Grégory Tordjeman, CEO of FishFriender tells us about the mobile app for fishermen.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Grégory Tordjeman: Fortunately, all is well, although the virus has not spared our families and some friends.
I became a Dad in September. The job of an entrepreneur is already time-consuming but taking care of a baby is… exhausting. My deep respect to all mothers, by the way. But in the end, it also allows you to relativize and review your priorities to get to the essentials of your business.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded FishFriender.
Grégory Tordjeman: I am 36 years old. My parents and grandparents were expatriate entrepreneurs from the Middle East. I grew up in Africa with this mindset. Doing another type of job has never been an option. Evolving in this kind of environment is very inspiring, but it also brings the pressure (good and bad) of having to accomplish things all the time.
After studying management in Europe, I returned to Africa (Gabon), where I founded and managed companies in traditional sectors such as tourism and the petroleum industry for 7 years.
Growing up close to nature has given me a deep respect for the environment. I also developed a passion for the ocean and sport fishing.
I decided to enter the digital world and run a project related to my passion for fishing. My ambition was to act on a global playground and improve scientific knowledge of the aquatic environment while modernizing one of the most traditional activities. I moved back to Paris in 2015 to meet partners interested in this project, and we launched FishFriender, the social fishing logbook.
How is FishFriender innovating?
Grégory Tordjeman: First, I would like to remind you that fishing is one of the world’s most popular hobbies. It generates a huge market in terms of industry, retails, and tourism creates jobs and finances conservation.
(Europe: 25M anglers, 25B€ market, 100.000 jobs; USA: 60M anglers, 100B€ market, 900.000 jobs).
Our mobile App tells fishers where, when and how to fish better, learning from the community experiences.
Fishers can record catches from a simple picture in their journal. The app automatically recovers plenty of environmental parameters (moon, wind, pressure, tides…) to document the capture and provide statistics and forecasts for best fishing conditions.
FishFriender became an essential tool for fishers. 120k users in 100+ countries daily post their catches and share experiences with the community to build the future of fishing.
The data we collect allows fishers, scientists and institutions to better understand fish and study the environment.
FishFriender makes the practice of fishing more accessible to anyone but also more sustainable by promoting good practices, bringing fun and technology.
We recently boosted the app with a « fish shazam,» a species recognition algorithm that will identify the fish from a photo.
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting your business, and how are you dealing with it?
Grégory Tordjeman: It’s a chance that we can manage our business entirely online and remotely. Our teams have been able to adapt.
In addition, fishing is an outdoor activity often practiced individually or in small groups, so excepted during the lockdown, people did practice. Even better, a lot of new people decided to learn fishing. It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with nature and release the stress during this complicated period.
Finally, we won a major call for tenders from the European Commission at the end of 2019, which gave us a lot of work in 2020.
Our community has grown by 100% over the year, and our turnover has multiplied by 10. It could have been worse.
Did you have to make any tough choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Grégory Tordjeman: When we started FishFriender, our main focus was building our community and retaining our users in a relationship of trust. We already had good organic traction and a very complete product to offer. We found it essential to go through this step before selling a premium subscription, for example. We thought this signal would be a sufficient value to raise funds from investors and move on to the next step.
We have spent a lot of energy in the last few years trying to convince VCs.
The experience doesn’t have to be the same in all countries, but here in France, the investors we met were reluctant to invest in B2C and even more so in what they considered to be a nice market. They were expecting us to reach a high enough MRR level on our own before they invest. You know, the kind of revenues where you no longer needed to dilute your capital with investors and go to the banks.
Maybe Anglo-Saxon investors could have been more sensitive to the traction we had built and the market’s potential.
So we decided to focus on our monetization, and we realize that we could have done it earlier if we hadn’t wasted time in the fundraising process. Since we launched our premium plan, we have a monthly growth of 10%. The contracts we have won with institutions like the EC just confirmed the seriousness of our project and the potential for digitizing fishing activities.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to deal with this crisis?
Grégory Tordjeman: We naturally work more in the remote. This prompted us to define more transparency on the daily missions of each member of the team, not for a control purpose, but to motivate each other in a context where it can be easy to lose focus of your objectives when you are isolated.
Particularly in my role as CEO, I have few technical tasks, and I can tend to manage several subjects at the same time and lose efficiency.
Defining priorities, planning actions and staying focused is the big success factor for a startup facing this crisis.
Of course, you have to keep tactical skills to react to the market, but defining a medium / long-term strategy allows you to stay on course and not scatter.
At FishFriender, we use several tools to manage our business (googlemeet, segment, intercom, chartmogul, branch, prismic, Chargebee, waveapps, ..). However, the tool that allows us to organize ourselves the best is Notion.
We have our little daily morning ritual. We simply review the team’s tasks, inform each other about our achievements… and it works!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Grégory Tordjeman: The fishing app leader is the Swedish Fishbrain, with more than $ 27M raised, making a choice fairly early on to settle in the USA, the largest market.
In recent years, several local apps have been launched.
Some apps focus on weather services, others on a solunar calendar, or fishing spots.
FishFriender offers these features but surpasses all these apps through its mission: to encourage each angler to accurately declare his activity, keep a lifetime history of his experiences and share knowledge with the community.
Where many applications will push on converting a user by selling a service/information and losing him very often on the next renewal, FishFriender has the highest rate of catches recorded per registered user. For us, this indicator proves that FishFriender generates traction and loyalty that is priceless.
We also work a lot at the political level and create partnerships at the federal, national and continental levels so that our tool is used within the framework of official programs.
We are, above all, passionate fishermen, and we are involved in the digital transformation of our passion. That’s why, more than staying, we will run the game.
Your final thoughts?
Grégory Tordjeman: Thanks for your interview. The past few months have been difficult for many of us at different levels. We have seen that tech could support certain sectors to maintain their activities. It’s a chance for some actors who had started their digital transition, and it has become a necessity for the others to catch up.
However, although we are in the startup ecosystem, we have also realized that human contacts and that closeness to nature is an absolute necessity to lead a balanced life.
So I hope that we will be able to keep our human part in this crazy race for technology and that digital will be used to its true value, to serve people and not to enslave them.
I can only invite as many people as possible to try a fishing experience, take a walk along the water’s edge and take the time to observe and listen to what surrounds you, with or without its friends, with or without fish… even if it’s better with.