Some 50 million people fish in the U.S. every single year — more people than play golf and tennis combined, says Ross Gordon, CEO of Catch. The already $10 billion category has seen an explosion as the number of participants grew during the COVID period by 10 to 15 percent, and previously had been growing 1 to 2 percent each year.

"It's a pretty large category that's been under the radar for a long time," Gordon says.

And because the category tends to be overlooked, the response from early investors when Gordon started Mystery Tackle Box (now The Catch Co.) in 2012 was difficult. Further, he says as the monthly fishing gear subscription service in 2014, he was competing with a subscription box boom and bust cycle where many startups were trying to launch a similar concept.

"We got caught up and lumped into that phase," he says. "That was a challenge. People were not really looking for subscription boxes as an investment. But really the biggest challenge is we were in the fishing industry so we were talking to investors who were used to seeing these big huge consumer opportunities and they looked at fishing, and especially if they were on the coast and maybe they didn't have exposure or understand how big the market was, it was kind of like, 'A fishing subscription box? Why would we want to invest in that?"

He says it took a few tries to find an investor in Guild Capital that was in the subscription space and understood enthusiast markets as well as performance marketing. The Chicago-based firm led the company's seed round in 2015.

In April 2021, the company raised a $38 million Series B round led True Ventures and TechNexus, bringing the company's value to well over $100 million. TechNexus, Gordon says, was a previous investor that continues to be supportive and True Ventures is a new investor that he says is regarded as one of the best in the country.

"They have a passion for the outdoors, so it was really a perfect match for us," Gordon says. "They're really helping us push the vision forward, continue to find ways to expand market share and take the company to the next level. That's how we've got to where we are. We've always innovated on what we've done before and with that capital and with that philosophy and mindset we're super excited to see what we can accomplish."

Gordon spoke at last year's Chicago Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about how Catch Co. caught on with investors, and where they go from here. Hit play on the video to check out the full interview.