With praying quarterback Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos eliminated from the NFL playoffs this past weekend, Jared Kleinstein, 24, the founder of the Web site Tebowing.com and its parent company Tebowing LLC, finally has a chance to reflect on what he started.
On October 23, 2011, Kleinstein was in a bar in Manhattan’s Union Square neighborhood, watching with a group of friends as the Broncos beat the Miami Dolphins. After the game, his friends lined up on the sidewalk, elbow to knee, hand to head, in tribute to Tebow’s post-touchdown prayer pose. Kleinstein posted the image to Facebook, then created the Tebowing.com Web site and sent a link to seven friends.
Two-and a half-months later, the site has logged 20 million page views, 2 million unique visitors, and 20,000 photographs submitted from all seven continents. And while Kleinstein won’t disclose revenue or profit numbers, the advertising on the site, along with sales of Tebowing T-shirts and sweatshirts, have already thrown off so much cash that Kleinstein is turning away offers from would-be investors while contemplating investing his earnings, after charitable donations, in New York City real estate.
How’d he do it? Kleinstein is a 2009 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in marketing and entrepreneurship. He learned enough about business there that he realizes his own story is a departure from the more elaborately planned and analytical approach usually taught in school.
“I was just doing it for fun,” he says. The four other partners in the limited liability company are all either 24- or 25-year-old guys who are his friends from either growing up in Denver or from college.
Kleinstein and his partners are Jewish, and Kleinstein went to a Jewish day school known at the time as Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy for kindergarten through 12th grade, which gives rise to some questions about what a nice Jewish boy is doing operating a Web site promoting — and profiting from — a religious Christian.
“Even though Tim is Christian, it’s universal,” Kleinstein says. “It’s a way for Broncos fans to unite under a simple gesture….As a Jew, I wish there was somebody in the forefront of our community in sports that was so comfortable showing his religion.”
What does Tebow himself think of Kleinstein and his operation? The football star issued a Twitter message indicating approval. “I haven’t met him,” Kleinstein says, while praising the quarterback’s “team.” Does the quarterback want a piece of the Web business action? “Everybody’s been very positive on all sides,” was about as far as Kleinstein would go, emphasizing, “I wasn’t off to make money off of Tim Tebow…I’m just having some fun.”
Fun or not, there’s nonetheless plenty of work involved. Kleinstein’s been selecting every picture that goes up on the site, along with handling search engine optimization, accounting, and media monitoring. He’s doing this on top of his main day job at the New York real estate website StreetEasy and a second gig writing about real estate for a free weekly newspaper, Metro. He’s even put his mother, a Denver real estate agent, to work selling T-shirts outside NFL games.
Kleinstein jokes that if traffic to the site wanes because of the end of the Broncos’ season, it will finally be a chance for him to get some sleep. “When next season starts, this will be up again in full force,” he says.
But the site’s fortunes may transcend those of the football team. Kleinstein says that for a lot of people, Tebowing — which the site defines as “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different” — is not about football but about faith or hope. He cites the example of a young cancer patient “Tebowing while Chemo-ing.”
Says the sleepless founder, hopefully: “This has legs.”