Corporate Partner Spotlight: VNN
For many, West Michigan isn’t the first place that they’d think of when they hear the words tech start-up. But VNN (Varsity News Network) is here to change that.
VNN is a Grand Rapids-based high school sports software company, currently working with about 20% of all US high schools across 39 states. VNN started in 2015 with two people, and now employ nearly 70, which makes them the largest, fastest-growing high school sports communication company in the US. It all started with the idea that all sports programs should have the opportunity to get the same level of publicity as football and basketball. Since then, their team has built products, apps, and connected with other like-minded software companies to help athletic directors get the word out about the great things their athletes are doing and make local communities a better place to be.
Romy Glazer, Head of Marketing, shared some personal thoughts about VNN’s role within the communities they serve. “The thing I’m most proud of is hearing the stories from our partners who are using VNN to make their communities more fun to be a part of, and being in a unique position to give them legs across the country. A personal favorite was rallying our entire network around Cloverdale’s Cooper Neese (Indiana), who qualified for the American Family Insurance 3-Point Competition at the NCAA Final Four. By the time he was actually competing on CBS, we had employees and schools across the network huddled around their TVs, hoping to see him pull it off. I’m proud that, because of us, more people have the opportunity to feel connected to something that they probably wouldn’t have given a second thought to unless their child was an athlete, and a lot of that is because they now have the tools to promote their programs in a way they couldn’t do so before. We could use a lot more of that in the world.”
Glazer continued, sharing some insight into VNN’s philanthropic strategy, “As a relatively new start-up company that still spends other people’s money to grow quickly, we aren’t able to provide large-scale financial support for projects like some of the big players in town, so we structure our philanthropy in ways that we can to champion West Michigan as a place that is encouraging for the entrepreneur in all of us. A few examples includes hosting a Creative Mornings event about taking risks, holding open office hours for entrepreneurs looking for advice, Ryan Vaughn’s keynote speech at the 100 Ideas event, and this collaboration with the GRAM (advertising and grassroots marketing support for GRAM’s 2018 fall exhibition Who Shot Sports), providing access to the sports teams we connect to which helps promote the exhibit. Throughout our history, we’ve benefitted from the help of the community to get us off the ground, and as much as we can, want to do our part to give back.”
So what’s next for VNN? And what are they looking forward to? “As ‘the final frontier of sports,’ high school is quickly catching up to the level of technology and integration happening in travel, college, and pro leagues. We’re on the cusp of this revolution, and 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for VNN as we connect the pieces between schools, brands, software, and communities. When that happens, things start to get really fun,” shared Glazer. “And at the Art Museum, for the money, you can’t get any better than Maya Lin. It’s amazing to think that every day we get to experience her work at Rosa Parks Circle, and the upcoming exhibition is going to be an exciting way to hear directly from her studio about the intent behind her works and point of view creating physical representations of the natural world.