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Portfolio Feature calendar    Aug 31, 2022

Portfolio feature: GoWild

Our Render Capital portfolio company GoWild is a free social media community and gear platform for outdoor enthusiasts. In this portfolio feature, we get to learn more about the origin of GoWild, the impact they're hoping to make, and what excites them about the future.

 
Tell us a little bit about GoWild. Why do you exist? What is your story?
G
oWild
 was founded out of necessity. In 2016, I saw how Silicon Valley's mainstream social media was ignoring the harassment of hunters and anglers after being attacked for hunting on my own Facebook profile. The combination of this experience and the desire to have a platform where I could easily connect with local hunters and anglers created the idea of GoWild—a social platform for outdoorsmen and women. 
 
Me and three other guys took $500 and an idea, and bootstrapped our way to a beta launch in 2017. Since then, we've raised some money, quit our 9 to 5s, and built a great team to scale the model we eventually landed on—social commerce. Today my number one focus as CEO is to craft the product vision, and to curate a culture that makes chasing that vision possible. 

How has GoWild grown over the past two years?
When COVID hit, our revenue was advertising based, and it absolutely plummeted. Our member growth took off, though. We spent much of that year trying to find a way to make advertising worked, but with the supply chain woes what they were, it was clear—we had to pivot. We moved into social commerce, or empowering our members to tag the gear they were using in the field, and allowing people to see that content when shopping. When we launched in November 2020, we did five orders for the month. It was rough going at first—we were learning a new business model, new tech, new customer acquisitions. I am proud to say we've seen a 62,320% increase in our monthly order volume, and through the first half of 2022, we grew at 30% month over month. 

What is something that you learned through the funding process?
More than anything, I've learned to keep momentum with my narrative. Momentum is the most powerful tool in fundraising, and too many founders stumble into rounds, announcing they're raising and then start laying groundwork. It's too late. I continue to build my narrative through investor updates, LinkedIn, media stories, etc., always building the story I want told. With this tactic, we launched a round in 2019, and raised $875,000 in just two weeks. The momentum created real FOMO, and when having limited availability (stock sold in a round) with a product that is moving fast, that is the ultimate power. 

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to grow their startup?
Prepare yourself for mental swings. I had my best and worst day for GoWild in the same day in 2018. I had a panic attack that morning. I was about to attend my first trade show for my side hustle, and it all hit me that once I closed an advertising deal, it was going to be real and there would be no turning back. The stress set in, and I was sick with anxiety. I pushed through, with support from my wife, and went to the show. I pitched six companies, and closed our first ad deal that day for $10,000. I was over the moon just hours after wanting to quit. This is natural and all founders go through it, but you have to mentally prepare to ride these waves, or the rip tide will pull you out to sea. 

Brad Luttrell - CEO - Presenting at Company Retreat 2
 
How has your business had to pivot or adjust over the past few years?
Our entire business model was get the audience, understand them better than anyone, and target advertisements to them. It was fairly simple, really. We knew better than Facebook or Google what your hunting or fishing preferences were, and we'd show you ads that perfectly aligned with your interest. If you log a bass fish trophy, we know you like to bass fish, so we'd show you relevant ads. Everyone was a winner. But the pandemic completely flattened the market. Advertising is the first thing to go in a recession, and the supply chain piled on top of that. It was in August of 2020 when we realized we knew what people liked to do and what gear they used—we should just become a retailer and use our own ad platform to sell gear. 

What trends are you seeing in the social commerce startup space?
A lot of mainstream social platforms are dabbling in social commerce. Instagram is an easy one to see, where they've added the shop tab. This is bolt on garbage for the users. Sure, it works to some effect, but it is not social commerce. What is inherently social about seeing content, clicking it and buying it in a vacuum? This is all Phase I of social commerce—transactional, impersonal, siloed. GoWild is focused on the later phases of commerce, which truly focus on community. We aggregate the content at the product level, so when you're shopping for a new Garmin watch, fishing rod, or hunting back pack, you can see how people are using that product in the field. You can dialogue with them. You can tap into the power of the community, and know that it's zero percent manipulated. Brands cannot delete reviews or content. It's 100% authentic. This is word of mouth on steroids. That's where it will go eventually, but overall, the United States is a solid 10 years behind the leaders in China. 

What obstacle did you have to overcome to get where you are today?
Hundreds of nos from investors. Hiring top-notch talent. A recession. A pandemic. A pivot. But that's any founder's story. The most unique challenge we've faced is the absolute bias from Silicon Valley when it comes to marketing our product. We have truly struggled to fight the big tech machine with its ambiguous, unfair rules against the hunting and fishing industry. Multiple times in 2021, our ads were shut down and our account was throttled for selling binoculars. Facebook's team flagged us for selling weapons (someone should tell bird watchers they're packing heat). This type of banning and throttling has happened to us on TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and so on. 

What kind of impact are you hoping to make through GoWild?
Our team is very focused on shepherding in the new generation of hunters and anglers. We donate 1% of our profits into Raise 'Em Outdoors, a nonprofit that teaches kids and their parents to hunt, fish and shoot safely. Our platform has curated some of the largest communities in the world around niche topics that mainstream social media misunderstands, misrepresents and mistreats. We don't accept that mistreatment, and we fight it every day. I truly hope that through our legacy, we can not only give those communities a home to discuss, but we can share with the world the good that hunting and fishing does for conservation. So many people fail to understand that the money we use to monitor, manage and protect our wildlife comes from hunting and fishing license sales, and firearm sales. 

How do you define success in your work?
Continued progress. We are hitting revenue goals consistently for the first time, and that puts us one step closer to profitability. That gives us the most important thing a startup can get—time. With more time, we control our own destiny and can fight for everything I just mentioned. 

What are you excited about for the future of GoWild?
In the short term, GoWild will be rolling out several new partnerships with manufacturers that is a really exciting next step for our company. Over the next few years, I think you'll see an interesting concept of what it means to be a retailer coming forward. We are looking at ways to combine our community's collective power and knowledge into a shopping experience that is the ultimate answer to your outdoor questions. Stay tuned. :) 

We envision a robust and thriving regional economy where entrepreneurs see the Midwest and South as a place they can find appropriate risk capital necessary for them to start and grow.

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Portfolio feature: GoWild

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Our Render Capital portfolio company GoWild is a free social media community and gear platform for outdoor enthusiasts. In this portfolio f...