Captain Experiences makes booking fishing trips quick, easy, and safe. Instead of calling guides one-by-one, search Captain for your ideal trip, read our 100% Verified Reviews, and book with our licensed and insured guides. We’re based here in Austin, Texas, and we’re excited to be offering more and more fishing trips within and beyond the Lone Star State.
• Kindly give us a brief description about yourself (it should include your brief educational or entrepreneurial background and list some of your major achievements).
My name’s Jonathan Newar and I’m the Founder of Captain Experiences. Born and raised in Houston, TX, I attended the University of Georgia and graduated with majors in Economics and Finance.
I’ve always been fascinated by entrepreneurship, but I began my career in oil and gas investment banking in Houston. From there, I worked in-house for an oil and gas company called WildHorse Resources, where I learned the ins and outs of how large, publicly-traded businesses operate. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.
• What inspired you to (start a new business venture) or (to make significant changes in an existing business)? How did the idea for your business come about?
Our team at WildHorse was successful enough to sell to another well-respected operator. We always talked about going fishing and decided the team should book a trip to celebrate the deal. Since it was my idea, I handled booking the trip and quickly realized that booking a guided fishing trip is an absolute mess:
Whichever guides pay Google the most are ranked the highest, and you have to scrub outdated guides’ websites for prices, rely on sketchy online reviews, and play phone tag with guides just to get a quote or hear that they’re already booked. I knew there had to be a better way and started Captain Experiences.
• What three pieces of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? 1) Make sure you love what you do and you know why you love it. Starting a business is hands-down the toughest thing I’ve done in my life, and it’s flat-out not worth it unless you love what you do. When we do our job right at Captain Experiences, we’re bringing people together through fishing and the outdoors for life-defining times. Supporting local, family-owned guide operations, protecting natural ecosystems, and getting more people outdoors makes everything else worth it. 2) Connect with your stakeholders outside of business. It’s important to know your customers, suppliers, partners, investors, and other entrepreneurs to build your support network. Entrepreneurship can be very lonely so it’s essential to lean on others for help to relieve stress. I like to go fishing and grab beers with those who support Captain, and I know I’ve learned more from these times than any meeting or “brainstorming session”. 3) Don’t give up. My favorite question to ask mentors and other entrepreneurs is, “If you had to say, why do you think we’ll fail?” Their answers surprise me every time and help me protect Captain Experiences. But their most consistent answer is, “Because you give up.” Coming full circle, I think that taking care of #1 and #2 will mean you don’t have to worry about #3. • What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? 1) Interpersonal Communication 2) Time Management 3) Creativity / Problem Solving • How many hours do you work a day on average?
On average, I’d say I work 14 hours a day.
• To what do you most attribute your success?
I would attribute most of Captain’s success to building a core support network. I’ve tried to meet with as many accomplished and successful people as possible to listen to their feedback and suggestions. From that pool of knowledge, you can take bits and pieces and apply them to your situation. Hopefully you can go back to those sources for feedback and can adjust and progress from there.
• How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
We’re really just beginning our marketing campaigns for Captain Experiences now. I’m a big fan of Ryan Holiday’s “Growth Hacker Marketing” and have easily listened to the audiobook 10+ times (it’s under 3 hours long). Rather than pushing a minimum viable product to market, Ryan suggests building an amazing product first.
We started down the MVP route, but reassessed when no one was booking trips. It made sense- I wouldn’t have booked a trip through the site because it was a terrible experience. We still have tons of work to do, but we’re at a point where the site is fun, enjoyable, and easy to use, thereby offering significant value to customers and guides.
Moving forward, I think word of mouth marketing, content marketing (awesome videos with our guides coming soon), SEO, and our focus on product will form the foundation of our marketing strategy.
• Where did your organization's funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
I started out bootstrapping the business with my savings from working in oil and gas finance. With that, we quickly built an impressive, end-to-end website, partnered with over 100 of the best guides in Texas and beyond, and managed to book a respectable amount of trips, all of which resulted in 5-star 100% Verified Reviews.
