“Thinking differently was how we were able to succeed. It was important for associates to try and think differently, without being 100% correct all the time.” Brett Rosin, on how he fostered the Rant, Inc. company culture.
Brett Rosin’s career could have turned out very differently. If his pitching arm had held out, he may be known for his fastball. At 6-foot-6, he intimidated opposing hitters with a 90mph heater. But after his third surgery, he concentrated pitching to venture capitalists and angel investors, instead of batters.
Brett, along with Rant Inc. Co-Founder Grant Brown, started the business out of their DePaul University dorm room. Brett’s competitive nature and ability to deal with adversity and setbacks cultivated his entrepreneurial spirit. Located in Irvine, CA, Rant saw a 854% growth in 2015 and generated $13.7 M in revenue.
So, instead of looking at his ERA, let’s take a look at seven years of entrepreneurial stats:
Major League Baseball Prospect 2009. Retired due to injury.
Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Rant Inc. 2010
Inc. 500 List #18 2015 – three-year growth: 11,620%
Inc. 500 List #446 2016
Sold Rant Inc., July 2016 at 30 years-of-age.
Inc Magazine says this about them:
Provides ownership of popular internet blogs focused on sports, lifestyle, fitness, exercise, entertainment and celebrities.
Not bad for a self-proclaimed, broken-down pitcher. Truly, this is a case of success rising out of profound disappointment. Five Hundred Stories applauds Brett for his determination, vision and ingenuity. As an Inc. 500 entrepreneur, he managed to throw strikes and hit the mark when determining his business’ culture and direction. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
Here is Brett's story.
What early experiences in life, cultivated your entrepreneurial spirit?
Growing up as an athlete, I was driven by competition, working hard, and being the absolute best version of myself. I always wanted more, and continued to work harder to achieve more. Even though my baseball career didn't pan out due to injury, I figured entrepreneurship was a route that would ultimately be my path because of these things. As a pitcher, you control your own destiny on the mound. An entrepreneur does as well. I always liked the challenges and the pressure, so transitioning into entrepreneurship seemed like the perfect fit.
Why did you start your business(es)?
In 2009, I was rehabbing from my third arm surgery. During my downtime, I noticed that in the sports media realm, there seemed to be limited opinionated commentary by sports fans. There wasn't enough legitimate discussion, through the major media companies, and I felt content was incredibly biased. I identified the need for a forum where hardcore fans could vent their frustration and unabashedly praise their teams; so Rant Sports was founded. Being able to create legitimate conversation was an awesome situation, I enjoyed being part of.
What entrepreneur has most inspired you?
When I first started Rant, I wouldn't say any particular entrepreneur inspired me to do so. I was still an athlete, trying to come back from injury, and to play professional baseball. As Rant grew, and my arm didn’t mend the way I hoped, I learned a lot about people like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Ariana Huffington and several others. The accomplishments of these individuals is nothing short of spectacular. Their stories continue to influence because they're perfect examples of the American dream.
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome thus far in business?
Being a young entrepreneur was a lot harder seven years ago, than it is today. Walking into meetings as a 23-year-old CEO was difficult, as you don't get the respect from your peers. It was very tough to recover from that, but we managed it okay. My team and I kept plugging along as if nothing happened. An equally daunting challenge in the media space, was trying to keep up and build a brand with limited resources. A lot of our competitors had raised 10s and even 100s of millions of dollars, from deep-pocketed and well connected VCs. We had to make due with $5.5mm in operating capital funding and somehow figure out ways to compete.
What have you learned from failure?
Just keep going. We all fail at some point in our lives. Nothing is ever perfect and a lot of people will quit. We never quit at Rant; no matter if it was a good time, a bad time, we just kept pushing forward, no matter what.
Failure drives me, because failure educates, if you want to learn from it. I certainly have made mistakes along the way. Even though I'd never make them again, they shaped me as a young CEO and leader. Failures made me better because I had to learn how to get up, and that's essentially what life and business are about.
How does your leadership style foster your company’s culture?
My leadership style was unique. I wanted to create a culture where people can be unique and be themselves, in an environment that pushed innovation. Thinking differently was how we were able to succeed. It was important to allow associates to try and think differently, without being 100% correct all the time. We couldn't afford to stunt growth and innovation, as that would have been our downfall. If I created an environment looking down upon people's thoughts, we would have failed.
What are your top 3 responsibilities as a leader?
1) To be clear in the company’s goals
2) To create a working environment that allows people to hit those goals
3) To create valuation and liquidation opportunities for our investors
What internal process do you use to guide your decision-making?
I try and simplify as best I can. I believe the world’s best entrepreneurs and executives are decisive. Make a decision and go. If you sit there, and hem and haw, you'll typically outthink yourself in one way or another. If you make the decision and go, and it doesn't work, you have to know when to move on and try something else.
1) Does the decision create valuation growth?
2) Do I have the resources to accomplish this?
3) Does it fit within the core strategy of where the company is going?
4) Did I do the appropriate due diligence?
If the answer is yes, go. If one of those answers is no, move on
How do you define success?
Success, to me, is being comfortable with who you are and what you've accomplished. If you let dollars or accolades define your success, I think those things will leave you empty, always searching for more.
Which book has inspired you?Good to Great and The Lean Start Up. Both teach how to dream, go after those dreams, and do it effectively.
What do you think is the coolest technology out there, and why?
I think everything Elon Musk is trying to accomplish in our lifetimes, is pretty outstanding. I love the fact he's so unapologetic of what he wants to do, and just flat out does not care if anyone else finds it crazy. There's a calmness to it that is just incredible to me.