LEXINGTON, Kentucky (January 14, 2022) — After successfully building one of the best hunter and angler-focused social apps on the market, a University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information alumnus is also looking to help grow his community.
Brad Luttrell, a 2009 journalism graduate, is the co-founder and CEO of GoWild, a free social media community that helps outdoor enthusiasts improve their skills, discover gear and earn rewards. Founded in 2016, the forum-based app connects community members with locals interested in the same topics instead of requiring members to create their own following.
What sets GoWild apart from its competitors is its focus on equipment. There are 500,000 pieces of gear that users can tag in their content to show what they’re using and around 30,000 pieces of gear that users can purchase directly from GoWild, which includes around 40 brands. The app also rewards users with points that unlock different prizes when they buy products and post messages. Prizes include GoWild giveaways, coupons, gift cards and a free fishing trip with the company founders, which has yet to be won. Luttrell views investment as gaining business for its customers and reinvesting in them.
“Building a tech company in Kentucky, I’ve been told, is like growing a pineapple in the Midwest,” Luttrell said. “And the Midwest is not a good environment for growing pineapples, which we hope to change.”
The idea for a tech company came after Luttrell returned to his childhood hunting and fishing roots in southeastern Kentucky after a hiatus to come to the UK. He had spent his college years devoting himself entirely to writing, editing, and shooting photos for the Kentucky Kernel, devoting more than 90 hours a week managing a team of 40 people for the newspaper. student. After graduating, he worked for a few years as a freelance photographer, copywriter and creative director. When he achieved his goal of becoming a creative director before he turned 30, he set himself a new goal.
As he tried to think of a business to start that would accelerate his career while trying to improve white-tailed deer hunting, he discovered that there was not a good space online for veteran hunters and recruits to connect, exchange tips and share hunting experiences. And after facing ‘harassment from hunters’ for sharing his past game on other social media sites, he set his sights on creating a space for the outdoor enthusiast community.
“The fact that you might be scared to share something you care about so much is crazy to me,” Luttrell said. “I just realized simultaneously that there should be a niche platform where you can quickly meet other people and engage with them around things you like.”
Combining his diverse skills with his knack for storytelling, Luttrell built a business — with no prior startup experience — from the ground up with three other founders. For the first two years, the founders met in their basements and living rooms during the holidays, early in the morning and late at night, using whatever free time they had to lay the groundwork for the business. In 2017, they started fundraising. The following year, Luttrell was able to work full-time with GoWild, and he credits his time at CI for developing the tools he needs to be successful.
“My ability to tell stories that I learned from Kernel and the University of Kentucky is the most important skill set I’ve ever learned,” Luttrell said. “When I took the leap as an entrepreneur, the best thing you could do to fundraise was to be honest, tell an authentic story, and get people to believe in you.”
The app has gained a lot of traction over the past year. Last January, GearJunkie, a trusted company in the outdoor industry, named GoWild the best hunting social media app of the year. Luttrell said the headline was exciting because he felt the outside media had snubbed his business for some time. In April, GoWild was also featured on Fox News Media’s homepage, and in December, Louisville Business First named GoWild as one of the startups to watch in 2022.
Luttrell’s startup success with GoWild led to him being named to Louisville Business First’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2021. Not only was this honor important to him because he recognized his team’s hard work over the years, but he also felt that he also legitimized the oft-questioned. the hunting industry among a diverse class of businesses, including distilleries and healthcare.
Going forward, Luttrell hopes to turn GoWild into a profitable business that lasts and can stand out from other social media apps. He wants the app to continue to be a safe, fun and useful space for anyone who is passionate about wildlife conservation. His goals also include helping other founders, especially those in the South and Midwest, achieve the level of success he has managed to achieve so far with GoWild.
“We have such an impact,” Luttrell said. “Yeah it’s on a smaller scale right now but I don’t want it to stop. I think if we finish tomorrow there’s a black hole on the internet that doesn’t exist like we do. This is such an important community for so many people, I just want to be able to provide them with the entertainment and education they found on our platform and continue to keep it alive.