CASPER, Wyo. — Sam Seeton, general manager of Black Tooth Brewing’s Casper location, said that while his start-up Infinite Outdoors is “growing like a weed,” it’s still cash-flow negative, and he’s hoping not to have to sell a kidney or get a second mortgage to “weather the storm of the start-up phase.”
Seaton is one of six finalists this year competing for up to $50,000 in the sixth Casper Start-Up Challenge. The final pitch night is Tuesday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m.
His web- and app-based platform connects hunters, anglers, and adventurers to private landowners who list their properties for one-off bookings, similar to Air B&B.
The landowners list their properties for free, and Infinite Outdoors takes a commission on the booking fee. Users pay an annual subscription fee of $39.99, a portion of which goes to an affiliated conservation group of the user’s choice. Infinite Outdoors also offers conservationists and biologists who consult with landowners to maintain, develop, and monitor human impacts to the ecosystem.
Since the platform launched a year and a half ago, 300,000 acres of land, including seven properties in Wyoming and 100 in Colorado, have been listed. In January of this year, there were 140 bookings.
The alternative for landowners is to lease to an outfitting or hunting club, Seeton said, which means they lose their legal rights to the land during the terms of the lease.
“The land can be used and abused, it can be overharvested, overfished,” Seeton said. “A lot of outfitters and clubs, they are only managing it to make themselves money. The landowners are at their mercy and goodwill.”
Not only do landowners maintain control by listing on Infinite Outdoors, but they are currently making two to three times what they would make by leasing. They can list or remove their land from the platform at their will.
The platform also centralizes the insurance forms and marketing: “We have tens of thousands of dollars of legal work covered on the back end.”
Even users who aren’t booking can use the app to view topographical maps and plot routes on every public trail system in Wyoming, Colorado, Montana and New Mexico, Seeton said.
The idea started by accident, Seeton said, while helping out a landowner in his home state, Colorado.
“They got burned by a few outfitters, they didn’t pay them anything, [and] overhunted their lands,” Seeton said. He worked with the landowner to start an agreement with his pheasant hunting club, which turned out to be a profitable arrangement.
This started a series of referrals that kept Seaton busy. Soon he enlisted classmates from the Colorado School of Mines who were savvy in software development and computer science to scale up the idea into a digital platform — and relieve him of the analog grunt-work. Many of them left far more lucrative posts in digital development to work on Infinite Outdoors, Seaton said.
“I still don’t make a dime off it,” Seeton said. “I make enough to pay our developers, and I’ve sunk tens of thousands of dollars of my own money into it to make it work.”
Seaton settled in Casper while working remotely for Anheuser-Busch. He turned down a corporate post with the company, which would have required him to move to St. Louis and this was followed promptly by the opportunity to helm Black Tooth Brewing’s expansion in Casper.
“I’ll take a quality-of-life promotion living in Wyoming over a financial promotion any day.”