Blake would rather show you this journey on a whiteboard, but for now, this blog will have to do. When he’s not doodling on the dry-erase, Blake leads the team at Opendorse as CEO alongside co-founder and President Adi Kunalic. In this interview, Blake details his path to Opendorse, his role, and where he expects the athlete social media marketing industry to move in 2020.
By the end of the decade, every professional team in the U.S. will assign a #smsports professional (creator, producer, manager) to each athlete on their roster. Forward-thinking collegiate teams will do so as well.
Describe your journey to Opendorse.
1989 – Born in Kansas City
2001 – Wrote code for and maintained a website dedicated to finding glitches in Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 — best video game ever!
2006 – Lost Kansas High School State Championship game — I played QB and LB in high school.
2007 – Moved to Nebraska to play for the Cornhuskers football team and got stuck rooming with the kicker in the dorms — his name was Adi Kunalic.
2008 – Became starting linebacker at Nebraska on the same defense as Ndamukong Suh and Prince Amukamara.
2009 – Retired from football after suffering 4 concussions in a little over a year. My brain still works decently well — I received a marketing degree in just 2.5 years.
2010 – Started Hurrdat, a social media agency, with Adi. I had to explain to my parents that blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking all day for businesses IS A REAL JOB, OKAY MOM!
2011 – Got a call from Prince Amukamara, after he’s selected in the 1st round of the NFL Draft, asking for help “getting his followers up”. Adi Kunalic also joined the NFL in 2011, signing with the Carolina Panthers, while I was back at Nebraska completing my MBA program.
2012 – Started Opendorse on November 1st after spending the first half of the year struggling to get Prince Amukamara to actually publish the content we made for him. I also met a woman named Ibby this year.
2013 – Launched our first version of the Opendorse platform. Within a month, NFLPA somehow found out about it, invited us to DC to discuss a partnership. They asked if we could help their 2,000 players fulfill sponsored content obligations. We said, “YAS PLEASE!”
2014 – Sold Hurrdat so we could focus 100% on Opendorse which was starting to grow quickly — Hurrdat had grown to 25 employees and still exists today.
2015 – Raised $1.5M in venture capital to keep up with growth pace of Opendorse. We expanded our team and introduced the platform to our friends at Nebraska who started to use it to share content with their athlete alumni. We realized we might be onto something…
2016 – Welcomed several new sports property partners who were looking for a way to help their athletes share more content more often. Shout-out to those early believers Eric DeSalvo, Brian Wagner, Jonathan Gantt.
2017 – Met with the NCAA leadership to ensure collegiate partners could share content with current student-athletes — this conversation paved way for a new industry to pop up around sharing media with student-athletes. Proud of this one!
2018 – Moved into our beautiful new HQ in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska and leveraged $3M in new funding to expand our team further and we started rebuilding our platform from the ground up to ensure our 100+ partners have the best damn athlete marketing platform possible.
2019 – Launched the new Opendorse in June, helping us solve more problems for more partners, more often. I also got engaged in July to that woman Ibby I mentioned earlier!
Today – Thankful as hell to be leading this team and building this industry alongside you all!!
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned over the past 7 years?
To pursue a crazy vision, you’ve got to have passion for the problem you’re solving, work with people who believe in your purpose, have patience and respect the process — because things will probably take twice as long as you think, but that’s okay because great things don’t come quick or easy. Oh, and to have as much fun as you can along the way!
What do you enjoy most about your job? What gets you excited each day?
I love the people I get to work with and the problems we get to solve for our partners.
I think I have the coolest possible job on the planet. I am passionate about sports, social media, software and startups. If I got to work in just one of these fields, I’d be happy. I get to work in all four of ‘em. Everyday.
What is your view on the future of the #smsports industry? Next big thing?
The most biased response possible: athletes will continue to evolve into their own micro-media companies. Within 5 years, fans will consume more sports video from athlete-owned channels than teams or leagues.
Fans will get league highlights from league channels, team highlights from team channels and player highlights from player channels. With this, the value of near real-time sports highlight clips will continue to grow, as will the importance of providing athletes with support in managing the operations of their individual micro-media companies.
By the end of the decade, every professional team in the US will assign a #smsports professional (creator, producer, manager) to each athlete on their roster. Forward-thinking collegiate teams will do so as well.
What would your elevator pitch be to athletes to get them excited to join the platform?
Your social media followers will be with you forever — long after your sports career is over. We’re going to help you build the biggest, most engaged audience possible today, so you can have fans that support you for the rest of your life.
To do that, we’re going to plug you with high-quality content to share on social — helping you say the right thing at the right time to capture the most attention possible.
If that doesn’t resonate, I’d just say “we’re going to help you share dope content on social so you can get those followers up!”
What show are you currently binge-watching?
Hyped up for the last season of Silicon Valley. Also diving into ‘The Politician’ on Netflix. Trying to get into “Bates Motel” too. The Fiancée and I love finding a good series to binge – I’ll take any recommendations you have!