By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“I had been growing it slow . . . organically,” says Ben Arnold, the Northeast Tennessee Entrepreneur who developed the ConnectScale device in late 2014 as a better way for fishermen to weigh and track their catch data, whether for personal use or as a part of a fishing tournament.
The device uses Bluetooth technology, connected to a traditional fishing scale, to quickly log the weight of the catch. After several years of development, the company began selling the ConnectScale in late 2015.
Recently, Arnold has turned what had been an evening and weekend sideline business that was slowly gaining traction into a true ramp-up effort. In the process, he’s added two key colleagues, rebranded the company, expanded its focus somewhat, and shifted its corporate structure.
The new name – Connect Outdoors – better reflects the broadened focus of the company. While the ConnectScale device is still a key component – Arnold has sold 5,000 of them thus far, he says the start-up is positioning itself as a Software-as-a-Service online platform that connects individuals to the outdoors through the use of data, technology and unique experiences.
The expanded focus and the other actions helped land Arnold a slot as one of 10 finalists for the next Stadia Ventures accelerator program. As noted in this recent teknovation.biz article, he will compete with the other finalists tomorrow and Wednesday (July 30 and 31) in Frisco, TX. Start-ups selected for the accelerator received a combination of up to a $100,000 in equity investment, intensive mentoring, and connections to the top sports and esports business executives in the country.
To help accelerate the company’s growth, Arnold has added John Cannon, a well-known Northeast Tennessee Entrepreneur, as Chief Operating Officer and Scott Morris of Nashville as Vice President of Tournament Operations, a key focus of the expanded operation.
“We want to revolutionize the way fishing tournaments are managed,” Arnold says, noting that there are thousands of tournaments annually and 20 to 25 million competitive anglers in the U.S. alone.
For those unfamiliar with fishing tournaments – we certainly are, Arnold explained that competitors are judged on the best five fish they caught at the weigh-in. “It (the process) is frequently catch, then weigh, and finally release,” Arnold says.
Unlike a professional golf tournament or most other sporting events, there is no “live” scoreboard that informs fans and the competitors of current rankings or scores. Connect Outdoors intends to change that fact.
“With our technology, the competitors can weigh their catch right there and feed the results to a live leaderboard,” Arnold explains. “It is a much better method for hosting these events.”
That’s where Morris will focus, working with fishing clubs and communities to create what Arnold describes as “economic drivers” for localities. The company held a “soft launch” of the tournament management product at the “Battle of Chickamauga Classic” in late April in Dayton, TN.
More recently Connect Outdoors announced a partnership with the Mount Juliet Fishing Club, the state’s largest such high school group. Under the agreement, Connect Outdoors will help the club with fundraising, boat captain coordination, a parental and audience watch program, and student bio-resumes. In exchange, the club will provide product feedback as well as providing visuals for Connect Outdoors’ social media efforts.
The first event in that partnership was held July 20 at the Lone Branch Access Area in Mount Juliet.
In addition, Connect Outdoors announced last week a partnership with Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation in which the former will sponsor 13 tournaments across the state to help the organization with its fundraising efforts. About 1800 anglers are expected to participate in those events.
“It’s been a fun journey as we’ve plugged away and worked on taking it to the next level,” Arnold says. Now, with the changes and staffing additions, he’s ready to ramp-up fast.