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beRecruited

Why It's Easier to Start Up Today... Than Ever Before.

Forbes spotlighted LegalZoom earlier in the week: "Silicon Valley Sees Gold In Internet Legal Services" (a Polaris Ventures backed company). It got me thinking about the earliest days of beRecruited.com and what it took to get the company off the ground... before beginning the real work. And that obviously got me thinking about how much things have changed since I started the company in my dorm room in late 1999:

- I payed $1,000s to incorporate the company (and it took weeks). In fact, this was the single biggest expenditure of the first year. - Signed a 2 year merchant account to to accept credit cards (which included a physical credit card processor and "we accept Visa / Mastercard" decals....!) - Signed a similar hosting agreement for web service... which we outgrew quickly. - Worked hard convince a proper bank to support us (also expensive and out of date). - And received reams of paperwork and contracts and monthly account summaries.

Companies like LegalZoom and Amazon have totally changed that process.

Just think about Dogpatch Labs as an example: - founders walk in with nothing more than (usually) a Macbook Air. - They hook into our wifi (no such thing as a server room). - They run atop of Amazon web services. - They can accept payments almost immediately with services like PayPal, Square, or even set up recurring billing with Recurly (also a Polaris company) - They can announce their launch with companies like Sendgrid, Constant Contact, etc. - And they can look to Facebook, Twitter, etc to find pools of users.

I get asked all the time about why so many companies are starting these days. The most important factor is because it is easier to start today than ever before. And it is easier to attract users today than it has every been.

That doesn't mean it's easier to build a lasting business... but it does mean that you can start working on the business and product faster. And you'll get user feedback on product / market fit faster. And you'll succeed, fail and/or pivot faster.

beRecruited Acquires Fanvibe.

I am both excited and proud to announce that beRecruited (the sports recruiting network I founded way back in 2000) has acquired Fanvibe (a former Dogpatch Labs and YCombinator company). I have known Vishwas Prabhakara (now CEO), Art Chang and Joe Pestro for several years and am thrilled about what they bring to beRecruited and it's 1,000,000+ users:

As I mentioned to TechCrunch, “beRecruited is far and away the largest recruiting network on the web — and it has consequently become a really great business. With the Fanvibe acquisition, we are thrilled to move headquarters to San Francisco and have Vish, Art and Joe lead the business into its next phase. They are perfect fits as they all have strong backgrounds in sports, product and social web.”

The most satisfying part about being involved with beRecruited is the daily emails we get from successfully recruited athletes (and their families). With the Fanvibe team leading beRecruited's next stage, the volume of those emails should soar.... and that's exciting for everyone!

Here's a fun infographic the team put together. It does a good job outlining beRecruited's scale - we have athletes in 81% of all high schools and 68% of NCAA coaches. Between the two sides, we have now made 26.5m connections.

Key to Trust is Real Identity

The article "Can You Trust a Facebook Profile?" describes the "surprising truth" that "Overall people were remarkably honest in representing themselves":

People were honest—we don't read those words often enough.

In line with other findings, this study found that, when looking at a stranger's profile for the first time, some aspects of personality are more difficult to discern. Neuroticism in others is particularly difficult to gauge, whereas people find extraversion and openness to experience relatively easily to assess, even in strangers.

This study is another blow for that old stereotype that the web is some kind of scary hinterland, an untrustworthy place where anything goes and nothing is what it appears, peopled by adolescent boys pretending to be anything but adolescent boys.

More than the actual findings, I am intrigued by the surprise that the author had (PsyBlog) and that we clearly have in reading it (it is atop Techmeme and a Tweetmeme).

I have long thought that key to online honesty and general good behavior is tying activity to real identities. There is a major difference between what you are willing to do behind a handle (like a message board or chat name) and what you are willing to do on a site that is connected to your identity (ie Facebook, PayPal, etc). It is even more pronounced when the identity is fully public. For instance, I believe you are now less likely to misbehave of Facebook now that content is increasingly public, URLs are indexable and you have a personalized domain (ie http://facebook.com/ryanspoon).

For years I have gotten the question about beRecruited (a college recruiting network that I founded in 2000 - now with 750,000+ athletes): "how do you police athlete's 'resumes' and results?"

