Entrepreneurs: Bryan Goldberg, 25, Dave Nemetz, 25, Zander Freund, 26, and Dave Finocchio, 25
Funding: $5 million Arba Capital, SoftTech VC, Gordon Crawford, and other private investors
The four former high school buddies behind Bleacher Report aim to fill what they see as a niche ignored by ESPN (DIS), Sports Illustrated (TWX), and other major media outlets: game-by-game coverage from the fan's perspective. Their site, launched February 2008, boasts some 4,000 writer-fans who work for exposure rather than pay. The company recently passed $100,000 in revenue in a single month, mostly from simple ads. Now it's focusing on customized campaigns that fetch higher rates; HBO recently promoted its new sports comedy Eastbound & Down alongside posts on the "funniest moments in sports." Licensing deals with Fox Sports (NWS) and CBS Sports (CBS) in the past year are now providing additional sales and broadening Bleacher Report's reach.
Lessons learned: "If the opportunity is to get 80% of the value out of something by doing 20% of the work, do it," says Finocchio. "It's not a time to screw around and be a perfectionist. When you have a strong vision for something and you're passionate about it, it's hard to cut yourself short of where your product needs to be. But you have to find that balance [between] quality and getting your stuff to market."