Brad Luttrell of GoWild

An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Brad Luttrell, the co-founder and CEO of GoWild, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of GoWild – what problem were you trying to solve and why?

GoWild is a basement-built startup that’s turned into a product used globally, and a company that has 9 full-time employees and several part-time employees. As an outdoors-man, I saw an opportunity to cater to an audience that big tech doesn’t understand. Hunters and anglers generate $2 of every $100 spent in the US, but when you look at who Silicon Valley caters its tech to, it not only ignores this audience, it censors it. The outdoors lifestyle is often misunderstood, so we built a platform that caters to it. GoWild isn’t just a “Facebook for the outdoors”. We are a forum-based platform that caters to 50+ activities. GoWild offers a system to help people ask questions and get answers from local outdoors-men and women, and you can use this to discuss gear, tactics, etc.

We’re more than a safe space for hunters and anglers. We’re a place where veterans can help mentor the next generation, and newbies can easily connect with people who have been doing this their whole lives. It’s hunting and fishing, but also hiking, camping, nature photography, bird watching, and so much more.

What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?

We’re living it right now. The coronavirus is crushing small businesses across the country, and “startup” is often a fancy moniker for an early, small business. When times get tight, advertisers wait to see what is going to happen. We’re primarily an advertising driven company today, although we’re in the process of moving to being an eCommerce company. I have a lot of friends in Startupland – I just hope they can find a way to survive. I don’t know what’s ahead with this thing – the last time we went into a recession, our audience actually spent record amounts. When people don’t travel, they tend to hunt and fish more. So, we may be just fine, but we don’t know where this journey goes. The biggest hurdles are coming right now and we’re doing what we can to prepare.

What does the future hold for GoWild?

The eCommerce play. We’re quickly becoming the biggest aggregate of outdoor gear in the world. We’re going to continue focusing on helping people find the best and right gear for their pursuits. This diversifies our revenue considerably, and gives us stability in times like these. I’m very excited about where we’re headed.

What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Louisville?

Louisville has come a long way in the four years I’ve been doing this. I’ve been rejected by more than 100 angels in Kentucky. The funding problem we have in Kentucky makes it really hard to get early stage money, especially if you’re not in healthcare. Somehow we’ve clawed through and raised more than $3M over the last few years here, but that also took diversifying our investor network significantly. We tapped into St. Louis, which is a model for what I hope Louisville can become. The angel network is still conservative, but the infrastructure in place there for startups is absolutely incredible. It’s like the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.

What I’ve learned is to not envy Silicon Valley, or even St. Louis, but to focus on what I like about those environments and do what I can to build that here. I think we’re seeing change. People like the folks at StartupGrind, LEAP, and some of the co-working spaces are doing great work to help startups with micro adjustments. Overtime, with enough micro adjustments in our ecosystem, we can shift the narrative and the culture. The biggest challenge we have here, in my opinion, is changing the landscape of our angel investors. We have money here – we just have to give confidence to the investors so they’ll invest it early. That’s not only pre-revenue, but sometimes it’s pre-product. We’re not there. But I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction.

What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it. I see so many people curating advice from tons of people, and spending months and months debating if they’re going to find founders, raise money, build a product, or take the leap. You have to be all in on being an entrepreneur, or otherwise you’re a hobbyist. But investors don’t put their money into hobbyists. Co-founders don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t seem committed. I’m not saying to rush your timeline, but if the question is more about when to start working on your company, you’re asking the wrong question. The answer is always now. You will never get time back. You will never be able to make last week more productive.

Remember: Entrepreneurs aren’t built like most people. We probably have something disconnected in our brain that makes us incredibly risk tolerant. But beyond that, we live in dog years. What would take you years to do in a normal job, you will accomplish at a startup in months if you’re working hard enough. Again, just do it. The worst that happens is you fail and have a great war story for your next endeavor.

 

For more exclusive interviews, see our full Profile of a Founder series

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