boss on seed funding, snowboarding and startups

“Our website was a modest offering at first but the business angle was edgy with new content for sports fans,” explains managing director Peter Janes. “Users could air their views in an independent environment and, unlike traditional sports media sites such as the BBC and Sky Sports, they could share links from content all over the world.”

In October 2008, co-founder and sales director Stewart was involved in a life-threatening snowboarding accident, which left him paralysed from the waist down. “Our resources were immediately cut by a third at probably the most crucial time for the business," says Janes. "You can plan for a lot but our crisis management didn’t cover a situation like that. Our fund-raising process couldn’t have started at a worse time either. Our first meeting with VCs was on October 24, 2008 – a day when many of the world’s stock exchanges experienced the worst declines in their history, with drops of around ten per cent in most indices. It was a dire start.”

The site had been growing by an average 72 per cent a month, without a penny of marketing spend. However, the VCs kept knocking the team back. “The same message kept coming back from VCs and private investors; they were concentrating on their current investments and making sure they stayed above water. Our proposition was too much of a risk,” recalls Janes. “We did the rounds for six months and could have quite easily thrown in the towel due to personal financial circumstances and the constant frustration and heartbreak."

But they persevered. At the end of a successful beta phase – which attracted over 400,000 unique users a month – the team met with Gateway2Investment. They helped round up seven investors to raise £400k in seed funding in exchange for just over 30 per cent of the company.

It was the financial boost needed. To date the company has signed up channel partners including Red Bull, Nike Football, Umbro and the UFC. “Unlike Youtube, the brands and media owners take 100 per cent of the revenue associated with their channels within the site,” explains Janes. Turnover next year is expected to hit £650k with profits of £300k. And Stewart is determined to recover: “He’s just taken his first 12 steps unaided,” says Janes.

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