This time last year Brian Selander, EVP at Whistle Sports, admits it was difficult to get anyone to take notice of his company.
The sports-oriented digital network formally launched in January 2014. A few days later Selander flew to Las Vegas to introduce the brand at the international Consumer Electronics Show, the annual convention hosted by the Consumer Technology Association (formerly the Consumer Electronics Association).
It was exciting, Selander said in an interview with StreamDaily.
“We knew this was going to be an amazing company,” he said. But, among the flood of consumers, companies and electronics on the convention floor, “we found out fairly quickly that…not that many people cared at all.”
It’s that memory that helped to make this week’s honor all the more sweet. On Nov. 12, Whistle Sports was named 2015 Startup of the Year at the Innovation Entrepreneur Awards hosted by the CTA.
Selander said the win marks an important milestone in the company’s growth.
“Emotionally, going to CES (in 2014) and attempting to explain what a social-based community network (was) to being on stage (this week) with the heads of the CTA and having them say this was the best startup of the year was a massive journey in a short time,” he said.
The CTA innovation awards recognize entrepreneurs and businesses with revenues under $30 million for the contributions they make to the U.S. economy. In selecting Whistle Sports, the organization cited the company’s impressive reach among teens and millenials, particularly young men between 14 and 30 years, giving credit to founder and CEO John West for seeing a market in delivering sports content to a younger demographic via digital platforms.
In all, Whistle Sports (together with its 300-plus creator network) now has more than 130 million subscribers across more than six platforms, according to its own statistics. On YouTube alone, the company has nearly 30 million subscribers across 329 channels, and more than five billion views. Other distribution platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine. It has content partnerships with the NFL, MLB, PGA and NASCAR, among other major sports organizations.
More recently, the company expanded to linear platforms. Whistle Sports recently struck a deal with Nickelodeon to bring a weekly original series, Top Ten Trick Shots, to the cable network’s NickSports block on Nicktoons.
The company is also in midst of prepping seven more sports-themed originals (totalling 86 episodes) for Verizon’s mobile-friendly Go90 service.
The CTA further noted Whistle Sports’s success in raising $36 million in series A and B funding, from investors including Sky Broadcasting, Liberty Global, Emil Capital and SeventySix Capital, as well as former Nickelodeon and Oxygen boss Gerry Laybourne, Bob Pittman, Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning.
Photo: Whistle Sports creator Dude Perfect