Scott Tilton wants to help you (and a million other people) connect with friends through sports.
Tilton grew up racing motocross alongside business partner R.J. Kraus. Ten years ago and just out of college, the duo refocused their competitive energy to creating a game-changing action sports website.
The original site, SponsorHouse.com, served as a forum through which amateur action sports athletes could connect with the brands they wanted to ride or skate for. Members (which included the then-unknown and now famous, X Games gold medal-winning Motocross star, Travis Pastrana) would pay a few bucks a month to set up a profile and receive discounts on gear or, ideally, secure a sponsor.
Back then, Tilton and Kraus drove an old R.V. to competitions at racetracks and skate parks, passing out stickers and magazines. In return, the magazines’ publishers gave them free ad space to promote the new website. Those humble beginnings, which Tilton calls “grassroots,” proved to be effective. But cash was tight.
“I was trying to raise money to get off the ground, but the older gents had no idea what action sports were, let alone investing in a business focused on them,” Tilton says. “Rather than get an apartment, we rented an office in Solana Beach and lived in the motor home for over six months.”
Action sports athletes-surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders, motocross riders, et al-have a reputation for being territorial and leery of outsiders (see Keanu getting jumped by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the movie Point Break), but Tilton and Kraus managed to gain street cred by simply being at events and competitions, promoting action sports and its lifestyle.
A decade later, Tilton tweaked the original formula, rebranding the site as “Hookit,” a name he feels more accurately reflects the wider variety of services his company now offers. And he retired the old motorhome in favor of more traditional office space in San Diego, a mecca for action sports.
Today, Hookit.com has more than 800,000 users in 140 countries and is by far the largest social network of its kind, partnering with massive companies including Monster Energy, ESPN and Nike. “We exist to support the active, independent lifestyle and culture our members live every day,” says Tilton.
Hookit members, whom Tilton lovingly refers to as “some of the most progressive and expressive individuals on the planet,” can sign up for free (or choose to pay for a premium membership) to apply for sponsorships and promote themselves through profiles. These days, though, Tilton and company aren’t so exclusively focused on sponsorships.
“Our goal is less about kids thinking we’ll get them sponsored,” he says. “Our future is in providing tools for our members to stay connected with the friends they session with and their favorite spots, brands and shops,” says Tilton. Now, using the new Hookit mobile app launched in March, members can find or create local spots to ride, invite crews of friends to join, post pics and videos of sessions, find shops, get deals and integrate everything with Facebook.
The app’s spot locator feature comes pre-populated with just about every snowy mountain, dusty racetrack, barreling break and sick skate park in the country. It also allows users to claim their own local spots, whether a secret backcountry sand dune or a little waxed ledge outside the neighborhood post office.
The Hookit app, like site membership, is free, and the whole thing works so well because brands and the gear they produce are already such a big part of the action sports lifestyle.
As Tilton puts it, “members and brands are both participants in the community.”
Considering that more than half of people age 10 to 24 participate in at least one action sport, that’s a pretty big community. And they’re getting hooked by the hundreds of thousands. hookit.com
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