Tell us about you, your Career, how you Founded Fishbrain
Johan Attby: I’m a Ph.D. dropout from the Chalmers University of Technology in Goteborg, Sweden. In 2000 I founded the software company Tific, a B2B platform for IT support, which I grew in Sweden before moving to Silicon Valley. I sold the company to a remote IT firm, PlumChoice Inc., in 2011.
I’d signed on to stay with Tific for 18 months after the acquisition, but I was already thinking about my next venture. I’m entrepreneurial, and I live to build and create stuff. After looking into various ideas, I decided I wanted to build a vertical social network. In a general social network like Facebook, the discussions are very shallow, and there’s no lasting value in them. My thesis was that people who share a passion wanted to do that in a peer-group and that the discussions would have lasting value as users share real information.
I also saw the opportunity of making the actual service better based on all the data that can be crowdsourced in a vertical social network. I wrote a blog post about this and was published in PandoDaily. I received a lot of positive feedback, so I decided to pursue the idea. The vertical of choice became sport fishing when I read a newspaper and noticed an article that highlighted fishing as the world’s most popular hobby. I grew up on a farm in Sweden and fished all my life, so I recognized the potential of a massively popular pastime with no dominant mobile app to connect fans. It all just clicked into place. As an angler, we created something that I love.
How does Fishbrain Innovate?
Johan Attby: Simply, with our users in mind. When it comes to developing new features or ideas, we always ask ourselves if it will benefit them. Generally, if the answer is yes, then we do it!
Fishbrain is by far the most technologically advanced vertical social network out there. The app’s interactive map and forecasts make it possible for users to find new places to fish, record their catches, plan trips, share tips on the most effective baits and techniques and even purchase the latest gear directly from some of the world’s best fishing brands.
We are passionate about the useful and effective implementation of machine learning and AI. Firstly, we have an AI-powered species recognition feature that quickly recognizes a fish in an image uploaded to the app and, if so, detects the specific species. This is incredibly useful for both pros and amateurs alike.
We also offer a feature called Fishbrain BiteTime™, the world’s most advanced fishing forecast powered by machine learning. This allows users to plan their fishing trips around the best possible time to catch the most fish.
In May 2018, Fishbrain was unveiled as a launch partner for Google’s ML Kit, which enables developers to integrate machine learning into apps. BiteTime analyzes data from the 9.5 million catches already logged on the app and over 30 geographical attributes. From this, it presents easy-to-follow bar graphs, the optimal time to find a particular species of fish on any given body of water around the world.
The integrated C-MAP Genesis Social Map provides crowdsourced depth contour data, enabling users to locate densely populated fishing areas that are not found on other maps. It will become even more valuable as more users utilize it.
Our latest innovation has been creating a one-stop-shop for anglers. Through partnerships with fishing brands, we have now made it possible for anglers to purchase all their fishing gear through our in-app and on-web marketplace, Fishbrain Shop.
We owe a considerable amount of our success to innovation, and since our launch, we have come a long way. Our goal is always to provide anglers with a wide variety of useful tools designed to seamlessly improve performance and experience. Our users are always exploring new places to fish, learning new methods, and trying out new gear, and through innovation, we can support them every step of the way.
How has Coronavirus Pandemic affected your Business, and how are you coping?
Johan Attby: Actually, ok. It has been a challenging time for all sectors, and few have been unscathed by this unprecedented period. We are undoubtedly fortunate to be a fully digital company. In that regard, we have been thankful to continue serving and growing our user base throughout lockdown. For many people, I think angling as an individual sport has become a very attractive activity, which can be seen in our increase of users over the last 6 months.
We have also seen an increase in the popularity of the Fishbrain Shop. Our records show that sales during lockdown from March to April increased by 307%, which is a welcome boost and sign for the fishing sector as a whole. I hope that as a sector and through partnerships with fishing brands, we can provide support and enable anglers and retailers to recover.
Did you have to make Difficult Choices, and what are the Lessons Learned?
Johan Attby: Absolutely had to. First, we didn’t know how sport fishing would be affected by COVID-19 and what that would do to our numbers. After some time, it was pretty clear to us that sport fishing was one of the few activities that people could do, and we were a net-gainer from this. But at the same time, we didn’t know how the funding market would look, so we had to look into ways to extend our runway as much as possible. So it was really a tight balance between stepping on the gas to take advantage of the surge in sport fishing and extending runway because of the uncertain financial market. The key learning here is as a startup is that you have to be super agile and be quick at adapting to new situations.
How do you deal with Stress and Anxiety? How do you protect yourself and Fishbrain in the Future?
Johan Attby: That’s a tough one, and I don’t want to sugarcoat things: I don’t think you can. Running a company means a ton of stress and anxiety, and if you’re not willing to handle that, I don’t think you should. But of course, I do what I can to deal with it. Personally, exercising helps me a lot. When I do intense mountain biking or go to the gym, it helps a lot by clearing my thoughts and reducing the level of stress hormones. Many of my ideas on how to solve problems actually come then.
Another excellent way for me is to spend time with my kids. They give you another perspective on what’s really important in life and make it easier to deal with job-related stuff. At the company level, I really believe in being transparent and sharing issues with the entire company and collectively trying to solve problems. Don’t hold everything to yourself and think you have to solve all of the problems.
Who are your Competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the Game?
Johan Attby: I think when we first launched, we considered the likes of Facebook and Twitter to be our biggest competitors; however, since then, a lot has changed. Not only has the novelty of one-dimensional social media platforms worn off, but users are now looking for multifunctional and diverse online environments to express themselves.
Personally, I think staying in the game is more a case of distribution and retention. We have worked hard to acquire a dedicated user base, so now it is about making sure we provide them with the latest and best tools to ensure their experience is as positive, enjoyable, and productive as possible. When it comes to longevity, distribution and growth are the obvious answers, and given that angling remains the world’s most popular sport, we are working hard to ensure that Fishbrain casts a wide net to cater for all.
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