so users will be able to log and add all the data that the platform depends on for free, including the social networking features, but if they want to dig deeper into the analytics and find ways to optimize their fishing experience, they would pay for a monthly subscription. Persson also said they’re also considering building in targeted advertising.

The company isn’t alone in its efforts to connect fishermen, with competitors like Good Fish, a mobile social network available on the iPhone and Android, and Angler Social, but Persson said FishBrain is more focused on providing data and analytics than helping people brag about their latest catch. It has already partnered with bait providers to integrate a database of what is now 43,000 baits and growing, while also allowing users to search for fish in their own language.

With the recent expansion to Finland and Denmark, the company’s next major decision will be which market to expand to next, with both the U.S. and Russia on the table. The competition at Slush had the company go head-to-head with startups like Ecomote, a guide app for safer and more eco-friendly driving, Appy, which lets users create apps in minutes without coding, and Avatrip, a video travel app. While it took top honors at Slush, it has an uphill battle ahead to get enough users to make premium subscriptions and targeted advertising work as monetization options, something that will be difficult for a startup with such a niche audience focus.


Humayun Khan

Humayun Khan is a Senior Writer and Analyst at BetaKit. A marketing graduate with honors, Humayun's work experience spans the fields of consumer behaviour with noted contributions in an academic paper published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology and market research consulting having coordinated projects for a major financial services client at Decode Inc. More recently he was involved in business strategy as a Business Analyst for an equipment rental outlet and prior in the National Marketing Department at Ernst & Young LLP. He is passionate about emerging and disrupting technology and its ability to transform and create entirely new industries.

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