Fishidy, Developer of Tech That Aids Anglers, Sold to Flir Systems

Fishidy, a startup that has developed map-based tools to help fishing enthusiasts document and share information, was acquired in April by Flir Systems, a developer of thermal imaging cameras and sensors. That’s according to Don Layden, an operating partner at Baird Venture Partners who invested in Madison, WI-based Fishidy as an individual.

None of the six Fishidy investors interviewed for this article would reveal the amount Wilsonville, OR-based Flir (NASDAQ: FLIR) paid to acquire the Wisconsin startup. Brian Jensen, who co-founded Fishidy in 2010 and leads the company as its CEO, declined to answer any questions about the deal.

However, George Mosher, who like Layden put money into Fishidy as an angel investor, said he was expecting to get back roughly double the $75,000 he invested in Fishidy in 2014. Fishidy’s sole equity funding round was a $1.75 million Series A financing that year, Jensen said.

Mosher emphasized that he didn’t know the exact amount he’ll receive once Fishidy has finished paying out its investors. If all of them ended up doubling their money in the three-plus years between investment and exit, that would be a good return by many measures. (At the same time, in some of the most high-profile startup exits, the company sells for many multiples of its equity funding total.)

Fishidy’s Web and mobile platform provides anglers with fishing tips and lets them use their smartphones to place digital pins over spots in the waters they fish where they’ve had success reeling in perch, pike, walleye, and other varieties. The startup’s mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, records users’ geographic coordinates to make it easier for them to navigate back there in the future. Users can also share hot spots with one another via Fishidy’s app.

Jensen said that about 950,000 people are currently members of Fishidy’s network. He said they’ve used the startup’s tools to log information on more than 30,000 waterways, including lakes, rivers, and coastal saltwater. Texas is home to more Fishidy users than any other state, Jensen said.

Fishidy has seven employees, he said.

Flir saw value in Fishidy’s technology and team, and is now in the process of establishing a “presence in Madison, because of the tech talent,” said Doug Monieson, who serves on the board of Hyde Park Angels. The Chicago-based investor group led Fishidy’s 2014 financing round, along with the Wisconsin Super Angel Fund, he said.

Monieson called the acquisition a “good exit” for Fishidy.

The company generated a fair amount of buzz within the Badger State’s tech scene four years ago when it won a pitch contest organized by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce. Around that time, Fishidy joined other Madison-based startups on a trip to Silicon Valley to pitch venture capital firms there.

Fishidy has operated under a freemium revenue model. That means people can download and use the basic version of its mobile app for free, but must pay $10 a month for a version with additional features. Jensen declined to say how many of Fishidy’s members are paying customers.

Mosher, who said he’s made about 250 angel investments over the years, said he understands it sometimes makes strategic sense to provide a service for free, in order to attract more users. However, he believes Fishidy’s team spent too much of their time continuing to develop the company’s technology and grow its user base, rather than concentrating on revenue growth.

“They got hung up on the technology, instead of saying, ‘How are we going to make money on this thing?’” Mosher said. “It’s one thing to be free for 30 days. People [were paying] either $0 or $10 a month. In my mind, if you price it at $1 or $2 a month, people wouldn’t bother to cancel if they signed up for it.”

Mosher believes that if Fishidy had been bringing in more revenue on a month-to-month basis, the startup would have fetched a higher purchase price. But Mosher said that Jensen, Fishidy’s CEO, was pleased with the terms of the deal his company struck with Flir.

“Brian was pretty happy with this whole thing,” Mosher said.

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