Can you believe that the San Francisco Giants have a two-zip lead in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers? Well, they’ve played near-perfect baseball and they’ve diligently done all the little things right. And before you wonder why you’re reading this on KillerStartups, it’s because the company BragStats is also poised for sports stardom thanks to a scrupulously executed game plan.
Since impressing our scouts as a sports, social networking site in 2010, BragStats has steadily developed into a multi-dimensional game changer. Visit BragStats for all your aggregated sports news and scores, to find tickets to local events, or to coordinate all your kids’ little league activities with other parents. There’s something and everything to satisfy each sports enthusiast, and it’s remarkably organized. Naturally, there’s a locker to keep all your stuff.
Co-founder John Cunningham stepped off the startup treadmill to bring KillerStartups up to speed. Check out BragStats here, or on Twitter or Facebook, but first join in our exclusive meeting on the mound with this startup founder:
When did the idea of BragStats first come to you, and how did you go about getting started?
As the owner/operator of two performance training centers, I had the idea to build a social networking site that was dedicated solely to athletes and the parents of athletes – i.e. the 4th leg in social media (LI=business, MySpace=music, Facebook=broad). I had known Jimmy Kibble who had built a niche networking site for college football athletes and also had done some web design work for one of my companies. I shared the idea with him as well as my vision. He loved it…and then we created a partnership/LLC.
When do your best ideas come to you? Lounging by the pool? During dinner? After working for 16 hours? While shooting hoops?
My best and most creative ideas ALWAYS come during two different times: (1) when I go running, and (2) in the shower. I think this is the case because with two kids and a demanding schedule, it’s probably the only times I can think without interruptions. In fact, when thinking of a name for BragStats, I was out running and thought of using the word “brag” in a cool/entertaining way. To her credit though, my wife came up with the official name.
We want to know about where you spend your day! What’s on your desk right now?
I wish there was a typical day! In addition to BragStats, I do consulting work and I am the Co-Director/Founder of a sports event marketing company. My days are always hectic, but I work well under pressure and there is never enough time in the day/week. I also try my best to be a good father, and enjoy going to the tae kwon do sessions or soccer, baseball, or basketball practices of my two boys when I am in town.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
As we build BragStats, we have intentionally kept our team lean and efficient. I started the company with Jimmy Kibble, and we still have less than 10 employees. We have a very talented and useful Board of Directors, however, and have had great successes with high quality interns.
Maybe you can share one anecdote that describes the joy or frustration you’ve felt while starting your company?
The pace of technology changes so quickly, that it is always imperative that we move at a fast pace in terms of our development–I like to use the comparison of the Oregon Ducks offense in football. I get a lot of joy when people come to our site for the first time and say, “Wow, this is really cool and has so much for me all in one place.”
I also enjoy when my 9-year-old son gets on with me and checks out how many views the video of his most recent hit or shot has received from family and friends.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Particular entrepreneurs? Music? Video games? Food?
I have a very high appreciation for entrepreneurs and their ability to take chances, overcome adversity and naysayers and ultimately do amazing things. Believe it or not, I used to love the show “The Big Idea” with Donnie Deutsch. The show highlighted so many of the challenges and triumphs entrepreneurs face. I get inspired by positive people–people that dream big, don’t take no for an answer, and can overcome adversity.
My two boys, Aidan (age 9) and Carson (age 6), also inspire me. They are full of life, keep me laughing all of the time, and provide a lot of balance and perspective in my life, as does my wife.
How’d you fund this venture? VC? Self-funding? Crowd-funded?
We have primarily self-funded the business during its concept building stages. We made several modifications over the past 12 months based on feedback from beta users and our Board of Advisors. I was in the venture capital industry in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s and saw a lot of money invested (and lost) in concepts. We’ve taken a different approach. We wanted to build a high quality business with great potential, raising money to grow the business and not for building a concept or the initial technology development.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
From my experiences in working with entrepreneurs and being one myself, I would suggest that you don’t give up your day job until your model is ready to fly. Raising capital too early can create a lot of pressures. Be creative, be resourceful, and build a strong and well-rounded Board or Board of Advisors who can help you divide and conquer different components of your venture (i.e. marketing, technology, strategy, partnerships, finance/investing).
Favorite book? Author?
John Grisham–my fun reads
Dr. Bob Rotella–great sports psychologist who helps simplify and inspire. I took his class as an undergrad at the University of Virginia, and it was one of the best and most memorable classes that I ever took.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to pursue yours?
There are two schools of thought regarding the entrepreneurship spirit–is it innate or is it nurtured? I think it is a little bit of both. You need to have the fire in your belly to make bold moves, but you also need to surround yourself with good people and mentors who can guide you and provide good constructive feedback. We’ve done a great job of assimilating a strong Board of Advisors, and I often seek out feedback from friends, other entrepreneurs, as well as other business professionals that I respect.
We also love to know facts and figures. Any you can share?
After the recently launched updates to our site, we’ve seen a tremendous spike in members and visits, almost doubling in the last 60 days. The company is on pace to have over 10, 000 members by early 2013.
Our initial development has been primarily self-funded. However, we are in the process of starting a $2 million Series A capital raise that we hope to close within the next 90 days. Over the past couple of years, we have had a number of individual investors and acquirers who have contacted us, but we wanted to have the majority of the technology development completed before adding outside capital. The proceeds from our capital raise will go primarily towards adding additional development features, apps and marketing.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
We want to be a well-known and dominant brand in the sports technology/digital sector, expanding our concept to include additional features that provide for greater mobile access and connectivity for athletes and sports enthusiasts. Similar to LinkedIn for business professionals, we want to provide content, social networking, and tools for athletes and sports enthusiasts that is a “must check” site on a daily basis.
What’s your largest satisfaction in business life?
Not only do I enjoy the excitement and growth opportunities that entrepreneurial ventures provide, I thoroughly enjoy working with and learning from other entrepreneurs. There is a certain energy and “can do” attitude that many entrepreneurs have that is refreshing and energizing. By the same token, I also enjoy working with young and eager professionals as well, and seeing their growth and development.
Is there anything else about yourself or BragStats you’d like to share with our readers?
We’ve learned a lot about what’s important to consumers during our beta testing period. Our most significant revelation was that social networking alone was not the business. It is simply the backbone to our network. BragStats has become an aggregator for all things important to an athlete, parent of an athlete and general sports enthusiasts. BragStats is a dashboard that includes content (i.e. sports scores, news, etc.), tools (i.e. access to maps, fitness trackers, tickets, daily deals) and an advanced social networking component to centralize/share sports photos, videos, memories, and connect with other like-minded athletes or sports enthusiasts.