Weeks after getting accepted in The eFactory’s 2018 business accelerator and pocketing $30,000 in startup capital, Easy Access Hunts LLC won the fifth-annual Spin66 Pitch Pit competition May 11.
The latest judges’ nod brings home another $5,000 for the software company described as “Airbnb for hunters.”
Founder and CEO Joey Pate gave the final 6-minute pitch of the day at the Spin66 Innovation Summit, and it was enough to convince the three judges. Other companies that pitched were Gracious, a cloud-based sermon preparation platform – also participating in the business accelerator; HQ Assist, a service to help accomplish personal to-do lists; Netsofy, a medical tourism platform to connect patients and doctors around the world; and Tacit employee training software using virtual reality.
“We’ve seen a lot of success early,” Pate said after winning the competition. “Everybody around us is excited about it. That fills our energy and keeps our team grinding and pushing toward our goals.”
Easy Access Hunts sets up short-term lease arrangements and already has one hunting season under its belt.
“We’re just giving you the platform to lease the land,” Pate told the judges during a short Q&A. “This is something the market’s never seen before. We’re going big.”
During the spring season, Pate said roughly 1,500 acres were in the system, and they were rented at a 40 percent rate. The first run generated $1,100 in net revenue, he said.
The company’s 18-month goal is to have 65,000 acres accessible to renters, which would produce profits of roughly $300,000.
Pate has identified a market of 12 million hunters nationwide, and he said 80 percent of them are dependent on others’ land. They spent an estimated $624 million last year on private hunting leases, Pate said.
Serving as judges during the Pitch Pit at The eFactory were Jim Ashley, a director at accounting firm BKD LLP; Zola Finch, executive director of RMI Inc.; and Dee Telting, co-founder and CEO of Your Pal Pro Inc.
Before rendering their selection, the judges had questions:
• What guarantees that the land is “huntable”? Pate said, “We’re checking it out and setting quality metrics. We’ll tell people if it’s ‘huntable’ or not.” He acknowledged that process is not scalable for the business.
• If you’re renting out vacant land, how do you know renters “check out”? Pate explained: “We’re making a check-in and check-out step on our app. The landowners will know.”
• What about the seasonality of the hunting business? Pate said some predator hunts will help level it out but emphasized the core targets of deer, turkey and waterfowl cover plenty of revenue-producing days.
After the event, Pate said the cash prize – issued through event sponsor RMI – was timely. The company recently acquired insurance for landowners using the booking platform at EasyAccessHunts.com.
“This money is helping provide all of our landowners with $1 million in liability coverage for any experiences that are booked through our website,” he said via email.
Easy Access Hunts signed on with Outdoor Underwriters Inc., a South Carolina-based company specializing in insurance for large landowners, foresters and forestry associations.
“It’s a custom guides and outfitters policy,” Pate said. “With us being a little unique, they had to do some customization to get it to work right.”
Pate said the team started locally in its search for an insurer.
“We made a lot of calls,” he said. “It wasn’t really in their domain, and I think they felt it would be more time than value to figure out a policy for it.”
As for competition, Pate and company discovered Outdoor Access Inc. in Richmond, Virginia.
“They’re probably the most successful,” he said, noting his research shows the company has 300-400 properties listed mostly in Virginia and North Carolina.
“We weren’t too worried about them,” Pate said. “In the Midwest, we’re geographically completely different.”
For the fall deer season, Easy Access Hunts currently has 7,000 acres committed. Growing that inventory is one of the team’s burning issues.
“Landowners are our critical path,” Pate said. “In the next 12 weeks, that’s where our focus is going to be.”
A challenge is in converting those landowners from traditional long-term lease arrangements.
“That’s what we hired the director of land services for. He’s got a trusted list of landowners and land investors throughout his network,” Pate said of team member Luke Shoemaker. “We’re going to prove to them the benefits.”
In addition to Pate and Shoemaker, the Easy Access Hunts team comprises John Moore, co-founder and chief technology officer, and Christopher Lazzaro, a startup coach serving as an adviser.
The daylong Spin66 event also had a panel discussion on kickstarting business ideas and a roundtable with foodies on culinary trends.
Organizers say there were about 50 fewer attendees than last year, when entrepreneur Amy Blansit won the Pitch Pit for her Solely Jolie makeup industry product. She received $10,000 in cash and business services.
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