Hookit Fuels Sponsorship-Starved Amateur Athletes

If trademark disputes were a sport, Hookit.com might have found a way to win gold—despite dropping out of the race.

The San Diego-based action sports social networking firm, formerly known as Loop’d, surrendered its original name in January to end a costly 18-month trademark battle with Mountain View, CA-based mobile mapping firm Loopt.com. But Hookit’s Olympic feat—boosting its membership base from 200,000 to 500,000 during the dispute and continuing to grow after the moniker change—will likely do more for the company in the long run than winning the trademark case could have done.

“It definitely proved that we had a good model and a valuable service that could continue to attract new members,” said Scott Tilton, CEO and co-founder of Hookit. “It’s still frustrating as a whole because it definitely derailed some of our product initiatives,” Tilton added. Nonetheless, Tilton said the trademark dispute didn’t have a lasting effect on his firm, which used a series of polls and interviews to allow members to choose the new name.

Hookit provides members a free venue to network with other serious action sports athletes, communicate about events and competitions, engage marketers, and purchase equipment, products and apparel. Through the site, users can pursue sponsorships from firms like Corona, CA-based Hansen Natural Corp.’s Monster Energy and from smaller brands like Fuel Clothing.

Tilton and business partner R.J. Kraus, longtime friends and amateur athletes originally formed their vision in Connecticut in 2001. They recognized a need in the marketplace for a site that provided a better way for sponsorship-starved amateur athletes and revenue-seeking brands to connect with each other. Their aim: to create “an online service for amateur athletes to build profiles, showcase their skills, and connect with sponsors,” Tilton said. “It took a long time to get going, mainly because we had no funding at the time. And it started in Connecticut, which is not exactly a hotbed of action sports.”

They eventually realized they needed to take an extreme step to pursue their idea further. The two entrepreneurs set out from Connecticut on a cross-country trip in 2003 with the goal of finding a new home for their site, then called SponsorHouse.com. Tilton said they were aiming for southern California and quickly fell in love with the entrepreneurial approach and action sports atmosphere prevalent in the San Diego region.

To use a sports phrase, they stuck the landing. San Diego is home to legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk and snowboarding sensation Shaun White, not to mention a critical mass of lifestyle apparel companies, online sports ventures and action sports product makers. The sector’s momentum prompted Marco Thompson to form Connect’s Action Sports Innovators group in 2007.

Shortly after becoming part of the region’s action sports sector in 2003, Hookit won … Next Page »

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