Only 4 months in, FishingBooker is profitable, expands team to 6

BY Zoja Kukic ON April 15

When you think of fishing, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? For most of us, it’s likely to be an image of a lone fisherman at sea or a vintage bait shop, yet for some, this is a vast and forever-expanding business venture, one that brings in over $45 billion a year in the United States alone.

Vukan Simic has tried his luck several times at big game fishing in different corners of the world, but he soon concluded that the current way of searching for, as well as booking a fishing charter, is unnecessarily complicated (Google “fishing charters in Tampa Bay” and notice the quality of the sites in the top 10 results).

To tackle this issue, he founded FishingBooker, a website which simplifies the task of finding, comparing and booking fishing charters anywhere in the world. This of course includes fishing gear and the services of a captain to make your fishing experience complete.  His friend from high school and university, Nemanja Cerovac, soon joined in on his venture.

Just four months into the company’s lifetime, FishingBooker has covered its startup costs; Nemanja has handed in a resignation letter to his old boss, and the FishingBooker team now numbers six people.

So what do the guys attribute this rapid success to?

Lean Startup the way it’s meant to be done

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The leading factor in the company’s instantaneous and low-cost rise has been relying on the lean startup methodology, or rather its appropriate implementation.

Vukan had created the initial web page in a single afternoon and used a Google AdWords’ $50 coupon to test potential customers’ interest. He had singlehandedly, manually, and at no cost for the customer connected that first batch of clients with suitable captains and hence established that he’s far from alone in his obsession with this kind of fishing; on the contrary, his passion is shared by thousands of people all around the globe.

Step two required Vukan to discover whether people were actually willing to pay for the service he wanted to provide, primarily how the charter captains felt about paying a commission fee for booking referrals; a single swift Western Union payment to the team’s bank account answered all of the questions regarding the idea’s financial prospects.

If somebody was willing to go through the trouble of making the cash payment in person, there probably are a lot of people who wouldn’t mind using an online intermediary to save themselves a lot of time and stress, and finalize the entire transaction from the comfort of their couch, with only their credit card and a couple of mouse clicks.

A recipe for quick growth: experiment, call and apologize later.

Along with starting the company, the team also ventured to the Startup Academy and had intensified their business growth efforts. Vukan and Nemanja came to the Academy with only a handful of customers to their name, only to have more than 80 captains regularly using the website in less than 8 weeks’ time. Come April, the number of listings has risen to over 230 and FishingBooker is quickly approaching the milestone of booking their 100th fishing trip.

kanvu2We were able to accomplish quick growth by going through a lot of experiments, testing out various ideas, making quick iterations and just being willing to apologize to our clients for our mistakes rather than trying to shelter ourselves from the potentially negative reactions – Vukan Simic, co-founder

Securing and managing users in a marketplace like FishingBooker is no easy task, since users on one side rely on users on the other for the product to work as whole.

cera1To be honest, I don’t think there’s any secret to getting traction quickly. The problem generally lies within people’s heads; the boundaries usually set by our minds alone. How many phone calls you can make and how many emails you are able to send during the course of a single work day?

The point is in not giving up even after the twentieth email or phone call. We were working the phones non-stop, we sent countless business offers, found every possible way to come in contact with people and explain to them why signing up for our service was the right choice for them. You can get good at anything, if you practice hard and long enough – Nemanja Cerovac, co-founder

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According to the FishingBooker team, their competition either limits themselves to a specific location or is simply not agile enough. That’s why they are hoping that a swift expansion and successful performance on the global market will give them the opportunity to establish a dominant position in this niche.

Programmers which put business first

Even though both Vukan and Nemanja are software engineers, they are first and foremost business-oriented people, and plan to perfect their product further only after they’ve definitively decided on the direction in which the company should be headed.

They are still very much involved in running various ‘tests’, meticulously analyzing the user feedback, and are so far successful in avoiding the trap of taking too much time in actually producing the final product, something a team comprised solely of software engineers struggles with more often than not.

The guys found the involvement in the Startup Academy rather helpful as well:

The mentors constantly challenged many of our presumptions and the entire experience forced us to do more tests with real customers, try new approaches, enhance the solutions we had already tried and quickly let go of the ones that weren’t working for us – Nemanja

Imagine having a group of 30 tech entrepreneurs that you can share your experience in the field with every weekend, all of us aspiring to the same goal, but working to get to it in 30 different ways. – Vukan

They don’t want investments: “Pressure makes us better”

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As of now, you can use FishingBooker.com to book a fishing trip in 31 different countries (and more on the way). The team is focused on enhancing the quality of service they provide, which is why they are working hard to establish 24/7, world-class customer support. They are looking for fresh engineer, sales and customer service talent to add to their growing team.

Unlike many of their colleagues, Vukan and Nemanja aren’t looking for an investment offer at this time. They are focused on monitoring further growth, optimizing the product and only after these tasks are under control will they start considering looking for a partner that could aid them in scaling their business.

We don’t yet know exactly what the true formula for what we want to make is, and if we were to get the investment, there’s a chance all that money could create a momentum in the wrong direction, and we end up spending it on something that may not be the right thing for our business after all.

It may sound strange, but we like the pressure we are currently under, the situation in which we actually have to earn the money which we spend. It is exactly that pressure that’s making us as efficient as we are, which may not be the case if we were immediately put in charge of spending someone else’s money – Vukan

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