When you’re on a boat in the middle of an ocean, a paper map isn’t always useful in helping you locate yourself. Launched in July 2012, Marines Zones is “the real fisherman’s friend”. The three-app range helps recreational fishermen avoid hefty fines by alerting them when they’re in a no-fish zone in Australia.
Forget trying to figure out where you are through a quizzical map exercise when all you want is to catch some fish without violating any rules! Marine Zones is the first iPhone app range to track recreational fisherman via GPS and alert them as to what kind of marine zone they are in or approaching.
How is this app disruptive? Aside from the fact that it overlays contemporary GPS components to a traditional industry, Stewarts explains that digital information regarding marine parks would be only available to someone who can afford specialised equipment worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.
With Marine Zones, you’re only paying AUD$2.99 while the app does the rest. All that is required is paying attention to notifications.
The idea for Marine Zones emerged when twin brothers Brett and Ken Nolan went fishing in a highly-regulated area offshore from Port Stephens, NSW.
“My business partners were on the water in their boat. The weather was a real pain…a lot of wind and big swell didn’t help. It was very difficult for them to work out just exactly where they were on the water. They knew there were marine parks around and thought why can’t we have this information on our phone?” says Glenn Stewart, co-founder of app development company BKG Solutions.
Fishing is Australia’s number one leisure activity. According to the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries, recreational fishing is a multi-billion dollar per year industry in Australia, and one of the world’s last great fishing frontiers with its vast and diverse coastline and freshwater resources.
“Our basic research from contacting various organisations revealed there are between 2 million – 2.5 million recreational fishers in Australia. We estimate the targetable market to be between 500,000 – 750,000,” says Stewart.
Over the last eight months, sales have multiplied almost six times. Stewart credits this growth to a marketing arrangement that was made with fisherman Jason Kennedy, who hosts his own TV show, Fishin’ Trip aired on ONE, TVS Sydney, Adelaide’s Channel 44 and Foxtel’s Aurora Channel 183.
“Our best marketing tool by far is television. We have a pro-fisherman plugging it on his show for us. Without this we would not be in the top twenty iPhone sports apps for Australia,” he says.
The entrepreneur trio tried social media and google AdWords, but felt they were “no good at it”.
When they initially came up with the idea, there was really any choice but to bootstrap.
“We didn’t and still don’t know how to raise money. We applied for a grant and got knocked back. We tried a company that took a commission on sales, but that didn’t work either. The only option that was really left was to take out a loan through a bank,” says Stewart.
“I found it difficult trying to find good information on raising money. There are plenty of people who will give you advice (volunteered or paid for), but unless I’m stepped through the process or persuaded by successful examples, I’m just not confident in trying fundraising. I’d much rather play it safe.”
One of the biggest challenges as a startup was running a business while working full time in a job that was unrelated to what they were trying to achieve with their business.
“It’s very difficult if this business is what you want to be doing – but you can’t let your real job go because it pays the bills. The lesson I learned is to be patient and keep plugging away at it,” says Stewart.
BKG Solutions are currently looking at expansion on a global scale. They are also working on the release of a new and improved version of Marine Zones on the Android operating system, and will start developing for the OS market.