view episode transcript
Find a sound bite of you know Blake Lawrence with the interception. Huge tackle, like what a savage, you know, find it lately. I know it’s out there bro.
Jay Clouse 0:27
The startup investment landscape is changing. and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them and discuss the upside of investing in them.
Jay Clouse 0:40
Welcome to upside.
Eric Hornung 0:55
Hello, hello. Hello, and welcome to the upside podcast. The first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Eric Hornung, and I’m accompanied by my co host, Mr. Go pack go himself. Jay Clouse, Jay, how’s it going, man?
Jay Clouse 1:10
It’s going well, I’m excited for another Packer season. Watching the pack with my dad. I know that the draft is coming up. I’m not sure what day, do you know what day the draft is.
Eric Hornung 1:19
That’s actually pretty bad that I don’t know. But it’s also great that I don’t know, Jay, you don’t know why. It’s great. I don’t know.
Jay Clouse 1:25
I know. You’re gonna tell me.
Eric Hornung 1:26
I’m gonna tell you. It’s because I am a Browns fan. And for the last 20 years, I have cared so much about the NFL Draft. It’s my Super Bowl, right? We had multiple pics in the first round. We had the first overall pick twice in a row, so much excitement around the draft. And this year, for the first time and what is probably legitimately two decades we don’t have at all a first round pick. I don’t even have to watch the first day of the draft. I didn’t have to care.
Jay Clouse 1:55
How did that happen? By the way? Did they trade it for somebody was that an Odell Beckham trade?
Eric Hornung 1:59
Yeah, it was for Odell, my boy.
Jay Clouse 2:01
This year’s first round?
Eric Hornung 2:03
Pick Frodo this year’s first round pick. I am so incredibly excited about Odell. He’s been like my favorite player since he actually before the catch. You can even ask people who are my fantasy league like you who drafted in his rookie year I did. And fantasy, big big fan.
Jay Clouse 2:19
Did I draft Odell last year or it was two years ago.
Eric Hornung 2:21
I think you drafted him two years ago when he got
Jay Clouse 2:23
he got immediately hurt.
Eric Hornung 2:24
Yeah, against the browns. Funny now, my gosh,
Jay Clouse 2:27
Excited about fantasy football. The problem is the further I get away from caring about things like the draft and young players. I continue to draft players like Larry Fitzgerald, because I think they’re going to be a great pick. And I’m just out of touch. But I love our fantasy league.
Eric Hornung 2:41
Yeah, our fantasy league is a lot of fun. There are a lot of customized rules. There’s two quarterbacks there’s a short bench. It’s deep starters. It’s a there’s a lot of a lot of unique things that make it very hard to just kind of pull up a cheat sheet and draft.
Jay Clouse 2:59
Two quarterback leagues when you have 12 teams highly recommend I think that like changes the fantasy game.
Eric Hornung 3:05
Yeah, cuz you have to reach for a third quarterback or hope that a quarterback gets injured and you can pick up you know, Matt liner as a backup or something.
Jay Clouse 3:14
Also, our league is the only one that does the auction style drafting and the game theory of that with like some pretty smart dudes. Very fun.
Eric Hornung 3:22
Also some pretty dumb dudes like we have a wide range in this league.
Jay Clouse 3:27
Eric Hornung 3:28
For listeners, Jay and I are in a fantasy league together in case you didn’t pick up on
Jay Clouse 3:32
In case you didn’t put it together. And the reason we’re talking about fantasy is today’s episode involves athletics. Today we’re talking to Blake Lawrence, the founder and CEO of opendorse. opendorse is an athlete marketing platform that helps the biggest brands in sports share content on social, founded by two former major college athletes opendorse was built, seeking to make it easy for athletes and their partners to work together to engage their fans. Today, they have close to 6000 athletes using the platform with over 900 million social media followers.
Eric Hornung 4:02
Do you follow any athletes on social media? I think you follow 150,000 people on Twitter. Are any of them athletes?
Jay Clouse 4:10
I follow sub 2000 people on Twitter
Eric Hornung 4:12
390,000 people I think?
Jay Clouse 4:16
and a couple of them are athletes, not a lot of athletes.
Eric Hornung 4:19
Jay Clouse 4:20
Well, I’m not the biggest sports guy that I will admit too, on most of my social media, I’m trying to follow people who bubble up scarce and you know, thought intensive stuff. And most athletes are tweeting about their teams and what’s going on in their world. And that’s just not my not my world. I also feel like a lot of when I’ve when I’ve seen athletes, the things that are most interesting to me are when they are sharing either behind the scenes stuff, something that I can’t typically have access to. But I don’t necessarily want or need promo.