My answer is simple: because athletes register with their actual name and personal information (school, coach, guidance counselor, etc), it self-regulates. Sure an athlete can falsify results - just as anyone can on their resume - but such actions have life-long implications and are easily disproved. For example, this is what keeps LinkedIn clean and makes it so effective.

beRecruited.com: 7 Million Recruiting Connections in 2009

beRecruited.com had a terrific 2009 - as a recruiting platform, an athletic network and a business (covered in the Sports Business Daily here). During 2009, the beRecruited platform drove nearly 7,000,000 recruiting connections between high school athletes and NCAA coaches. Those connections resulted in beRecruited athletes reporting commitments to more than 1,500 different colleges and universities in 2009.

beRecruited is a 'freemium' business model: users can upgrade to "Deluxe Memberships" which include premium tools (like the College Tracker) and increased exposure within search results. Subscriptions are both monthly and lifetime.

Here are some of the 2009 usage numbers:

Number of Athlete Logins: 3.15 million Number of Connections: 6,984,354 Number of Photos Added: 405,632

- Males accounted for 59.63 percent of the new student-athletes that registered with the site; the females accounted for more than 40 percent of new athletes in 2009, a significantly higher percentage than in previous years

- California generated the most registered athletes, followed by Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina

- Football athletes were the most active on the site, logging in more than 500,000 times. Other sports generating at least 200,000 athlete logins included baseball, basketball, track and field, soccer, volleyball, swimming and softball

- Volleyball college coaches were the most active on the site, leading a growth in activity for women’s college sports in 2009

Learning from Expresso Fitness: Make the Workout Interactive & Social

As an athlete and sports-enthusiast, I am disappointed by the news that Expresso Fitness is "turning out the lights" (according to the Wall Street Journal). Expresso makes interactive, web-connected stationary bikes for high end gyms. The machines monitor your workout while having you compete against the computer and/or other bikers on interactive courses. All of your activity is monitored, logged and available through the web-based system. I have logged hundreds of miles on these machines and, from a consumer perspective, I love the products... and I'm not alone, they usually have members lined-up waiting to use them. The trouble of course is that they are expensive to produce and expensive for the gyms to purchase / maintain (which is in part why there is usually a line - there is short supply). For full utility, they also need to be connected to the web (many gyms simply do not have this capability - even higher-end gyms).

expresso biking

I do believe there are opportunities in the sporting world (Athletes' Performance is a Polaris company and beRecruited's userbase and business are growing terrificly). While Expresso Fitness itself may not be the answer, I applaud them for:

- adding connectivity and interaction to the workout - it improves the actual workout and incents activity

- adding social to the gym - from contests to online activity, social 'game mechanics' make working out more enjoyable and consequently more effective. Brands like Athlete's Performance, Core Performance, and p90x understand this and are doing it in their own unique way

- adding analytics to workout - I love data - from the web to my golf game to my Facebook usage... data makes any routine more effective and productive

World Record Holder Gemma Spofforth is a beRecruited.com User

This week, as world records crumble at swimming's World Championships in Rome, Gemma Spofforth took home a gold medal and a world record in the 100 meter backstroke (today she is competing in the 200 backstroke). While her swimming accomplishments are certainly exciting - her story is also interesting because she, like 100,000s of other athletes, was a beRecruited user. The 21 year-old is from Portsmouth, UK and used beRecruited to find an athletic scholarship. It is another example of how beRecruited is helping athletes of all abilities and all geographies connect with coaches, athletic programs and scholarships:

After going on the website, berecruited.com, which offers scholarships to American universities, Gemma had to choose between going to university in either Florida or Hawaii.

She picked the University of Florida and flew out to America in 2006 to take up her place in the competitive swim programme there.

Gemma will soon begin her fourth and final year at the university, but is expected to remain across the Atlantic after she graduates as she focuses on getting ready for the Olympics in 2012.

You can read more about Gemma Spofforth in today's Portsmouth News And you can watch her world record-setting performance on YouTube.

gemma-spofforth world record

Recruiting Process Advice from Tallahassee.com: Try beRecruited

beRecruited had another great press mention - this time by Tallahssee.com's Corey Clark in "Athletes offer tips on the recruiting process." It is a thorough, encouraging article about the proactive role that athletes and their families need to play in the recruiting process. I could not agree more - and this is the fundamental reason I started beRecruited: unless your name is Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant (both of whom are on my television right now), the recruiting process relies on your proactiveness (even for top rated athletes)... particularly in an economic environment where collegiate budgets are suffering. Furthermore, the most successful beRecruited users are the most active ones (take a look at beRecruited's Recently Committed section):

If you're good enough, they'll find you. That's the old saying about college recruiting, right? It's been repeated over the years so much by sports fans, writers and announcers that it's become a mantra of sorts.

It's a mantra however that is completely untrue for 99.9 percent of high school athletes looking for a scholarship.

Because the reality is this: If you think you're good enough, you need to go find them.

"The best advice I can give is to be active," said FSU softball player Carly Wynn.

This doesn't mean cold-calling college coaches and blindly sending out resumes and videotapes. It means making sure to put yourself in a position to be found....

With websites like www.berecruited.com (which has hundreds of thousands of registered athletes – in 18 sports - and more than 10,000 registered college coaches) , you can upload resumes, photos, videos, stats and any other information about yourself you deem worthy. For free.

beRecruited Hits A Milestone: 500,000 Registered Users

This past Tuesday, beRecruited.com reached a major milestone: we registered our 500,000th user - representing 3x growth in the last year. beRecruited now has: - more than 450,000 are student-athletes - over 16,000 college coaches and 17,000 high school and club coaches - 19,000 high schools have active athletes registered with beRecruited, representing more than 100,000 different high school teams As beRecruited's community grows, so do the number of successful recruiting connections... and as the community grows, beRecruited continues to see network effects and continues to be the best, most powerful recruiting tool.

"Coaches from across the country were able to find me on beRecruited.com. Without beRecruited, I can't imagine having even made half of these contacts. It was a great feeling each time I logged on and saw another coach had viewed my profile," said Caelie Fish, a rower from St. Francis HS (Folsom, CA). She is committed to San Diego State University.

"I cannot emphasize enough how helpful beRecruited.com benefited me to get recognized. The most valuable and significant feature of the beRecruited website was that it enabled me to really put myself out there to colleges. Being able to post photos and video clips enabled coaches to see the skills I possess," said Kaygan Hutchison, a Lincoln County HS (Branchlan, WV) basketball player now committed to West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

"Every feature on beRecruited helped me out in some way. I came from a small town, so I had to put myself out there and basically help myself get recruited. My advice would be to do anything you can to help yourself out. And beRecruited will help you out," said Alex Valdivieso, a football player from Braxton County HS (Sutton, WV) who is now committed to Glenville State College.

beRecruited Connects $90,000 Scholarship: From Bath to Mississippi

The best advice I can give to entrepreneurs: create value. If your tool, service or product creates value for its users, it will be successful. It might not be instantaneous. It might take time to arrive upon the right business model. And there might still be growing pains... But by creating value for your users (whether a service, product, content, etc), they will make sure you succeed.

beRecruited as always been focused on a very particular goal: improve the recruiting space by effectively connecting high school athletes and NCAA coaches. There have been opportunities to venture in other directions (related and unrelated) - but we have always been driven by that initial goal. And that focus has enabled us to create the best recruiting tools and community... and thus become an essential, valuable service for our users. The most satisfying press is when the story focuses on the athlete and how they used beRecruited to successfully find a college and/or scholarship. Tonight's Bugle-Observer ran a story of Jocelyn Lockhart of Bath - a college-bound track-and-field athlete who will be attending Southern Mississippi on a $90,000 scholarship thanks to beRecruited:

Jocelyn Lockhart of Bath, one of the Atlantic Provinces' top short- and long-course runners, will be heading south in the coming weeks to continue her top-flight career in track-and-field.

The elite athlete, who is currently a Grade 12 student at Carleton North High School (CNHS) in Florenceville-Bristol and a member of the highly-regarded ASEA club out of Moncton, has been awarded a $90,000 scholarship to attend Southern Mississippi on a four-year deal at the prestigious NCAA university...

"The main part of this process which led me to receive this scholarship started when I was made aware of a recruiting website for high school athletes called berecruited.com," she explained.

"I signed up there, but I also sent out letters to schools I was interested in. I eventually narrowed down my choices to Southern Mississippi, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Maine at Orono."

Congratulations Jocelyn!