When you buy seafood, you probably picture a boat and a net, not the myriad regulatory hoops and requirements fishermen and seafood dealers have to contend with before you can eat it. But it’s about to be a lot easier for the industry, thanks to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based tech startup Bluefin Data, which has created VESL, a “hook to database” software platform designed to simplify and consolidate government reporting for the seafood industry.
Back in March, the startup, run by Andrew and Claude Petersen, won the Propeller $10,000 Water Challenge, a pitch competition for entrepreneurial ideas to protect coastal environments, improve urban water management, and create jobs in the local water economy.
Startup Southerner recently talked to Andrew about his journey as a tech founder in a decidedly low-tech industry.
SS: Are you from Louisiana?
AP: Yes, I am originally from Zachary (just north of Baton Rouge). I’ve moved away a couple times, but always seem to find my way back.
SS: How did your career in tech begin?
AP: I stumbled upon my love for technology after playing online poker for four years, I was not fully satisfied with continuing with that career. Since my father owns a software business, it was easy for me to start working with him. Soon after starting, I fell in love with improving my skills as a software developer, which led me to my love for self improvement and business.
SS: How did Bluefin Data get its start?
AP: My father started working in the seafood industry back in 1999. He purchased the rights to his contracts within the seafood industry in 2007 and has grown Bluefin Data along the coast from Texas to Maine.
SS: What’s next for the company?
AP: Since Bluefin Data has been in business for about 10 years, we have a foundation that allows us to rapidly grow in the near future. Our new system, VESL, is built with new technology that greatly improves usability and the ability to scale to different regions in the US, as well as internationally. In the near future, I hope to release our new software replacing the existing systems. This will lower our operating costs while also providing our users with a better user experience.
SS: What’s the biggest challenge facing Bluefin Data as it moves forward with this expansion?
AP: The biggest challenge we face is the resistance to change. Our customers are government agencies and fishermen, who both find change difficult and would rather keep their processes that have been in place for years. Another big challenge for us is the complex requirements of each government agency. Many seafood providers don’t know who they need to report for and by what date. It’s very similar to filing your own taxes… it’s a pain. We hope to make this process dead simple.
SS: In addition to winning the Water Challenge, you also participated in the Propeller Growth Accelerator. What was that experience like?
AP: Propeller is amazing! The growth accelerator program has not only helped me improve my skills personally, but they have opened numerous doors for Bluefin Data.