Interview with the Creators & Owners of BallHype & ShowHype
- Updated: March 18, 2008
Hi everyone! I take this slight detour in baseball talk to bring you an interview with the creators and owners of both BallHype and ShowHype, Erin & Jason Gurney. BallHype was launched in April of 2007 and will be celebrating its 1 Year Anniversary next month! Way to go you two! I’m not only the interviewer, but I’m also a client! J
Q. Where are you both from? Who were your favorite baseball teams growing up and who are your favorite baseball teams now (being a Baseball blog, I had to ask)?
A. Erin: I grew up in Minnesota and was in high school when Kirby Puckett and the Twins won the 1987 World Series, and had just left for college when they won again in 1991. Pretty hard not to love your home team under those circumstances, and no other team has really replaced them for me.
Jason: I grew up far from any major league teams, and adopted the Dodgers when I was young. That lasted until the Mariano Duncan era, when cable TV and WGN made it a lot easier to follow the Cubs. Nowadays I’m rooting for both Bay Area teams, which made last summer a bit dicey.
Q. How did you two meet?
A. Erin: We were both working at Intel when we met. And no, it wasn’t an office romance – Jason left the company before we started dating.
Jason: That was almost a decade ago, but I remember at the time thinking that this was the kind of person I could launch a pair of niche social media web sites with.
Q. What did both of you do for work before BallHype?
A. Erin: I spent 5 years at Intuit doing online marketing for QuickBooks and Quicken. Prior to that I was a product marketer at a startup called Bigstep, and my first job out of business school was in finance at Intel.
Jason: Lately I’ve been doing software engineering for a handful of technology companies, most recently a small one called Biz360. The most enjoyable job I ever had was a part-time business school gig, working on NBA.com.
Q. How has your former careers helped you with creating and running BallHype?
A. Erin: The finance background helps with managing the business side of BallHype, and for years all I thought about at Intuit was improving the user experience on our web sites.
Jason: Most of the prior jobs I’ve had have been relevant in some way – building high-volume consumer sites, managing large-scale content analysis, dealing with difficult finance managers, etc. But what helped me the most was my experience building striketwo.net and its sister sites, which were side projects prior to BallHype.
Q. What does each of you do for BallHype?
A. Erin: Jason writes every line of code, and I check it… Just kidding (about my role – he does write every line of code), I manage the marketing and business side, so promotions, finances, copywriting, outreach.
Q. Do you get any time off or have any time to get away on vacation without having to think about the site?
A. No. We finally have a regular evening babysitter for date nights, but we usually still end up talking about BallHype and checking our Blackberrys between the soup and the main course. Fortunately we have a great community manager (Howie – http://ballhype.com/profile/thehype/) who helps keep an eye on things when we need to take short family trips, but we also take the laptops with us.
Q. How do you manage the site while having two toddlers running around the house? Do you have a BallHype Office in your home that’s set aside from normal family use?
A. Fortunately, the kids can’t get to our office because we’ve surrounded it with a 4-foot moat. Plus, they’re pretty used to us working out of the house now and don’t seem to mind when we leave them with the babysitter and disappear upstairs. The nice part is that we get a lot more time with our kids than most people who are running startups. We can stop for dinner and just go back to work after they’re asleep.
Q. I know that you launched the site in April of 2007, but can you tell us how long it was to build the company?
A. We didn’t actually start building a BallHype prototype until December 2006, although we were able to get off to a running start thanks to striketwo.net.
Q. Also, when was it that you first decided to do something like this and was BallHype always that same brainchild?
A. We started thinking about a new business that we could run together when Erin was about to return from her last maternity leave. We knew that the growth of blogs and new media created an interesting opportunity – help consumers find the best content, and help producers find an audience – and after some discussion about what vertical to launch in, realized that Jason’s prior work with lowpost and its sister sites made sports the obvious choice. Plus we’re both sports fans, and we knew it had to be something we wouldn’t mind spending 20 hours a day thinking about.
Q. Is BallHype based or modeled after a particular online community?
A. Not one site in particular, but we certainly credit Digg for popularizing story voting and Facebook for advancing social communities. We also rely heavily on content analysis to help drive our top stories, and that facet was largely inspired by Techmeme and its sister sites.
Q. What do each of you like most about owning & running your own company?
A. Erin: Being our own boss. It was a bit scary at first, leaving comfortable jobs and great salaries for the complete unknown… especially when you live in the Bay Area. But it’s been worth it. There’s never a day when I wake up thinking, oh god, I have to go to work today.
Jason: The commute is unbeatable.
Q. Did either of you ever write a blog before starting BallHype? If so, what was it about & is it still out there?
A. Jason: I maintained a blog on lowpost.net (http://lowpost.net/blog/) before we launched BallHype. I had no idea that there was such a strong community of spots bloggers out there, and that kept me in it for nearly a couple of seasons despite the fact that I can’t write to save my life,
Q. What can we expect in the future for BallHype and/or ShowHype?
A. We’re working to get our blog rankings to replace alpha-numeric ordering and the Dewey Decimal System.