A man hunts on a swath of public land near Branched Oak Lake on the opening day of a recent hunting season for pheasant and quail. Lincoln start-up company Powderhook is hoping to connect hunters and anglers with available lands on which they can hunt and fish.

Growing up in South Dakota, Eric Dinger had plenty of exposure to the outdoors.

At 7 years old, he was running around carving sticks and shooting a BB gun, he said, and he grew up with a love for hunting and fishing.

Now 33 and living in the city, Dinger said he wonders if his 1-year-old son will have the same opportunities he had.

"It makes me sad to think my son won't have a place to go (to hunt and fish)," Dinger said.

He hopes his new company, Powderhook, will solve that problem for generations of hunters and fishers.

Powderhook is an online marketplace that aims to connect people looking for places to hunt and fish with landowners willing to open up their land.

Dinger likens the concept to Airbnb, the popular website that connects people looking for a place to stay with available accommodations around the world.

He said he came up with the idea after selling Thought District, the Lincoln marketing company he had founded, last year.

Just three days after the sale, Dinger's son was born.

He decided to take a couple of months off from business, but being a serial entrepreneur, he found himself thinking about ideas for another company.

"I kept coming back to this idea that it's a pain in the ass to find a place to hunt, and it's also hard to find a place to fish," he said.

Dinger said that's especially true these days, when most people live in cities and land is expensive.

The Powderhook website is in the prototype phase and is listing mostly public lands in Nebraska.

But Dinger said the long-term goal is to provide hunters and anglers a one-stop website to find places to pursue their passions.

He's got a long way to go to get there.

"Right now it's basically a Craigslist," Dinger said, referring to the low-budget online classifieds website.

He said it's fairly easy to find buyers, or people looking to hunt and fish, "but the seller side of our business is incredibly fragmented."

Most of the challenges come on the seller side, he said.

For one thing, the site has to have a good way to aggregate the land. Once that is accomplished, "We can easily pull in the buyers," he said.

Another challenge is convincing the sellers that they can trust the people who will be going onto their land.

Landowners want to maintain a certain level of control, and there are also insurance and safety issues involved.

Many marketplace sites, such as eBay, rely on feedback from users and product reviews to build the credibility of buyers and sellers.

But Dinger pointed out that hunters who find a good deer stand or anglers who find a good fishing spot may not necessarily want to tell anyone about it.

On the other side, if someone sends you a product in the mail and it's not as advertised, you may be out a few bucks. If a hunter goes on someone's land and hurts himself or someone else, it's a huge problem.

"We've got to solve all those problems before we approach (the landowners)," Dinger said.

He hopes to eventually be able to take care of everything in the process, including negotiating leases and permissions and providing insurance.

Right now, Dinger and his team are working on "trying to understand what's the most important thing to build next."

Despite some difficulties in finding talent, especially on the technology side, the business is up to four full-time employees, a couple of part-timers and a half a dozen interns, he said. Powderhook has its offices in the Peanut Butter Factory building at Ninth and M streets.

Dinger is funding the company out of his own pocket, but he said he has some investors lined up and expects to announce something after the first of the year.

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Reach Matt Olberding at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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