pursuits

Anglers’ Path to Glory Revealed by FishBrain’s Algorithm

Updated on

The sport of fishing may be about to experience its biggest revolution since the 1920s, and it’s all thanks to an app developed by a Swedish startup.

Relying on the average piscator’s impulse to brag about a catch, FishBrain AB uses shared photos of fish to generate big data. The company says it’s now logged enough data to predict when and where fish will bite.

Recreational fishing is one of the world’s most practiced hobbies. In the U.S., anglers spend $48 billion annually on bait, tackle and gear from companies including Jarden Corp. and Rapala VMC Oyj, according to the American Sportfishing Association. That’s more than three times as much as global recorded music sales, which were $15 billion last year, according to trade body IFPI.

“Building a bigger user base is the key focus for 2015,” FishBrain’s Chief Executive Officer Johan Attby, 40, said in an interview in Stockholm. “The goal is to become the first-choice app for anglers worldwide.”

The social network is introducing an algorithm to forecast when and where to drop a line for a particular species, based on the 225,000 catches users have logged. The big-data version of the app became available on Android last week and on iOS this week.

Niched social networks are attracting investor appetite. Strava Inc., an online community for running and cycling, in October raised $18.5 million from investors including Sequoia Capital. Attby, who is more into bicycles than fish, said his idea was to find a community with many potential users.

Algorithms, Tackle

Combining a specialized social network with big data, Attby hopes to beat the solunar theory -- a method proposed in 1926 that’s still popular today -- in predicting when fish will strike. FishBrain’s app gathers a range of automatic data such as wind speed and water temperature while users log data on their catch and the equipment used to land it. Algorithms then predict where to find nine species, including northern pike, largemouth bass and spotted seatrout.

The company, which was founded in 2011 and introduced its app last year, now has 650,000 users of which over two-thirds are in the U.S., where it dominates the market. FishBrain relies on word-of-mouth and Facebook ads for marketing, has raised about $3.5 million, and plans to take in more capital next year.

Future updates may offer users gear, bait and fishing permits in the app through affiliates. The company now employs 12 people, a number Attby predicts will grow to about 100 in a year or two.

Attby’s FishBrain feed is full of anglers showing off their latest catch and sharing tips. To encourage users to log aquatic trophies, the app keeps track on records for different waters so that a user with the biggest specimen of a particular fish gets named “King of the Water.”

Users can also opt to hide details about a catch if they wish. Luckily for Attby, anglers like to share stories.

“The best proof is to check on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to see how anglers boast.”

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE