SPORTS KETCHUP IS BORN
The two figured they were onto something. So they created a sports email newsletter, dubbed it Sports Ketchup and launched the first issue at the end of August. The newsletter, which is free to subscribe to, is sent every Monday morning and contains three quick talking points, a few single-paragraph long summaries of recent events, and a schedule of upcoming sporting events. It’s on a national level.
“There are a ton of stories out there,” Senior admits. “We look for the ones that are going to catch people’s eyes. What would I talk to my family about? Or what would I talk to my old co-workers about?
“Sometimes there’s a really interesting story in figure skating,” she continues. “And it’s interesting. But it’s figure skating and I know no one will be talking about it.”
ENTERING AN ESTABLISHED, ALBEIT SATURATED MARKET
Of course, the e-newsletter market is both a proven an increasingly saturated one. The Skimm, which sends similar quick news bites to inboxes every morning, has more than 1.5 million subscribers and is only three years old. Boston-based NoshOn.It sends foodie-related emails daily. Muck Rack Daily sends quick-hitters of what journalists are reading. And some have proved lucrative, too. Thrillist, once an e-newsletter with a subscriber base of about 600 New Yorkers, the digital media company has blossomed into a $100 million business.
Senior believes their main competition is “apathy.”
“It’s like when my sister and step-mom start talking about flowers and I check out of the conversation, because it’s flowers and doesn’t relate to me,” she begins. “And I think some of the people who aren’t sports fans do that. People start talking about sports and they say, ‘it’s not for me.’ So we have to find them in the environment where there’s anxiety or tension around not knowing what’s going on. And catch them then.”
SUPPORT FROM HARVARD AND THE ROCK ACCELERATOR PROGRAM
Danneman says Sports Ketchup now has a subscriber base of “a couple thousand.” But perhaps the strongest affirmation and backing they’ve received was recently being accepted into the ultra-competitive HBS Rock Accelerator Program. Each fall, ten to 20 student-founded teams spend six weeks in the accelerator program, which is housed in the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship.
The support of the HBS community and environment, they believe, has been paramount in launching their venture. “We’re getting so much benefit from being a part of this community right now, it probably wouldn’t be possible without it,” Senior says, noting marketing and strategy courses as being imperative to the venture’s creation and growth.
“I can’t imagine a better environment to start a company. I really can’t,” Danneman insists.
A LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS…AND THEIR FLEXIBLE SCHEDULES, TOO
To be sure, between the Rock Center, Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and courses, the two have taken advantage of the formal networks within HBS. But they both cite informal networks and additional time and energy that comes with being a student being equally essential to launching a venture.
“Things we don’t have a background in are one text message away,” Senior says of the network they’ve built within their cohort.
“We have flexibility in our schedules to sit around a white board and brainstorm for a really long time,” Danneman says.
“It’s the mind-space where you don’t have to think about what’s going on in an office all of the time,” she claims. “The office takes a lot of mindshare and doesn’t allow you to begin to be creative with these types of problems.
“There’s no reason if Britt and I hadn’t met four years ago we couldn’t have done it then. Except there would have been no time and energy to think about it.”
PEYTON MANNING STILL SUCKS IN THE SNOW
As for concern about a news curator and writer with some obvious Boston-shaded sunglasses, Senior says she approaches all sports and teams the same way. Unless, of course, you’re Peyton Manning.
As Poets&Quants asks about the Peyton Manning and his Denver Bronco’s recent on-field success, Senior responds quickly and in a borderline frightening tone. “Oh yeah, well it hasn’t even started to snow this year,” she says. “The snow doesn’t start till after Thanksgiving.”