It helps to start your business in the basement.
Doing so placed the childhood friends behind a sports opinion website on a path that recently landed them $3 million from investors.
“Rant Media Network has been profitable from day one,” says Brett Rosin. The former college pitcher is co-founder and CEO of the company that operates Rant Sports, ranked the second-largest independent sports platform and 12th-largest sports platform in the U.S. by digital analytics firm comScore.
Now nearly 4 years old, Rant Sports began as a small baseball website and expanded to include other sports. The platform lets highly opinionated sports writers, sports personalities and hard-core fans provide in-your-face views on their favorite teams and players and other sports topics.
Executing on a winning game plan has been key to its success and helps set it apart against the likes of ESPN and Fox Sports. So says Grant Brown, co-founder and chief revenue officer.
“We face a saturated market going up against some major sports websites and brands out there,” Brown says. “What really sets us apart is our content. We’re not just covering the latest stories and news. But we’re covering the latest news and stories from a sports fan’s opinion. It’s a biased and edgy coverage.”
Rant Sports has more than 11 million unique visitors each month.
The Downers Grove-based company’s content comes from staff writers, freelancers and bloggers who produce 200 to 300 articles per day. It has more than 300 paid writers.
Last month, Hudson Bay Capital and the founders of online advertising technology company Interclick provided the $3 million investment to Rant Media. The investors also committed to an additional $5 million at a step-up valuation in the coming months.
“We were always in one of those gray areas where we didn’t need the capital because our cash flow was always positive, but we wanted to expand and invest in different areas,” Rosin says. “The only way we could do that was by raising some capital.”
The new investment capital will be used to expand current properties and roll out new ones with an emphasis on mobile and other technology build-outs.
Growing the business to this point has been rewarding and has come amid struggles, Rosin says.
“The biggest challenge we’ve faced is going through lulls of building the company,” he says. “You don’t turn into a multimillion dollar company overnight, and when you’re coming from a basement like we did, it’s about persevering. We were working 100-hour weeks. We were trying to network, do webinars and seminars, find and then hire the right kind of writers, manage those writers, build the sites, work the advertising, run payroll. It was gruesome, tiring hard work.”
Entrepreneurship hadn’t initially been a part of Rosin’s game plan. His dream had been to play professional baseball. But his planned career was sidelined by injuries. Entrepreneurship that included a focus on baseball seemed the right fit.
“It’s all about the challenge for me,” he says. “Being a former athlete, embracing challenges was a normal occurrence, and that’s never really changed. It just made the most sense to dive into something I loved.”
For other entrepreneurs looking to partner with investors, he says fit is critical.
“Make sure your goals are aligned with theirs,” he says. “There’s nothing worse than taking growth capital from anyone if you don’t see eye-to-eye on the end goal, whatever that end goal may be. Be honest and upfront about what you want to accomplish, and if it isn’t the right fit, walk away. There’s nothing wrong with saying no if it’s not the right deal for your company.”
ABOVE: Brett Rosin and Grant Brown of Rant Media Network