Eric Hornung 4:56
Yeah, I understand that. I think from my perspective, and I don’t really follow many athletes, I think I follow Odell who just talked about, like, I follow LeBron, very Cleveland of me.
Jay Clouse 5:07
I follow LeBron. I actually like watching LeBron son’s highlights on Instagram.
Eric Hornung 5:10
I don’t know where to go with that. So I’m just going to leave that one out there for the listeners to dissect. But I’ve been wanting to for a while, make lists of my favorite teams, and just have all of the rosters all of the people from one team on there. So like a list on Twitter of all the Cleveland Indians list on Twitter, of all the Cleveland Browns, I don’t really follow. I like the Packers, but I don’t follow like the drama of the Packers as much. So I think those two would be good for me, maybe I should do that. Maybe I should just actually sit down with the roster and do it.
Jay Clouse 5:39
A little bit more background here on opendorse. It was founded in 2012, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, which is where our editor of the show Nathan lives, they’ve raised nine and a half million dollars to date, 3 million of that close just this month in April. And I believe some of the entities they already work with are the PGA Tour, The LPGA, the NFL players Association, New Jersey devils and Michigan, Clemson, Nebraska, some big names in the athletic space.
Eric Hornung 6:08
You know, it’s crazy about athlete profiles, just how many followers they have, man, like, I get that LeBron and Odell have a lot of followers. They’re some of the biggest names in sports. But even just these freshmen at Ohio State, with 10,000 followers, 50,000 followers. It’s just insane.
Jay Clouse 6:29
Yeah. And I imagine there’s huge opportunity that I don’t even quite understand of how to leverage that either directly, monetary or not. And I assume opendorse is helping athletes to do that.
Eric Hornung 6:41
Well, let’s find out.
Jay Clouse 6:43
As we go through this interview guys, if you have thoughts you can email us Hello@upside.FM or tweeted us preferably @upsideFM. We’d love to hear what athletes you follow and what athletes we should be following. So tweet those at us @upsideFM and we’ll give it a look. We’ll jump into the interview with Blake right after this.
Jay Clouse 7:01
But before we do that, let’s bring in Rob McDonald, a partner at Taft Stettinius and Hollister to teach us about private placements and fundraising. Taft is a law firm known for assisting entrepreneurs across the Heartland. And as a quick reminder, the following remarks by Taft attorneys are for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. This information is not intended to create and receipt of it does not constitute an attorney client relationship. No person or organization should act upon this information without first seeking professional counsel. Rob, you are becoming a regular on the podcast, our third co host.
Rob McDonald 7:39
it’s great to be back excited we’re able to get through all that legal ease.
Eric Hornung 7:43
Oh, I know. You gotta love a good disclaimer.
Rob McDonald 7:44
Jay Clouse 7:46
And speaking of legal ease. An important part of every fundraising negotiation is the term sheets. What are the most important terms for an entrepreneur to be aware of when raising capital?
Rob McDonald 7:56
Obviously, evaluation and amount raised are two of the most important terms, these two terms combined with a fine How much of the company will be sold. However, with liquidation preferences, dividends and other rights tied securities, percentage of ownership alone could be misleading. So it is important to fully understand the economic terms and how they play out in the long run. Beyond the economic terms, the founders will also want to pay particularly close attention to what I call the power terms who votes on what who holds what board seats, etc. is easy to lose sight of the power dynamics is founder are too focused on the economics. Lastly, I encourage founders to look at deal costs. Some investors require all kinds of terms that costs the company money, sometimes for good reason. Things like key man insurance, for travel fees, legal fees for investors, etc. It is worth tracking how much the transactional costs complete, top to bottom.
Jay Clouse 8:49
Awesome. If people want to learn more about Taft or yourself, where should they go?
Rob McDonald 8:53
They should go to www.taftlaw.com or my Twitter @rwm.
Jay Clouse 9:04
Blake, welcome to the show.
Blake Lawrence 9:06
Appreciate it. Happy to be here.
Eric Hornung 9:08
On upside, we like to start with a background of the founder. So can you tell us a about the history of Blake?
