Omnia Fishing Reels in Funding for AI-Driven Retail
Golden Valley-based Omnia Fishing plans to roll out a new information-rich subscription service this month aimed at getting the e-commerce company in the boat with its customers even after they’ve made a purchase.
Subscribers will gain access to enhanced content through the Omnia app aimed at “keeping you safe or helping you make decisions on the water,” Omnia CEO Matt Johnson said. That includes real-time, location specific data on water clarity, temperature, and wind speed. “We want to be more connected to our consumers and the tech they use while they’re on the water.”
Omnia launched in 2018 with a breakthrough shop-by-lake approach to selling fishing gear. The website is organized by lake—more than 20,000 across the country and counting—so shoppers can zero in on the equipment that will work best for the body of water they plan to fish and the species they’re trying to catch. Omnia already offers a $29 annual membership, which offers members free shipping and loyalty discounts, much like Amazon Prime.
The new subscription program, which will require an additional fee that has yet to be set, will layer on deep proprietary data. Johnson says it gives the company a competitive advantage against traditional retailers in a few ways. If products alone don’t draw new customers, information that could improve their performance might. Data also gives Omnia increased influence over buyer behavior, Johnson said. And, it helps the online retailer be more efficient with its inventory.
Future of retail: AI-informed shopping
Omnia already utilizes machine learning to make product suggestions. If a customer clicks on one type of bait; the platform may suggest an alternative. The next phase, Johnson said, is AI-informed shopping. So if an Omnia user is looking at real-time lake maps that suggest choppier waters than usual, the app could suggest a fishing rod that might work better.
“AI becomes interesting when you start associating across data points to accelerate the process of adding value to consumers,” Johnson said. “This puts it into real world application.”
To accelerate the build out of the tech behind the new subscription service, Omnia went back to investors to extend the $4 million funding round the company closed in early 2022. Johnson said Omnia closed on additional funds this week, but did not disclose the amount of the latest raise. In total, the startup had already raised more than $8 million. Last year’s round was led by Dundee Venture Capital and Founder Collective with participation from Liquid2 Ventures, Madison Valley Partners and two Minnesota-based funds, Bread & Butter Ventures and Great North Ventures. Johnson said most past investors participated in the additional raise.
“We still had quite a bit of runway but we took the opportunity to raise enough for about two years of runway, or ‘default alive’ status,” Johnson said this week. “We forecast that with our growth we’d be capable of break-even or profitability within the runway period.” He added that Omnia is on track to hit its first “eight-figure revenue year” in 2023.
Extending the prior funding round rather than initiating a new one simplifies the process—particularly at a time when investors are pulling back. “Fundraising has gotten very tough,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to hit that ‘Goldilocks’ strategic plan that allows us to be extremely capital efficient and risk averse while also hitting important milestones and growth metrics.”
Without investors to answer to, Johnson said, “we would have struggled to prioritize the release of our new subscription product because our commerce platform is working so well. This extension not only allows us to pave a runway but to take some risks and invest in innovation for the future of our company.”
Despite the worsening economy, sales growth has remained steady for Omnia. The overall value per order has softened some, but he said he’s not concerned. “When people get laid off, they fish more.”
Listen: Omnia co-founders Matt Johnson, Chris Morgal, and Dan Wick on By All Means, Episode 112.