experiences “Experience the Adventure of a Lifetime with Mallard Bay: The Premier Guide for Hunting and Fishing on Airbnb”

Americans spent more than $144.8 billion on fishing and hunting in 2022 alone, according to a survey by the U.S. Guided hunting and fishing excursions are a substantial part of that industry, but they’ve largely remained offline. Mallard Bay is also a vertical SaaS platform for the outfitters themselves to bring their back office online and provide additional services like marketing. “The one thing that comes with hunting and fishing is being a conservationist,” Meaux said. Mallard Bay’s bookings have grown 600% year over year, which is impressive for any category but notable in a category like hunting and fishing that seems relatively niche.

Americans have proven time and time again that hunting and fishing remain popular pastimes, with more than $144.8 billion spent on these activities in 2022 alone according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, one sector of this industry has largely remained in the offline realm: guided hunting and fishing trips. These experiences are typically booked over the phone and paid for with physical checks or cash. But now, a Houston-based startup called Mallard Bay is revolutionizing this process.

Mallard Bay offers a convenient marketplace for hunting and fishing enthusiasts to find and book guided tours in the same way they would book a hotel online. Additionally, the startup serves as a vertical SaaS platform for outfitters themselves to bring their back office operations online and take advantage of services like marketing.

This week, Mallard Bay announced a successful $4.6 million Series A funding round led by Soul Venture Partners, with participation from existing investor Acadian Capital Ventures and other angel investors. Co-founder and CEO Logan Meaux shared with TechCrunch that the idea for the company came to him after a disappointing hunting trip with his father during his college years. Thinking he had booked a three-day guided duck hunt in Oklahoma, Meaux and his father were met with the unfortunate news that their hunt was double-booked and their only option was to join 13 other people for just one day. Needless to say, Meaux didn’t even manage to fire a single shot.

At the time, Meaux was working at his father’s startup, Waitr, which successfully raised $24 million in venture capital and exited in 2018. This experience sparked his own entrepreneurial ambitions, and in 2019, he joined forces with two other co-founders to bring Mallard Bay to life. Initially, their goal was to create a marketplace similar to Airbnb for booking guided hunting and fishing trips. However, as they began discussing the idea with outfitters and guides, they discovered that simply offering a booking platform would not be enough to entice these professionals. This realization led them to develop Guidetech, Mallard Bay’s back office solution for outfitters.

“Outfitters were receptive to the idea and recognized the importance of keeping up with the times, but they are not primarily business owners. They started as guides, following their passions and building their businesses around them. We are passionate about both the outdoors and the software space, which made us the perfect fit to help guide them through this transition,”

Logan Meaux, Co-founder and CEO of Mallard Bay

After securing hunting influencer Toby Brohlin as a client on the platform, more outfitters began to sign up. To date, Brohlin has booked over $1 million in gross bookings, and the platform as a whole has facilitated more than $6 million in gross bookings in 2023. Mallard Bay is on track to reach $30 million to $35 million in gross bookings in 2024.

Despite its success and the size of its market, Meaux notes that it was difficult to secure investors for the company. Mallard Bay spoke to over 270 investors before finally closing this round of funding. Investors struggled to understand the category and recognize its potential, and the team also had to address negative perceptions about hunting and assure potential backers that their platform was not facilitating exotic hunting trips in Africa. Another key point they wanted to emphasize was the positive impact of ethical hunting and fishing on conservation efforts, a cause the company is passionate about.

“Being a conservationist is a natural aspect of hunting and fishing. We are taught sustainable practices and wildlife management from a young age by our parents, and we want to pass that down to future generations. Without these practices, overpopulation can have a detrimental effect on wildlife,” Meaux explained.

As someone who does not hunt and only occasionally fishes, Mallard Bay’s success caught my attention. It’s not every day that we come across hunting SaaS! And it’s not the only company in this industry that has recently raised funding; HLRBO, an online platform for finding hunting leases, raised $1 million in February.

Mallard Bay’s rapid growth since its launch in 2021 is also noteworthy, with a 600% increase in bookings year over year. This is impressive for any category, but particularly in niche markets like hunting and fishing. As the saying goes, “the riches are in the niches,” and this is certainly proving to be true in this industry.

The fact that there is still so much potential and room for growth in this sector is not lost on Meaux. Despite their progress so far, he believes there is still a lot of market to capture and plenty of opportunities to continue expanding the capabilities of Guidetech.

“We have achieved some success, but we are not yet successful. This is something I learned from my dad along the way. In his companies, even after exiting, there was still work to be done.”

Logan Meaux, Co-founder and CEO of Mallard Bay

In addition to Mallard Bay, there are other successful examples of outdoor-focused apps that demonstrate the demand for these types of experiences. Strava, a popular app for runners and bikers, boasts over 100 million users. Similarly, applications that connect individuals with shared outdoor interests, such as fishing, have also gained significant traction. For example, Fishbrain, a social media platform for fishers, has recorded over 14 million caught fish in its 12-year history.

Although I personally am not a hunter, Mallard Bay’s recent funding round caught my attention as a unique and interesting concept in the startup and tech ecosystem. The lack of efficient and user-friendly technology in many outdoor industries, such as hiking and birdwatching, is a common problem that I encountered myself while trying to plan a trip. But with the success of Mallard Bay and other outdoor-focused applications, it’s evident that there is a market for these types of solutions. As the saying goes, “there’s riches in the niches,” and the potential for growth and success in these niche markets is far greater than one might initially think.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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