Denton-based Upventur will launch a new social media platform Tuesday that focuses on the outdoor industry from fishing and paddle boarding to snow skiing and ice climbing.
It’s part Facebook and part Expedia, connecting users with friends, retailers, service providers, and experts.
The startup has the backing of some of the biggest names in outdoor sports and the travel industry. Upventur raised $2.5 million from friends, family, and angel investors and will seek another $2 million from angel investors soon.
The 17-person team includes interns, developers, and C-suite executives with a headquarters at Stoke in Denton, the city-backed coworking space managed by The Dallas Entrepreneur Center.
Upventur CEO Craig Pettigrew said he wants to revolutionize how people share, explore, and book outdoor experiences.
“We started the original platform booking fishing charters in 2012 and refocused and moved more into the social platform doing everything outdoor related about a year ago,” Pettigrew said.
MAKING THE MOVE FROM FRISCO TO DENTON
Upventur got its start in Frisco, but Pettigrew decided to relocate to Denton to be closer to the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University.
The company went from two employees — just Pettigrew and a developer — to now 17 employees with more to come.
“We’re in a hiring mode and a lot of the people we want to hire are at those universities,” Pettigrew said. “The talent pool will be really easy to get to.”
UNT and TWU are also where Upventur has conducted beta tests. The first real market push will be done in Colorado.
Upventur will be a free platform for users, but the company has identified several potential revenue fees.
“We want to stay in tune to that startup community and help other entrepreneurs.”
For a fee, small business owners could have access to their back-end technology, social media management, and phone answering services. That way, providers, such as a chartered fishing operator, can focus on what they enjoy doing.
“Most consumers, if they call and you don’t answer they just go on to the next one,” Pettigrew said. “We want to help them eliminate that and capture those bookings. We want to make it more of a professional experience for the consumers. We vet the service provider so it’s not just some guy off the street.”
Other potential revenue streams could come from allowing outdoor retailers and manufacturers paying to advertise on their site. They could also invest their money in other startups and get a return from that.
“We want to stay in tune to that startup community and help other entrepreneurs,” Pettigrew said.
UPVENTUR HAS BACKING OF TRAVEL, ADVENTURE EXECS
The company’s advisory board includes David Lancelot, former chief financial officer of Spirit Airlines, and Wade Martin, president of Powdr, an adventure lifestyle company that operates ski resorts, camps, and other outdoor experiences.
Lancelot spent months doing research on a white water rafting trip on the Colorado River in Arizona. Going through this tedious process is just one reason why he invested in Upventur and sits on the advisory board.
“The outdoor world needed the same entrepreneurial and automated thinking that you can do through the airlines,” Lancelot said. “It’s like pulling teeth to find somebody who has the knowledge and the wherewithal. Much less book your reservation to do it.”
When Lancelot returns from his 90-mile rafting adventure in early August, he will blog about it and post on Upventur so others can learn about the trip.
Lancelot has 26 years in the airline industry and currently works with a company called Erickson Inc., which provides aircraft and helicopters for wildfires, construction, and timber harvesting.
Martin met Pettigrew and co-founder Jacki Wilson through another colleague and saw the potential.
“I jumped at the chance because I think it’s a neat and interesting opportunity,” Martin said. “I think there’s some white space in the industry that they could fill.”
This could also help the small businesses and entrepreneurs who are the backbone of the outdoor industry, Martin said.
“Our goal is to explore, give back, and create experiences.”
“Those guides and those companies are small, they’re not chains and they’re not scalable,” he said. “With Upventur, they have access to technology and to the brand. Consumers are now expecting an easy online payment process. To be able to provide that to companies that may not be able to do that on their own is a big opportunity.”
Wilson, the chief marketing officer for Upventur, said the website and app are a place for sharing, gathering information, dreaming, and doing.
“We created Upventur to give outdoor enthusiasts, hobbyists, and experts a place to connect with fellow explorers and service providers,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to explore, give back, and create experiences.”