With initial traction proven up, I raised a small family round to invest in improving the onsite experience and to gain more market validation. With success mounting on those fronts, we’ll be preparing to raise our first round of external capital soon.
• What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
No idea! We’re just getting started, but I think it’ll take consistent commitment to helping our customers book the fishing trip of a lifetime every time. For our guides, we’ll need to focus on deepening our relationships so we can help grow their businesses as partners with shared incentives.
• Where you see yourself and your business in 5 - 10 years?
As Walt Larsen, the man who sparked Yeti’s initial marketing success, told me, “Your model makes a ton of sense and will, someday, be the standard for how we all choose and secure a guide.”
I really appreciated that from Walt and I’m excited for Captain Experiences to be the standard in choosing a guide for your next life-defining outdoor experience.
• Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
I can’t describe how much I admire the guides, charters, lodges, and outfitters we work with. It really is a grind out there, top to bottom. To maintain their boats and other assets, constantly improve their knowledge of the environments they operate in, and then to show up to meet clients to share it all with them is truly unbelievable. There’s no way to describe it so we just call them Damn Good Guides.
Other than that, I have the utmost respect for three companies in the fishing/outdoors space: GoFish Cam, founded by Brandon Austin, Line Cutterz, founded by Vance Zahorski (of Shark Tank Fame), and Duck Camp, founded by Sim Whatley and James Elledge.
Brandon was one of the first entrepreneurs everyone suggested I meet when I moved to Austin to start Captain Experiences. He’s really open with his time, experience, and feedback and it’s helped accelerate my learning curve with Captain.
Same thing goes for Vance of Line Cutterz (of Shark Tank fame). Vance started Line Cutterz with an industry-leading product and scaled from there. That’s the strategy we’re after, and Vance’s support is instrumental to our success.
Duck Camp is another business I really admire and respect. James Elledge, Duck Camp’s Head of Sales and Marketing, has been incredibly generous with his advice, from which tools to use in our tech stack, to how to establish our brand’s voice. I really appreciate his marketing pointers and try to put them to use immediately!
• How important have good employees been to your success?
Building a team is the foundation to success. We would be nowhere without the hard work and dedication of Ian Littman (our lead developer), Richie Morales (our designer / front-end developer), and our advisors Satyam Bansal and Bob Antonoff. My family, my friends, and my girlfriend have been instrumental to our success as well.
• How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Probably too long most of the time…I think those that know me well would say I can be pretty thick-skulled. That being said, I think it’s useful to try to make an idea work. You end up stacking ideas on top of each other and test them out. If things start clicking, you’re off to the races. If they don’t, you’re stronger because of it and can cross another potential path off your list.
• What motivates you?
It really bothers me to know that many people don’t end up enjoying life-defining experiences outdoors because they think it’s too hard to book a great guide: they think they’ll get ripped off, or that it’s too much work to find the right guide, or that the guide won’t teach beginners, or frankly, that it’s too expensive.
The customer is always right, so if booking a fishing trip is perceived this way, then it is that way.
I started Captain Experiences to help people book the trip of a lifetime every time. Bringing families and friends together through life-defining experiences outdoors with our Damn Good Guides is what motivates me.
• How do you generate new ideas?
I generate new ideas on the fly for the most part. Sometimes I’ll have a new idea, open up a blank sheet of paper in my notebook, and write down everything I can think of. From there, I cross things out and expand on others to come up with an idea I might present to our developers, to our advisors, or directly to our guides.
I also love listening to podcasts and audiobooks and generate a lot of new ideas while listening to these in the car.
• What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is the impact I feel I can make. A mentor once told me to “Put yourself in a position where your success depends on you.” This might sound cliché, but what he meant was that sometimes we can get complacent and put ourselves in positions where good things continue to come our way whether we work hard to be successful or not.
