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High school sports platform scores $3M

February 17, 2014
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High school sports platform wins $500K grand prize
The athletics website for South Christian High School in Grand Rapids is powered by Varsity News Network. Photo via southchristiansports.com

A platform for high school sports websites has secured $3 million worth of attention from venture capital firms for its national expansion.

Growth market

Grand Rapids-based Varsity News Network, or VNN, said today that it has completed a Series A financing round, as it looks to expand its platform for high school athletic departments to promote their teams and athletes, as well as launch a mobile application.

VNN, founded in 2010, said it uses a business model that can adapt to expansion, since it is monetizing in a “scalable” way through advertising, ecommerce and digital fundraising.

“With this capital, we are poised to grow even faster and reach the 40 million students and family members who are left out of traditional sports media coverage,” said Ryan Vaughn, co-founder and CEO of VNN.

In about two years, more than 250 schools in 14 different districts have worked with VNN. An average of 20 new schools participate with VNN each month.

Vaughn attributes the success to creating a solution for an underserved market.

“High school athletic departments have struggled with communication and have so for a long time,” Vaughn said. “We just happened to time it right, so that we are in a position to grow significantly.”

He went on to say there are signs of schools taking an active role in trying software like VNN’s in an effort to promote their athletes.

“We validated the model, validated the company,” Vaughn said. “And it’s time to grow.”

Series A

Vaughn said the Series A process began with an introduction from a previous investor and took roughly four to five months to complete.

Vaughn said one of the company’s key fundraising objectives was to “put something together that works for all parties.”

Investors

The Series A round was led by Arsenal Venture Partners, a venture capital firm focused on several industries, including communications and information technology.

The round also included several other firms, including local investors: Start Garden, Grand Angels, Northern Michigan Angels, First Step Fund, North Coast Technology Ventures, RSL Venture Partners, Muskegon Angels and the Michigan Angel Fund.

Christ Fountas, general partner at Arsenal Venture Partners, said VNN has a great team and is positioned to assist schools throughout the nation due to its scalable IT platform.

“Arsenal recognizes the value VNN brings to this underserved market with such a dynamic demographic and looks forward to assisting VNN with scaling and market adoption,” Fountas said.  

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