Father-and-son team Jim and Ryan White have set their sights on the elusive “big game” known as success – and the hunt brought them to Greater Omaha.
“It’s been the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had,” Ryan said, juggling a phone interview while making a debut at the massive Archery Trade Association (ATA) Trade Show in Nashville, TN.
In early January 2014, the Whites formally launched HuntForce, a tech startup that promises to revolutionize the way deer hunters identify their targets and strategize. The web-based application lets users easily sort through and manage the hundreds or thousands of photos gathered from their trail cameras, trimming time commitments from hours to seconds.
“My Dad and I and our group of hunting friends had first-hand experience with the problem,” Ryan said. “Trail cameras have become this indispensable tool for the hunting industry. There’s probably 15-20 million actually in use today in the United States. The biggest problem was – there was no good way to download, search and manage all of the images they take. We said that’s something we can sink our teeth into.”
To realize their idea and bring it to market, the Whites (Jim, Ryan and their spouses) uprooted from Louisville, KY, moving to Omaha in June 2013 to work with Straight Shot, Omaha’s innovation accelerator.
“Straight Shot was invaluable. We were immediately plugged into this network of influential people,” Ryan said. “I was in Louisville for 10 years, and I didn’t have anywhere near the network that I gained in Omaha within a couple of months.”
Product development was equally swift. HuntForce worked with computer scientists at the Peter Kiewit Institute to create the company’s proprietary antler-recognition software. It partnered with local tech firms Aviture and GoodTwin on website development.
“Aviture did all the back-end development. We worked with GoodTwin on front-end design and development. They really worked well together,” Ryan explained. “Within six months, we were able to go from an idea to a market-ready product.”
Omaha’s venture capital community also rallied around the HuntForce concept with a funding infusion of $400,000 – $250,000 from Treetop Ventures, an investment firm that focuses on Omaha-area tech startups; $100,000 from Dundee Venture Capital, which invests in e-commerce and software-as-a-service companies; and $50,000 from Omaha’s Mark Griffis, the president of Aviture.
“We’ve worked with awesome people,” Ryan said. “We’re now hiring our own development staff and our own marketing people. I’m kind of in awe of how it’s all come together.”
Prior to devoting full attention to HuntForce, Ryan owned a car detailing business in Louisville; Jim worked in manufacturing. Ryan’s advice to others who have a particular passion and are thinking of turning it into an entrepreneurial endeavor: “You only regret the things you don’t do.”
As for the Whites – and the whitetails – it seems the buck starts here.
“We have a really great product; everyone loves what it does,” Ryan said. “We’re really living the dream right now.”