At this stage with Captain, if I’m not successful,
• What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
This is a really tough one. I’d say the most satisfying singular moment was our first online / over-the-phone sale.
We had just set up our 833-CAPTAIN phone number which was a lengthy process (I had to enter in the FCC’s 833 phone number auction which was a months-long endeavor).
A few hours after testing the number and linking it to the site, I’m blown away to actually receive a phone call: “Good, at least the spammers know we exist” was my first thought. I answer and hear, “Yeah hey I’m looking to book this Red Snapper trip out of Galveston.”
Checkout! First online sale was a full-day offshore Red Snapper trip. You would’ve thought I sunk a birdie putt on 18 at Augusta to win the Masters, I was going nuts.
• In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
• If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I honestly don’t think I would’ve done a single thing differently. I would suggest starting a career in investment banking to anyone: it teaches you how to work hard, work quickly, work as a team, and teaches you an incredible number of hard skills in a short period of time.
My time at WildHorse was above and beyond anything I could’ve imagined. Managing the public investor presentation, the financial model, reviewing press releases, sitting in on operations meetings, meetings with bankers and hedge funds, and even heading out to the field with reporters was an absolute privilege to be a part of. If anything, I wish my time at WildHorse had lasted longer, but then I may not have founded Captain.
• How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
I’d say that being an entrepreneur has affected my social life more than my family life. I still see my family regularly, and while they’d probably say all I talk about is Captain, I don’t think much has changed there.
I think being an entrepreneur has definitely affected my social life. I’d like to go out and see my friends more often, but there’s always something that comes up. That being said, I do set aside time to grab dinner and drinks with friends and go fishing.
• What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
My greatest fear is failure. I started Captain because a problem smacked me in the face. I researched the issue and realized this must be affecting people at large. I thought long and hard about why this matters, and grew really frustrated by the fact that people are missing out on life-defining experiences outdoors.
From there, I walked the docks in Galveston, spoke with multiple local guides and charters, and realized that the issue is worse than I thought. These guides would love more business, they just don’t know how to get it themselves.
My fear is that we’ll fail at connecting these two sides of our marketplace, and these life-defining experiences will fall through the cracks.
I manage this fear by continuing to build up the business to protect Captain. Whether it’s bringing on more guides, improving the website, calling more potential customers, writing blog posts, strategizing for fundraising, or building the team, all of these actions help me manage this fear.
• How did you decide on the location for your business?
I chose Austin, TX because of the density of the startup and tech ecosystems. There’s so much happening on any given night, not to mention SXSW, ACL, and other headline events that grant opportunities to meet new people. Austin is also home to Capital Factory, a co-working space, accelerator, and all-around community focused on supporting startups- Capital Factory has been instrumental in Captain’s success to date.
On top of the tech/startup scene, my girlfriend, my brother, and a ton of my friends live in Austin so it’s a blast for Captain to be here too.
• If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
I’d have to call it a tie between Babe Ruth, Winston Churchill, and Ernest Hemingway. Each for their own reasons, but I think they all share a no holds barred outlook on life that I try to emulate. If I could get all 3 in a room, I think we’d have a pretty fun night with a lot of laughs.
• Who has been your greatest inspiration?
I think my greatest inspiration comes from our guides and customers. Other than that, I’d also have to say my father. He’s an investor who’s run his own business since 1996. I think it takes a lot of guts to tell people, “Hey, you should give me all your hard-earned money so I can risk it in the markets to bring you more.” It’s a testament to his work ethic, focus, and dedication to his clients/investors that it actually works! His career and success inspire me to achieve similar results for Captain’s customers, guides, and stakeholders.
• What book has inspired you the most? (OR what is your favorite book?)
I’d say that East of Eden by John Steinbeck is my favorite and most inspiring book. It’s all about family and controlling your own destiny which is as inspiring as it gets.
• What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love to go fishing (when I can), like to play sports and work out, and I like to go out with friends and meet new people.