From 1999 to 2002, Ross Krempley was one of the West Coast’s top 800-meter runners for the University of Oregon track and field team.

But Krempley has found even greater success since turning in his running shoes for a desktop, and trading the track for the World Wide Web.

Krempley, 37, is the founder and CEO of , a social networking website for runners that’s grown from a small startup in 2007 into a high-traffic portal for high school, college and professional track meets.

The Eugene-based website began with a dozen volunteers posting Oregon and Washington track results online. It now has 30 full-time employees and a global reach as the official digital partner of USA Track and Field and its Canadian counterpart, Athletics Canada.

That means viewers around the world who wanted to watch live streams of the recent Prefontaine Classic, the NCAA and USA outdoor championships — all in Eugene — had to go through

The site has partnerships with big corporate names in the track and field world like Nike, New Balance and running shoe maker Hoka One One.

“In last four weeks, we’ve done 16 live webcasts,” Krempley said. “One day we did three at one time, with all our own production. That’s amazing when you consider all the money it takes to get equipment and staffing.” He declined to disclose financial information for competitive reasons.

But this growth almost didn’t happen. Krempley launched the site with help (and tens of thousands of dollars) from his father, David Krempley.

By 2010, the site was breaking even, with a small core of employees posting information and videos about track events across the country.

“But we just weren’t happy with the site, how it worked and functioned,” he said.

“We felt like we were going to die a slow death…by always being disappointed in our product. You can’t excite your employees with a boring product with a bunch of bugs and flaws.”

So Krempley hit pause on RunnerSpace in 2012. He stopped seeking out new partnerships and nearly let the site go dark for a year, focusing on creating a more video and social media focused website.

Social media site Instagram turned into a driver of RunnerSpace’s rebirth.

After tinkering with Facebook and Twitter, Krempley decided to promote RunnerSpace heavily on Instagram because of its ability to post photos and videos. The website now has nearly 250,000 Instagram followers, with most of their posts being “liked” anywhere from 7,000 to 13,000 times.

“We shifted our resources into that over Twitter and Facebook, and that made us so we’re the number-one running-based Instagram account in the entire world,” Krempley said.

Another driver was added emphasis on live broadcasts of running events. Krempley brought on full-time videographers and production staff, sending them across the country to shoot events and tape interviews. To view live streams of events, users subscribe to the site for $12.99 per month, but can pay less with a longer membership.

Krempley wouldn’t say just how many page views RunnerSpace draws each month, but said business has doubled each of the last three years. Some of the athlete interviews posted online have been viewed 150,000 times.

RunnerSpace has found success by tapping into a niche market of mostly younger, tech-savvy track fans who feel underserved by traditional sports media such ESPN, said Lee Berke, president and CEO of New York-based marketing firm LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media.

As the Internet has evolved into a hub for social media and streaming video, startups like RunnerSpace have thrived by embracing the new technology, he said.

“Nowadays you have a lot of viewers cutting the (television) cord,” Berke said. “Sports fans are extremely passionate, and they’re looking for immersive content.”

For track and field fans, this means constantly updated results from track meets, in-depth interviews with athletes, videos with tips for amateur runners and more.

Despite this demand, RunnerSpace has continued to merely break even, in large part because Krempley has continually added new staff and purchased new equipment as the site has grown.

The other big piece of RunnerSpace’s evolution came in September. Krempley secured an undisclosed amount of investment money from real estate developer Dan Neal to fund a redesign that would make the site more friendly for smart phone and tablet viewers.

“This is not the type of investment I would normally make,” said Neal, who met Krempley 15 years ago through his running coach at UO.

But, when Krempley approached him about investing in RunnerSpace, Neal said, “He said that he thought RunnerSpace could achieve a much more rapid growth spurt if they had access to some additional capital.”

Neal said he is now a passive shareholder in the company. The new website launched in late June.

“If it wasn’t for that, we’d be light years behind where we are now,” Krempley said. RunnerSpace is currently gearing up for next year’s Olympics in Rio, where it will stream USA Track and Field content online.

Krempley said his focus today is on securing more investors to keep RunnerSpace growing. He expects the company’s payroll to grow to 45 employees by the start of the Olympics, with a little help.

But none of RunnerSpace’s success would have come without the decision to slow down and re-brand three years ago, he said.

“Not many businesses choose to ride the line like that. We knew that for us to be set up right now and for the future, it was worth the risk,” he said.

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