This Local SportsTech Startup Is Making A Business Out Of The 99%

Categories was no shortage of coverage via media outlets surrounding Minnesota prep basketball superstar Tyus Jones.

He dominated at Apple Valley High School before attending Duke University for a year, winning MVP honors in a National Championship victory, and being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.

But what about all those who played alongside and against Jones?

These young athletes lacked the larger-than-life aura of someone like Jones, and most weren’t even destined to play in Division 1, much less the pros.

Yet there is a very valuable market for information on them and Prep Hoops is proving it with their rapidly growing repository for high school basketball data and insights.

The online network began with a single website — Northstar Hoops Report — launched in late 2012 by Nick Carroll, who played and later coached at the Division III level. In his first month running the subscription-based Northstar Hoops Report, he earned $7,000 in revenue. That was enough to indicate that he might indeed be onto something.

His site focused on covering the many prep basketball players that are not going to end up playing at a major college program, or “The Bottom 99 Percent,” as Carroll refers to them. These players still often have futures playing collegiately, usually at Division II or Division III programs, and they also tend to have large groups of friends and families with an interest in tracking their development.

This audience has become the customer base for Prep Hoops Network, which has expanded into 21 markets around the country and now generates over $30k in monthly revenue from subscriptions. The sites within PHN are hyper-local with an acute emphasis on scouting-based analysis that is intriguing from a fan perspective and quite useful from a recruiting perspective.

Carroll says that around 85 percent of the subscriber base is players and their personal circles, with the other 15 percent being represented by college coaches.

“We are not a newspaper,” says Carroll, pointing out that one of the network’s key differentiators is a focus on individual performances and prospect rankings as opposed to general game stories. “We provide recruiting information and analysis at a deeper level than you’ll find anywhere else.”

The team at Prep Hoops consists of Carroll, partner Jake Phillips, one operational employee and numerous regional contractors that produce content. Carroll launched his original site and the the existing sites on the network using the locally sourced platform Sport Ngin, but plans to transition to another Minneapolis shop, Spark Logix, which better fits their media-centric model.

“We are already the largest prep baseketball network in the country covering prep athletes of all levels.”

The plan is to keep expanding across the U.S. (he says that ultimately they will cover about 42 different market regions), and at that point start scaling aggressively into other sports. Already they have dabbled with football and girls’ basketball.

Self funded and profitable since day one, Prep Hoops is looking like a slam dunk of a startup.