Blake Lawrence 9:14
History of Blake? Blake story? I want to talk in third person
Eric Hornung 9:18
Now let’s do third person the entire interview. Yeah,
Blake Lawrence 9:21
So Blake was just young boy in the city. My story journey and entrepreneurship. I’ll take you back to Kansas City playground. I’m third grade, my older brother’s in fourth grade. And we see the cool kids on the playground. We’re surrounded by the other kids. And they’re handing out m&ms or Skittles, or a piece of a candy bar. And in that moment, my brother and I decided we could either be the cool kids or be the plug for the cool kids. And I think the entrepreneurial side of me said let’s let’s Be the plug. So we did a stakeout to find out when there were no teachers in the teachers lounge. And we would sneak in with our lunch money, put a dollar in get a candy bar or Skittles or m&ms and go to the playground and sell them for two bucks a pop, right? So we would go in and we would double our money every day. And my mom had no idea how we came home with more money than we went to school with and that we were cooler than the cool kids because we’re the ones you had to go to to be cool. And I think that origin story and going all the way back is the roots of entrepreneurship, thinking differently. And then that kind of brings you all the way through to where we are today. So I thought you guys would enjoy that if you ever find candy bars on the playground from a kid that was me.
Jay Clouse 10:34
I both love candy bars, and I both aspired to be the cool kid in school and never really quite pulled it off. But I had the same aspiration.
Blake Lawrence 10:42
Yeah, we got busted about two months in to the whole operation with candy bars in our pocket and teachers lounge but to digress bring it back grew up in a football family so my older brother we grew up playing football. Football is our everyday life. He went on to play quarterback at Kansas University and I went to the University of Nebraska to play linebacker so I was recruited all over the country as one of the top recruits in the country and decided I was going to go to Nebraska so I could beat my brother in football because Nebraska usually beats Kansas in football and end up playing as a true freshman starting as a sophomore and junior at linebacker so is a much bigger than I am today. Which proud of that. But
Jay Clouse 11:25
What was your playing weight?
Blake Lawrence 11:26
About 232, 235, about 200 pounds now. So got up pretty quick and really enjoyed the experience. Of course, football being a part of my everyday life, becoming a starting linebacker in Nebraska is quite an accomplishment was proud of that. And then in 2009, so 10 years ago, it all came to a screeching halt, I had to step away from the game. Instantly I had suffered four concussions in a little over a year, and decided that I was going to protect my long term health and stop playing football. And that was an identity crisis for me, guys. And I think that everyone listening and you do both know that moment when everything you thought you were is now gone. And you’re you’re trying to figure out who you are what you’re going to do next. And one day as a starting line back in Nebraska The next day, I had to define myself. And that’s where I focused on what that entrepreneurial journey like those are origin stories, trying to think, well, if I wasn’t focused on my energy on on football, maybe I could focus on solving problems. So at the time, I was the first guy on the team that was using Twitter, and 2009 had built up a little bit of an audience about 500 or 1000 followers on Twitter, mostly local fans, media members. And so I said, Man, this is the way I’m going to stay connected to this fan base, Nebraska sports fans are diehard, the whole state loves their their student athletes and football. And so I said I’m gonna dive way into this. So I started tweeting and you know, building connections there and build up this presence and us tweet and stuff I probably shouldn’t have, honestly. I mean, we all were 10 years ago, but it was like, Oh, you know, Roy tweaked his hamstring. I hope he feels better. And like the guys in Vegas are like, okay, we kind of fall, right. But I started getting hit up from some local businesses and hey, you built up your social media presence? Can you help me out? Sure. Let’s do it. So sort of the hustle a little bit and kind of help these local businesses build their social media, you know, got to a point where we had a couple and one of my best friends and roommates in college is Adi Kunalic, was our co founder of opendorse and we’ve been working together for every day since day one, having a conversation and said, hey, you’re helping these businesses. You know, I’m about to go and finish my last year of football, Nebraska. What if we did what we made this real thing? Like, what if we weren’t just hustling and pushing out tweets, but we built a company around us to solve this problem for not just a couple but thousands of companies? So we said, Sure, let’s do it. And so we started our first company in August 2010. It’s called Hurrdat HURRDAT is a social media agency. And here I am a year ago, I would have been preparing for being the starting line back in Nebraska. And now I’m preparing a business plan and you know, LLC docks and pitches and trying to get things going. So what can happen in a year, that’s pretty impressive. And so Adi I started that company, really to help businesses connect with their audience on social media blog, tweet Facebook all day, which was difficult to explain to my parents that that was actually what I was going to be doing. But it turned out to be a great success mean, we built that from the two of us to 25 employees. We sold it in 2014. So we could focus all of our energy on opendorse. But those those early days of Adi and I, who would always been a part of a team, but now building a team and understanding what does it take to get people to trust and buy in and believe not just from the customer side, but also from the employee side? So that was a great first experience.
Jay Clouse 14:42
What did running a social media agency look like in 2010? What types of things were you doing for these companies that needed a 25%, headcount?
