Meet Fisherman: An Automatic Website Builder For Small Businesses

Fisherman, a Boston-based startup that automatically creates websites for small and medium-sized businesses, announced Monday that it raised just under $1 million in funding.

The idea behind Fisherman is that small businesses used to only having a brick-and-mortar presence often don’t have the time or expertise to build the kind of websites they need to get discovered and thrive in a digital world. 

Fisherman automates the process for them. It’s all part of the company’s goal to build what it calls a “no effort web.” 

Of its clients, Fisherman CEO Ameet Kallarackal said in an interview: “From their side of things, they’re extremely busy and their core competency isn’t making a website. They’re not experts at doing anything website related, and they don’t necessarily understand what their consumers are looking for on their website.”

Kallarackal, who previously founded the user research firm Campus Insights in college before selling it to Harvard University, knew he wanted to start a business that would address an underserved market. It became clear to him that many small businesses didn’t have the tools or expertise to create and maintain a website. Fisherman has focused on restaurants to start, which has proven to be timely given how restaurants in particular were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and needed to pivot to a digital strategy.

How it works

I sat down (virtually) with Kallarackal earlier this month to chat about Fisherman, and he walked me through the product. He input the name and address of my favorite brunch spot in San Francisco, and within a few minutes, Fisherman created a mockup of a website for it, picking complementary colors from an online menu that was available, and creating a sleek design. 

That’s similar to the process that businesses using Fisherman go through. The first step is data collection, and since Fisherman partners with other restaurant tech companies like Toast and ChowNow, it’s easy to get basic information about a business. And if, for example, a restaurant on the Toast platform doesn’t have a website, they’ll relay that to Fisherman which can easily create a mockup of a potential website to show the restaurant. Then, Fisherman can make a design based on data the company pulls and develop the website.

Businesses that sign up with Fisherman can usually take advantage of a free trial at the beginning of the service before signing up for a monthly package that ranges between $30 and $50 per month. So far, Fisherman has seen a conversion rate of about 95 percent from free trials to paid customers, according to Kallarackal. 

ChowNow is currently Fisherman’s biggest partner, with ChowNow referring potential customers to Fisherman, and Fisherman integrating ChowNow’s online ordering system into the websites it builds. 

The majority of the restaurants Fisherman works with didn’t have a website at all, while a growing number have some sort of website. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Fisherman made its services free for six months for restaurants wanting to join the platform.

According to Maureen Stanick Boyce, managing partner of Good Growth Capital, Fisherman proved interesting because the company focused on helping small one-off restaurants or small restaurant chains that don’t have the infrastructure to operate like a big chain. The opportunities available to big companies haven’t been available to small and midsize companies, she said.

“Because especially in COVID … we know that the big companies are winning out and they’re winning out because they had all of the infrastructure to support online buying and they had the infrastructure to support delivery and stuff,” she said.

The company, which has about a dozen employees, is now focused on building more digital marketing automated features, hiring and expanding into new verticals. Investors in the company include Good Growth Capital, Lorimer Ventures, SSC Venture Partners, The Food Loft, WePay CEO Bill Clerico, Privy CEO Ben Jabbawy, Venture Lane CEO Christian Magel, Trail Ridge founder Pete Behrens, and several angel investors.

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