Jerome Tufte: Cofounder & CEO of Amberjack

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Bio:

Jerome Tufte is cofounder and CEO of Amberjack - the best place to find and book fishing trips with local guides, charters, and lodges all over the world. Founded with a mission to use technology to help people unplug, Amberjack works with top quality fishing outfitters on six different continents to provide people with every kind of fishing trip from simple day trips to once-in-a-lifetime destination excursions.

A native of Bozeman, Montana, Jerome grew up with a close connection to the natural world and always wanted to make that a part of his future career. Prior to founding Amberjack, he served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Prehype, a venture incubation firm in New York City, and advised startups on engineering and product management. Follow their Journal here!

How did you get into the industry?

My cofounder Joe and I wanted to use our experience building technology products in a space that was both of deep personal interest to us, and that was underserved by startups currently. When we realized we both like to fish we thought that sounding like a perfect industry for us. We thought the vendiagram of people who really like to fish and have a lot of experience building consumer technology products is probably quite small. And we thought working all day every day to help people go outside and do something awesome would always be a motivating and satisfying pursuit.

Any emerging industry trends?

There is a new wave of younger anglers (that’s a more technical word for people who like to fish!) who are more tuned in on social media etc… It can be unsettling or off-putting to some who have been into the sport for a long time, but it’s important that younger people carry the torch and I think we need to embrace their participation however it may manifest. There’s no doubt that we can debate the positive and negative influences of apps and social media on the sport, but what’s important is staying flexible and finding ways to welcome younger generations.

Another trend, of course, is a new wave of smaller independent gear and clothing brands which is cool to see. That means quality products produced in local communities here in the US.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

On a very general level, we see many technologies we take for granted in other spaces finally making their way into this industry, for better or worse. It’s a challenge to a certain extent because fishing a very poetic way of getting away from the clutter of our lives, including our phones. There’s a kind of dissonance involved applying technology to such a timeless and traditional sport. However, we see an opportunity in focusing on the ways in which we can use technology to help people actually get out and unplug, and fish, more often. So it’s less about changing HOW you fish, and more about making sure we actually DO go fishing.

Inspiration for Amberjack, and your vision for it?

Our inspiration was really a couple of great guided fishing trips we went on two summers ago that brought to our attention how great fishing in a new place can be. And it reminded us that fishing itself is really a vehicle for many things we consider fundamentally important to living a healthy, happy life: spending time with friends, putting your phone down for a while, having a connection with the natural world, and being active. Our vision is to use technology to help as many people get outside and take a break from the cluttered daily lives as possible. We see Amberjack as an online hub that can help people in a variety of ways in terms of inspiring, planning, and actually going on trips outside.

What's next for Amberjack in the near future?

It’s safe to say we will have a mobile app in the relatively near future. Now that we have a sizeable audience booking trips as well as following our content on the Journal, we want to be on people’s phones to connect with them in a deeper way. Beyond that, we have a couple very exciting big additions to what we already do that we’re not quite ready to announce… stay tuned!

Your key initiatives for the success of Amberjack?

Our content site, The Amberjack Journal, was sort of something we just did because we thought we should. But we’ve really found it to be a legitimate and welcomed voice in the space. There are things we’re good at as technologists that are not currently applied much to content distribution within this space and it’s allowing us to really reach people quickly and also helping us evolve our brand and find our voice.

Your most difficult moment at Amberjack (and what did you learn?)

The most difficult moment so far was probably getting the first few hard no’s from fishing guides we wanted to list on the site. What we learned pretty quickly is the importance of listening to the very unique specifics of what these small businesses need and care about within our industry. Fishing is a pretty quirky industry and there are some things we had to learn the hard way. We also had to learn that not everyone will love us and that it’s more important to just be transparent and upfront with people and let them decide if it works for them and their business.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Many times, a fishing trip is something that happens at an important time in someone’s life. Sometimes it’s a celebration like a graduation gift or a bachelor/ette party. Other times it’s about finally taking that fly fishing trip with a parent. An ideal experience with us is the realization that this will be much easier to pull off than you thought. As soon as you’re in our hands we will do everything we can to connect you with a great guide and get your trip on the books so it actually happens.

How do you motivate others?

I think one of the most important and obvious ways is by your actions. Go far above and beyond before asking others to do so. And also I think generally being exciting about what you are working on is fundamentally important. If you wake up and you’re not excited about what you’re working on, think about what’s wrong with that and change it as soon as possible. Hard problems are hard, but they can be fun too if it feels worth trying to solve. I think that spirit can trump just about everything if you truly believe it.     

Career advice to those in your industry?

Do not mistake the folksy, traditional, side of this industry with an inherent and permanent resistance to change or technology. There are many reasons that technology and startup-powered services have been slow to take off in fishing, but that will not remain the case as the people in this sport continue to shift toward a new generation.

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