Five years ago, Fishidy launched its app as a way to help anglers keep a record of their catches and share tips with their friends on the hot fishing spots.
Today, the Madison company’s social network for anglers is part of Flir Systems, a publicly traded company near Portland, Oregon, that makes thermal imaging equipment, cameras, sensors and marine technology.
The sale to Flir’s maritime division, Raymarine, finalized in April; terms were not disclosed.
Flir, founded in 1978, has its headquarters in Wilsonville, Oregon. The company — whose infrared imaging products are sold largely to military customers — reported $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017.
Fishidy got its start when Sun Prairie native Brian Jensen decided there had to be a better way to find out where the fish were biting after making the long drive to a northern Minnesota lake in 2010 and striking out in his quest for a catch. Jensen was working as regional director for GeoDecisions, a company that makes location-based software technology. So he teamed up with GeoDecisions to develop Fishidy. The website and mobile app was released in 2013.
Fishidy provides interactive fishing maps on thousands of streams, rivers and lakes, letting anglers log their favorite spots, find bait shops and post photos of their best catches on “The Braggin’ Board.” Nearly 1 million active members hail from all over the U.S., Jensen said.
The company had raised a total of $2.6 million before the acquisition. Hyde Park Angels, of Chicago, led a funding round for Fishidy in 2014.
Doug Monieson, Hyde Park Angels chairman emeritus, said Jensen will continue to run Fishidy. The company, in the McAllen Femrite and Agriculture Business park on the Southeast Side, will stay here and its seven employees will keep their jobs.
“They (Raymarine) wanted it based in Madison and wanted all the people to be working in Madison,” Monieson said.
GeoDecisions and its parent company, Gannett Fleming, were among the owners of Fishidy. Jensen “will lead FLIR’s new digital group and will incorporate Fishidy as one of the company’s marine applications,” according to a news release on GeoDecisions’ website.
Jensen, who declined to answer questions about the company’s sale, is still an eager angler. His sweet spot is Lake Mendota, where he prowls for smallmouth bass.
Fishidy had earned some attention, both locally and on a broader scale, from the entrepreneurial support community.
The company won the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce’s first Pressure Chamber pitch contest in 2014. The prize: a trip to California to make a presentation to Silicon Valley investors.
Chamber president Zach Brandon admits he felt some trepidation about the image a fishing startup would give the West Coast investors about companies in the Midwest, which some already viewed as “fly-over territory.”
Fishidy’s Jensen appeared before the Silicon Valley elite, wearing blue jeans and a full beard, and quipped about missing his flannel shirt, Brandon said. Then Jensen made his pitch. And he won over the crowd.
“One of the top investors in the room said, ‘Bring that guy every single time. We don’t have that kind of passion in Silicon Valley,’” Brandon said. “He showed that even something like a fishing app could be an analytics platform … with a robust data set.”
Fishidy was chosen to participate in the Stadia Sports Business Accelerator in St. Louis in 2015, won Cardinal Stritch’s Project Pitch-It television show, and was featured on the PBS show, Start Up.
The company bought competitor FishingCrew and a related app, HuntingScout, in 2016, and Ryple, a predictive fishing algorithm company.
Hyde Park Angels’ Monieson said Fishidy’s experience is “a good story about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Midwest, and in Wisconsin, in particular.” He said the impact will extend beyond the company itself.
“It’s a good exit — for the investors, for the (Fishidy) team, and for the state of Wisconsin,” Monieson said.