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Yardbarker is a sports site and network of related sites that makes a point of mixing fans and athletes together. The core Yardbark.com site gives top pro athletes their own pages on the site, which spurrs a lot of back and forth chatter with fans.
Its a strong example of a web company that’s getting traction through creating ways for celebrities to mix with their admirers. The home site and its 300 or so independent sports sites have grown over the past twelve months to six million unique visitors in February.
The Emeryville, Calif. company has also just raised $6 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and its existing investors, including Russ Siegelman (who invested personally, not as part of his firm, Kleiner Perkins), football star-turned-investor Ronnie Lott (who invested through SC Investments Consulting), Jarl Mohn, Labrador Ventures, Baseline Ventures and others.
Note: Much smaller and newer sports site also just got funding, including College Fanz, which targets college sports fans, especially those at smaller schools. There aren’t many funding details, but the Wayne, Penn.-based company is founded by ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen and has taken an undisclosed amount of funding from VCs and individuals for a total of between $2 million and $5 million.
Here’s a little more on how Yardbarker works. You can go to a sports star’s home page and see both posts from fan-bloggers about them, and the star’s own posts. Check out the page for Bay Area basketball star Baron Davis, here (see screenshot). Note that Davis has apparently liked mixing it up with the fans so much that he’s also helped fund and promote a new startup, IBeatYou, were he, other celebrities, and anyone can compete in a variety of contests. In fact, both Davis and Ronnie Lott invested in that startup.
Yardbarker says it will use the money to expand its engineering and sales teams. Due to its targeted focus, the company says advertisers are loving it; it’s already has sports-related brands like 2K sports, vitaminwater and Sony PlayStation on board.
The company’s cofounder and chief executive,, Pete Vlastelica, says that one of the reasons his company took funding from DFJ is that the firm has also invested in and gained experience from another vertical network of owned and independent sites — women-focused ad network Glam.
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