One of the imperative aspects in the world of startups is 'funding'. Startups go through the cycle of raising capital at different stages to grow. In contrast, when EssentiallySports persisted with a bootstrapping strategy for 7+ years in the Sports Media industry, it caught our attention. EssentiallySports (ES), an all-sports Global Media House based out of India, has evidently grown to a user base of 120mn users with 1 in 6 Unique Americans Readers reading at least one article in 2020.
Led by Harit Pathak, SuryanshTibarewal, and Jaskirat Arora, EssentiallySports was founded in 2014 while the founders were still in college. The co-founders of EssentiallySports reiterate the fact that startups can function successfully without raising any capital and also continue to deliver growth and results consistently.
Co-Founder and Content Lead, Jaskirat Arora, explained over the phone, "Securing funding can sometimes be a waste of precious time and energy. More often than not, people spend a lot of time pursuing potential investors and perfecting their pitch to receive funding. Instead, the same time and effort can be used in analyzing the market and evaluating the audience's needs, which will help us in providing a better product to the users. And as our traffic scales, programmatic ads take care of the monetization aspect."
"As sports fans ourselves, there was no space where we could express ourselves and share our opinion on the ups and downs of the game. We wanted to create active content-creation communities as a way to engage other sports enthusiasts and imbibe the fan's perspective," explains Jaskirat.
"The initial uncertain days were overshadowed by the feeling of being in a close-knit circle of passionate sports fans, who lived and died for their sport. Our tagline, 'The Fan's Perspective,' was born at this phase of the startup," Jaskirat adds. He credits the 'beauty of sports' for how they assembled a team of writers, editors, and developers to work voluntarily in their initial years when ES was just a blog.
In 2017, they transitioned from a voluntary contribution-based website to a professional organization, as seen on their website. Recognized as a Google News publisher and verified source of news on Twitter, the website is evidently a digital-first media company. EssentiallySports, as conveyed on their Careers page, has been a completely remote organization since its inception, which seems to have given them an edge in the post-pandemic world. Their coverage of social media and off-the-court banter seems to have differentiated them from the media behemoths and enabled them to carve their niche. On one of their memorable moments, the co-founders mentioned an anecdote when one of their writers, working from Surat, India, engaged with Novak Djokovic through a virtual press conference after one of his games. "This was when we understood the power of digital," the co-founders emphatically reiterated.
Through word-of-mouth, social media marketing, and organic community growth, the company evidently has grown exponentially from 1M visitors in 2018 to more than 120M visitors in 2020. As the team grew and their outlook towards the industry evolved, their business model seems to have transitioned along the way. On how they persisted with the bootstrapping strategy and the reason for their success, Jaskirat said, "While our business model, distribution strategies, and tech-first approach differentiates us from the competition, our internal content creation environment has always stayed consistent: lively internal fan concursion with quality journalistic standards."
The ES focus seems to lie primarily on F1, Tennis, and MMA, as seen through their recently launched interview series featuring celebrities like Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Miesha Tate, Anthony Pettis, Claressa Shields, Demetrios Johnson, etc.
EssentiallySports prefers to persist with 'The Fan's Perspective' strategy and rely on their passionate internal team to excel in the Sports Media industry. With an 80+ member team, EssentiallySports is certainly an example of how sports can bring people together. Keeping to their roots, the co-founders continue to believe in their idea, and duly, the global sports fan communities keep responding to their timely and novel reporting. Here is EssentiallySports, trying a distinctive approach from traditional startups to operate sustainably while attempting to disrupt the sports media domain.