COLUMBIA, SC — The art of hunting requires understanding the many rhythms of nature, from wind direction and stages of the moon, to calls, scents and migration habits.
Managing those changing elements is more complex than just hunkering down in a deer stand or duck blind and hoping for the best. Now, a team of young Columbia entrepreneurs in a start-up company called TerraStride have put all the data you might need for a successful hunt in the palm of your hand with a wildly successful app that is poised for even more growth.
Columbia native and University of South Carolina graduate Lanford Holloway and his team have developed two smart phone hunting applications that have topped the sports download charts at both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Now they want to take the apps to the next level: Using the same land management tools developed for the hunting sites to help real estate brokers showcase large tracts of land.
“It’s been a viral growth,” said Holloway, 31. “It should revolutionize the way hunters hunt. And we also want to revolutionize the way people buy large tracts of land.”
Development of the apps in Columbia also is another sign that the city and university are coming into their own as a technology incubator. The apps join other innovative work taking place in the Capital City, such as a 3D printing plant, a company that is developing vaccines that don’t require refrigeration and a monthly Science Café gathering meant to foster discussions of science and technology in the community.
Holloway said he was tempted to move his company to more lucrative fundraising areas such as Silicon Valley, but he has been able to garner the interest of local angel investors. He said he would like to keep the company here in Columbia.
“This is home,” he said. “And I want to grow the company here and keep it here.”
When Holloway’s HuntStand Lite application was launched late last year it ranked No. 2 in the free sports apps category at the Google Play Store and was the No. 4 sports app at the Apple App Store.
A companion paid app called Huntstand Turkey Hunt, which was developed and distributed in partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation and the popular Bone Collector TV show, was the No. 1 most downloaded paid sports app in the nation in April on both major platforms and continues to do well.
The apps allow data to be stored on large tracts of land, such as by hunting clubs. The hunting apps allow the hunter to log game sightings and bedding and feeding areas using 40 icons for different land attributes.
The new land management applications, which will be linked to a website, also offers a virtual tour of roads, trails, timber stands, fields and other topological features. That allows brokers to offer potential buyers of property a glimpse into the land without either party having to take the time to drive the back roads and hike the trails to see those features in person.
“It turns out there are a lot of different applications for this,” Holloway said.
The hunting apps also include comprehensive weather forecasts for up to five days, from wind direction to temperature to solunar (sun and moon) tables. The most popular feature is wind direction forecasting, a graphical interface that indicates in which direction a hunter’s scent will be blown – vital to any hunt.
Also, it delivers that information by download so forecasts can be accessed without phone service, an important feature when hunting in deep woods or remote areas.
“A lot of people are using it because it’s got really good weather features,” Holloway said.
TerraStride began under the name HuntStand when Holloway, an avid hunter, drew some specifications for the HuntStand website late one night in 2009. Holloway, an Emory University undergrad majoring in history and political science, then decided to forgo law school for an international master of business administration degree from USC’s Moore School of Business.
The HuntStand business concept won the school’s business plan competition in 2011, taking the prize for both Best New Business Concept and Best Presentation. Shortly after, Holloway went to the computer science department at USC’s School of Engineering and recruited four computer science doctoral candidates who were interested in the concept.
The team has grown and changed since then and the concept has adapted to focus more on web-based mapping solutions that would have more applications than just hunting. He subsequently switched the company name to TerraStride to broaden the market.
“Now our hunting products are marketed under the name HuntStand and the brokerage software is marketed under the name TerraStride Pro,” he said.
The Columbia team now includes: Blake Baxley, vice president of sales and marketing for HuntStand; Townsend Zeigler, vice president of sales and marketing for TerraStride; and Marianna Simina, the senior Web designer. The company also includes coders on both the West Coast and overseas.
“While it is true that the original concept for this software was mine, it has been massively improved and expanded upon by our team,” Holloway said. “We have six full-time people working this project and several more part-time. Every member of our team has an advanced degree and they are all experts in a particular area.”