Hookit Goes Mobile and Hits the Road to Build its Online Brand, Audience

6/29/11Follow @bvbigelow

Southern California might well be the coastal lifestyle capital of the U.S., replete with hundreds of action sports and apparel companies, and scores of competitive events for surfers, skateboarders, BMX riders, and other extreme lifestyle sporting events.

Connecting the up-and-coming amateurs with prospective corporate sponsors has become the online province of San Diego-based Hookit.com, which has created a social network that enables serious action sports athletes to troll for sponsors (Ka-ching!). The company (originally known as Sponsorhouse and then the Loop’d Network before running into a trademark dispute), also enables competitors and action sports enthusiasts to follow events, exchange information, register for giveaways, and buy equipment, products, and apparel.

The model hasn’t changed, Hookit co-founder and CEO Scott Tilton told me recently. “The challenge for us comes down to marketing,” he says.

As social networks go, Tilton says the company, which has roughly 20 full-time employees and contractors, “is less about connecting with friends and more about connecting with sports, all action sports.”

RJ Krause (left) and Scott Tilton

In the decade since Tilton and co-founder RJ Kraus started the company, Hookit says it has expanded its online community to 700,000 members in 137 countries. It claims the title of the No. 1 social network for motocross, skate, snow, surf, BMX, mountain bike and other lifestyle sports. (Hookit ranks higher in traffic, as measured by Alexa, than MXsponsor, SponsorSpace, Findasponser, and Sponsorship.com.) While much of the business was bootstrapped, Hookit raised $800,000 through Southern California’s Tech Coast Angels in 2009. Since then, the business has been operating at breakeven, and Tilton says, “We’ve been really disciplined.”

Over the past year, Tilton says the company has focused on expanding its service offerings, chiefly by revamping Hookit’s events management system, redesigning the “look and feel” of the website, and developing new features and services, including a new application programming interface. “This year we focused mostly on expanding and updating our mobile and location-based services,” Tilton says, “because that where we really see things going.”

“When social media first came out, you really didn’t have the capabilities to identify someone’s location,” Tilton says. “With the introduction of mobile, now you can … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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