The pandemic put this sports-focused startup on the sidelines. Here's how it got back in the game. – St. Louis Business Journal

Brian Lord says the Covid-19 pandemic likely should have been a death sentence for his startup. 
His company, iSite Media, is built around marketing to consumers inside sports venues. So when those sports venues went dark as teams and leagues halted play in March 2020, and later returned to either empty or limited-capacity stadiums, the future of iSite looked bleak.
Founded in 2016, iSite developed digital advertising boards found inside stadium restrooms that feature a shelf where fan can rest their beverages. After finally hitting growth mode, iSite found itself sidelined for more than a year — it didn’t generate revenue for five straight quarters, said Lord, its CEO and co-founder.
Now iSite has returned to growth mode, with thanks to an assist from investors that allowed it to use that five-quarter dry period to expand and improve its technology.
“Having that time was kind of a silver lining,” Lord said. “It was nice to be able to plan for the future and have the time and resources to do it.” 
ISite not only develops the digital displays, but it also co-sells the advertising that appears on them. Ahead of the pandemic, it was attracting some high-profile venues as customers: Enterprise Center, the University of Missouri’s football and basketball facilities and the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. It was in talks with several more.
“Then when the pandemic hit, those conversations were put on a screeching halt with nobody in the venues and no understanding or sight when (fans) were going to return,” Lord said. 
Even as its revenue stream dried up, iSite kept going, shifting focus to improving its technology and internal processes, Lord said. The company was able to keep its entire staff, which currently includes five full-time employees and three contractors, thanks to financing raised from investors. Lord did not disclose the specific amount of funding, but said investors provided less than $1 million as part of an financing round closed amid the pandemic. 
“I have to give them praise because of the environment they did that in. It was significantly more risky than what it was pre-pandemic or what it is today,” Lord said. 
Additionally, iSite received a loan through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Lord previously told the Business Journal the PPP loan, secured in 2020, was under $100,000.
During the pandemic, Lord said he and his team focused on improving its technology to make it more attractive to sports venues once they reopened. Among the improvements were: 
While going more than a year without revenue certainly wasn’t a step Lord ever envisioned along his startup’s path, he says that time allowed iSite to target projects that might have been lost amid rapid growth in normal times. 
Today, Lord says his company recently landed deals to bring its devices to three new venues: the University of North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center; FLA Live Arena, home of the NHL’s Florida Panthers; and Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., home fo the Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals and Georgetown University men’s basketball. 
ISite said it doubled its quarterly advertising record in the third quarter of 2021 and expected to close the year by tripling that previous record in the final quarter of year. Lord did not disclose specific revenue figures. The startup currently has devices in seven venues, with plans to add another five to six next year. It expects to grow to 100-plus venues by 2026. 
Lord said navigating iSite through the pandemic has generated stress and uncertainty, but he has remained confident in the company’s potential for long-term success. And as sports teams and venues themselves look to recover revenue lost from the pandemic, iSite believes its technology resonates even more with executives. 
“Pre-pandemic, it was a nice addition to the building. It was a nice addition to the bottom-line in what we could provide. There was more of a need coming out of the worst of the pandemic to drum up new revenue,” Lord said.
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