Software Startup Powderhook Tackles the Access Problem


These days finding a place to eat is as easy as talking to your phone, and renting a car requires just a few clicks of your mouse. Given the era of technological advancement we live in, no hunter or angler should have a problem knowing where they can set up a treestand or dip their lines. But unfortunately, sportsmen and women still run into that problem, even in the age of smartphones. Eric Dinger, the co-founder and CEO of software startup Powderhook, says the problem is ludicrous. For the past year and a half Powderhook has been working to compile a massive list of lakes, fields, forests, and swamps that are available for sportsmen.

“We have created some of the most complete hunting and fishing maps ever created, and we’re giving those maps to anyone who wants it,” Eric told me almost casually.

He added that everyone means just about everyone, including Powderhook’s competitors, government organizations, and journalists. Eric said that his company’s goal is to connect users who have access to people who don’t. He explained that building goodwill and better relationships with its audience is all part of Powderhook’s business model.

“If access for all is our mission, then we feel we should make it easier for people to find these places,” he said. “I think that great tech businesses are built from truly solving problems. If you solve important problems like access, monetizing the business isn’t hard.”

Eric acknowledges that his fledgling company has a host of competitors, and it’s true that many other companies and organizations also have the ambitious dream of creating a comprehensive map of hunting and fishing spots in America. There is something that makes Powderhook unique, though—its users. Most of the content on Powderhook is user-generated, and while that may be handy of way of saying that the audience will be doing most of the work, relying on user-generated content has proven to be both efficient and successful. Just look at Wikipedia of Facebook for an example.

How Powderhook works is that users can both search for listings or create their own. If you’re an angler and you don’t mind sharing your favorite public fishing hole, you can log on and post it on Powderhook. If you’re a landowner and you’re looking to get your property noticed by hunters, you can create a listing on Powderhook. The same goes for outfitters, guides, lodges, events, and just about everything else that hunters and anglers would be interested in. It is an ambitious plan, but Eric is optimistic.

What does Powderhook stand for? Watch the video below to get a sense.

“It means we’re trying to compile all the places to hunt and fish, whether free or paid, in one easy-to-use interface,” he said. “On our maps already you’ll find 560,000 free places to go and 12,000 paid places.”

Although many hunters and anglers already have their favorite spots, it can be hard to find new ones. Eric said he first got the idea for Powderhook when he moved to a completely new state for college.

“I grew up in South Dakota and I went to Nebraska for college. As a kid I loved to hunt and fish, I was outside all the time. So when I moved, I went from where I knew all the places to hunt and fish to being a college student with nowhere to go,” he recalled. “So I went from hunting all the time to no hunting at all, even though that was something I enjoyed.”

In his senior year Eric founded and led his own company. After selling that company in 2012, he found himself turning back to thoughts about hunting, fishing, and access.

“This problem of access was one that was always in my mind, and given my background in web development and entrepreneurship, I decided to work on it,” he said.

Eric admits that Powderhook is still very much in its beta form. Although the website already has thousands of listings, the Powderhook team still have a lot of work ahead of them, and so do the users. That being said, moving forward will be a lot easier than getting started in the first place.

“We have a lot more knowledge under our belts, and we’ve learned a lot over the past year thanks to our users,” Eric concluded.

He also hinted at a big surprise for Powderhook in upcoming months, but we’ll just have to wait and see what that is.

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