Father-son team turn hunting hobby into trail camera software startup

Speaking from a convention center in Nashville filled with thousands of bow hunters, archers, hunting celebrities and vendors, Ryan White and his father are in a unique position. "I think we're the only software company here," White said ...

Speaking from a convention center in Nashville filled with thousands of bow hunters, archers, hunting celebrities and vendors, Ryan White and his father are in a unique position.

“I think we’re the only software company here,” White told Silicon Prairie News from the Archery Trade Association trade show, where their booth is near the main entrance, right smack dab next to the bow string wax vendor.

His new software, HuntForce, launched Monday. And by Wednesday afternoon, plenty have signed up for the program that will help bow hunters save time while better strategizing their hunts. Using trail cameras and the HuntForce software, the program catalogs and analyzes where and when that prized dozen-point buck shows up.

The software tells hunters what time of day a certain animal frequents the area near the cameras to help plan hunts. The trail camera industry has blossomed in the last five to 10 years with the rise of digital cameras. Trail cameras are motion-activated and take a picture regardless if that motion is a deer or pile of leaves that were dusted up because of the wind.

Hunters strategically place them around their hunting grounds and pull the SD card occasionally and upload the photos to see what the camera has captured. With a little user input, the software takes the photos and orders them by location, time and date to help track patterns of specific animals. 

But it can be a bit of a mess after that, White said. 

Dozens, hundreds or thousands of photos can be taken and sifting through them was a time-consuming headache for White and his dad, Jim, who are avid hunters originally from Kentucky.

Four years ago, the father-son pair—who had no coding or software experience—set out to create a better hunting strategy. They tried—and failed—twice, before they were accepted to Omaha accelerator Straight Shot last spring. The Whites moved their whole family to Omaha for the accelerator and have decided to remain in Nebraska.

Though their vision had originally been more broad, the pair decided to focus their idea down to camera management. 

“We walked in with an idea,” Ryan said. “I can’t code. Neither can my dad, but we were plugged into a network that knew how to make an actual product.

“We had the resources like GoodTwin, which made our front end, Aviture, that made our back end and a marketer, Rendezvous Marketing Group, that specializes in the outdoor industry that connected us with big-name sponsors.”

With $20,000 from the accelerator and $400,000 seed funding from Treetop Ventures, Dundee Venture Capital and Aviture, Ryan (right) says HuntForce had a surrounding community ready to help them be successful.

That’s not to say it wasn’t scary. Ryan owned a car detailing business for the past seven years. His dad, Jim (below right), worked as a director in a pneumatic switch factory for 35 years. 

The leap was a risk. And toward the end they thought they were going to run out of money. 

They didn’t. 

After six weeks of beta testing, they now have paying customers—plans range in five increments from $9 to $99 a month, depending on how many animals you want to track and how many photos you want to manage.

Ryan says he sees a mix of tech-savvy and more traditional hunters that might poo-poo tech-related items in the hunt. He evangelizes them with the benefits of managing their trail cameras and ease of use with HuntForce, which has won converts—more than 750 hunters have used the private beta. 

A majority of bow hunters, who need to be about 20 yards away to hit a buck, use the cameras to plan hunts, Ryan said. Gun hunters don’t usually need trail cameras since their range is much larger.

“Checking out the cameras is the best thing besides shooting,” he said. “It’s fun to see what you get and when.”

They hope to get thousands to use HuntForce by the time trail camera season rolls around in late spring to late summer. Deer hunting season is early fall to mid winter. 

“We want to build momentum and raise enough awareness that when hunters start to think about checking cameras, they think, ‘Hey, we need this software,'” Ryan said.

The market is large, Ryan says, with $14 billion worth in hunting equipment sales each year.

“It’s a niche that’s striving,” he said. “This is a program that helps them save time and better strategize their hunts and get through big uploads quickly so they know where and when deers tend to be.”

In the future, they hope they can make the software even more sophisticated, using little nuances, like temperature, wind direction and moon phases to help track bucks even more accurately. HuntForce may even be able to send you a text or email when it’s predicting the best conditions to hunt that prized buck. 

HuntForce is the latest hunting-related app among many nationwide. There are other trail camera management software apps like WISE, Trail Assistant and DeerLab. It follows Powderhook, a Lincoln-based startup that helps hunters and fishers find private land to hunt and fish.


Credits: Video from YouTube. Ryan and Jim White photos from HuntForce


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