Estacada grad moves up online
Brian Grey is among the most successful people in the digital sports content industry
In Estacada, Brian Grey isn't even the most famous person in his family. Outside of Estacada, however, he's one of the biggest names in the Internet-based sports journalism world as the current CEO of BleacherReport.com.
As the son of two Estacada School District employees, Grey was in kindergarten when he and his parents arrived in Estacada.
His father, Larry, is the longest tenured baseball coach in Ranger history, having coached from 1969-1990 before becoming the pitching coach at Concordia University.
By the time Brian got to high school, he was both a basketball and baseball player, but it was clear early on that on the baseball diamond he was something special.
As a senior in 1985, Brian was named to the Oregon all-star team and was named the conference player of the year.
Both Brian and Larry were members of the inaugural hall of fame class for the Estacada baseball program this spring.
After high school, Brian got the chance to play baseball at Pacific University before graduating in 1990 with a double major in economics and mathematics.
With no chance at playing baseball professionally, Brian did the next best thing - he coached.
Coaching took him to the University of California - Santa Barbara, where he became the Gauchos' pitching coach while working toward a master's degree in economics.
'I spent a couple seasons (at UCSB) and thought that I might want to be a coach, but ultimately I chose the business track,' he said.
That turned out to be a wise decision.
In 1993, Grey moved to San Francisco and began working as a consultant while also scouting for the Chicago White Sox in his free time. With two bachelor's degrees and a master's already under his belt, Grey went back to school, this time at UCLA.
So in 1997, finally finished with school, Grey earned his MBA and moved back to San Francisco for a job at Nike. His job was to help figure out what they should do with this new thing called 'the Internet.'
'The Internet was just getting going, and they were trying to figure out what to do with it,' he said. 'I was working with a guy to figure out what was going on in digital technology.'
After just a short time at Nike, Grey got a job with Netscape and then another job with a new startup company called Shutterfly in 2000. Shutterfly, which opened its doors in 1999, had just 30 employees when Grey got on board as the vice president of business development. Now, 13 years later, Shutterfly has become the pre-eminent digital photo book publishing website.
Grey, however, was only there until 2001, when Yahoo Sports came calling, naming him their new general manager.
'My job was to develop their fantasy sports and their sports writing,' he said. 'And in August of 2004, we passed ESPN in terms of unique visitors to our website.'
Quickly developing a reputation as one of the stars in his industry, Grey moved on from Yahoo Sports in 2005 when FOX Sports Interactive asked him to be their senior vice president and general manager, a position he held for three years.
Having been consumed by the digital sports world for so long, Grey decided to move into the venture capital world in 2009 as the executive in residence of Polaris Venture Partners Inc.
His life outside of sports didn't last long, however.
In 2010, a budding new website called BleacherReport.com was searching for a CEO to give them some credibility and guidance. Turns out, Grey was just what they were looking for.
'Bleacher Report started in 2008, and I joined in June of 2010,' he said. 'While I was at FOX, we did a partnership with them, so I had an idea of what they wanted to do.
'It was really good timing because I was looking for something to drop back into.'
Since its inception, Bleacher Report has carved out a unique niche in the sports writing world. While sites such as ESPN, Yahoo and FOX rely on professional journalists to generate all of their content, Bleacher Report relies almost completely on the general public and fans.
'One of the reasons the founder started Bleacher Report was because people have an insatiable desire for content,' he said. 'And on the supply side, a lot of people know more about the team than they do their own job.
'Other sites focus on national news stories and don't really go deep into a lot of content, but we deliver a unique experience around teams and topics that they don't.'
As of two years ago, any fans out there who want to tell the world their thoughts about their favorite team can apply to Bleacher Report to become a contributor. With approximately 15-20 percent of applicants accepted, Bleacher Report has upward of 8,000 approved contributors.
'We're not trying to break news, it's more about giving people the platform to be active, much like sports talk radio,' Grey said. 'Most fans just can't get enough of the teams they're interested in. Here they can come up with all of their own ideas and angles.
'It's an untapped supply of passion.'
As popularity on the site began to grow, in January 2011, Bleacher Report added a series of paid writing positions in order to increase the quality of content. While paying some professionals will surely help the overall image of the site, it also began educating the people who contribute.
On the site, Bleacher Report offers tools for contributors to write better leads, create better content and even to help stories become viral.
With sales offices across the country now selling advertisements and sponsorships that help to fund the site, Bleacher Report continues to mature.
'We're growing both in audience and in revenue,' he said. 'We've also done two fundraisers as we continue to build.'
Despite all of this success, Grey still remembers his Estacada roots, coming up to visit his parents once a year. With his wife, Paige, Grey has two daughters, Zeli, 12; and Ava, 9.