When Fynn Glover and Mark McKnight started RootsRated in 2012, they drove 16,000 miles around North America interviewing more than 1,000 college students about what to do and where to go outdoors to build what they envisioned would be the biggest and best online platform for rating outdoor attractions.
Along their way, Glover says he experienced some unforgettable adventures.
"Climbing Acadia National Park's Mount Cadillac, bombing through the gorges of upstate New York's Finger Lakes, hammering 20 miles along Michigan's Pictured Rocks, weathering brutal hail and lightning in the Badlands, and watching the sunset over the Columbia River Gorge all stand out," Glover said.
The business journey also encouraged a pivot in RootsRated from simply a publications business that rates the best outdoor attractions to a content provider that supplies other businesses and organizations with valuable visual and written content to better reach viewers and readers than conventional advertising.
The new Compass platform introduced nearly two years ago by RootsRated licenses thousands of videos and images from top outdoor places and produces content from a network of freelance writers and photographers for retailers, hotels and other outdoor and tourism businesses eager to connect with outdoor enthusiasts.
"This platform has changed our business," Glover told investors Wednesday during a TENN Roadshow among eight Tennessee startup businesses pitching their plans to raise more capital, customers and connections. "The model has shifted from a publishing site which is typically high churn — low margin to a software business which is usually high margin — low churn. We're a much more stable business going forward."
And RootsRated also is growing into a much bigger business. The company grew from $400,000 in revenues in 2015 to nearly $1.5 million last year, Glover said.
"We believe we have an opportunity to build a $10 milllion-a-year business in the next few years," he said.
To achieve that growth, Glover said the company will need additional capital and more staff, which he appealed to local investors to help provide during Wednesday's Roadshow in downtown Chattanooga. RootsRated has already received seed capital from a number of funds, including the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund.
The road show in Chattanooga on Wednesday was organized by LaunchTN, the state agency that promotes and invests in high-growth startup businesses in Tennessee. For the past four years, the TENN Road Show has showcased top businesses that have gone through one of the state's six business accelerator programs, including the Company Lab in Chattanooga.
In the next month, RootsRated and the seven other businesses on the road show will take their funding appeal to Nashville, Memphis, San Francisco and New York City.
The road show, accelerator programs, venture capital funds and major investment conferences such as the 36/86 conference each year in Nashville are part of LaunchTN's efforts to boost Tennessee's stake in the emerging entrepreneurial economy.
"Our goal is to make this the most start-up friendly state in the nation for business," said Charlie Brock, a Chattanooga native who has headed LaunchTN for the past four years.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.