Blake Lawrence 14:50
Well, and a lot of content creation, but content creation in 2010, was very different. Also analytics. So in 2010, you couldn’t post photos to Facebook, you you could you had to have a paper, you didn’t have pages, you had just profiles for businesses, Twitter, you couldn’t post photos, you had to use things like TwitPic, or yfrog. And so we did a lot of content, like just copywriting and blogs, we did a lot of blogging, which is long form. So we could drive people from Facebook, to the blog or from LinkedIn to the blog. And that’s where we would help convert. So it was very different than today. And then even then Facebook and Twitter didn’t have any analytics. So we had built our own analytics process where we would, on the front end, the customer would see like this beautiful report on the back end, guys were going in and counting up how many likes this, this one post got and comments, and we would update it on a daily basis madness, but thank goodness, you know, analytics came around on 2011 2012 and started actually become an industry.
Jay Clouse 15:44
It’s crazy to think that just 10 years ago, we were using TwitPic, you know, that feels like a lifetime ago. But it really wasn’t that long ago.
Blake Lawrence 15:50
It wasn’t it wasn’t so that I’m growing up on social. And this is something my career has been built in that space. And just thinking about the core principles of the same problem I was trying to solve for myself, which is I have this audience, they’ve elected to follow me for a reason How do I engage them on a continuous basis, right and, and bringing that same mindset into these businesses and brands like that really helped us within our social media agency. But guys, I gotta tell you about this aha moment, or like the moment we became obsessed with solving the problem that opened ourselves today is 2011. And one of my best friends is Prince Amukamara. He is a cornerback now for the Chicago Bears, but at the time, you know, a freshly drafted first round draft back to New York Giants. And he had, you know, 5000 or 10,000 followers and went to 100,000 followers overnight on all those social channels. And he calls me up and says, Hey, I know you’re helping all these businesses, man. But I got all these fans in New York now. And I want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can to keep them engaged, like so can you help me with my social media helped me keep my audience active? And I said, Sure, let’s do it. And so we sat down and created a plan said, we’re going to provide you photos and videos that really talk on key things in New York and talk about Nebraska, like different things that are going to your fans want to see from you. But friends, we’re going to, we’re going to send them to you, because we want you to share it. I mean, the authenticity, the relationship that athletes have with their audience is really built on the fact that it feels like this is the guy, this is coming straight from my favorite athlete, my favorite player. And so we never wanted to post for him, we always wanted him to have total control of the content. So we would package it up and say, Prince, this is the photo posted on Twitter at five o’clock with this caption, it’s gonna, it’s going to pop and we text it to him, and then we’d wait. And five o’clock rolls around, and nothing would happen. And like, well, maybe he didn’t get it. So we’d like email it to him. The next day is Hey, posted today. And then nothing would happen with Dropbox and direct message like everything we tried, we couldn’t actually get him to share this content. And, you know, get on the phone with the guy who said What’s going on? Man, I love it. This is this is super cool. Like, and he’s paying us like he’s paying us for this. And it’s I’m not sharing it, is it but I’m just, you know, I’m going between practice I got, you know, trying to chase maybe a new girlfriend, which became his wife, you know, and it just got a lot of things going on. I wish you could do it for me. But I don’t want you to do it for me. And so that was a challenge because we’re saying men, Prince’s career could be over in a second. Like, I know that all too well. Some guys playing the league for five years, 10 years, some play for five months. In fact, Adi can now my business partner played in the NFL for a year. That’s it, right. And so we know it can be over in a second. But he’s got hundreds of thousands of people that want to hear from him. So we became obsessed with making it easy for Prince to share content on social like that was just it that was like, how are we going to get this guy to actually do this. So he doesn’t miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime.
Jay Clouse 18:45
You mentioned back in 2009 2010 or so and you’re starting to share things, you’re sharing some things that you probably shouldn’t have. At the time. That’s something I told Eric in the intro, I was writing for the student newspaper at Ohio State. And that was happening with Ohio State players too and that would cause a little bit of a ruckus, what was going on with teams as it relates to athletes social media at the time,
Blake Lawrence 19:07
You know, at at that time, the teams were still trying to figure their channels out, right. And we’re still at that point. This is like social media 1.0. It’s #smsports, social media sports is a great resource on Twitter, that industry was is still maturing. And at that time, Ohio State, Nebraska, the giants, the NFL, they were all still trying to figure out how they’re going to use social media. So it still doesn’t like this story advances. You know, today, we’re teams are still trying to figure out, Okay, now we’ve got their bases covered, we should think about what these athletes are saying and doing. Right. And we’ve been on that side for the last six and a half, seven years on trying to help athletes along. So eventually, when those teams look at the athletes, at least there’s somebody out there that’s been looking out for him. And I’ll tell you about how that story’s evolved. But at the time, athletes were running rampant, they could say whatever they want, whenever they want. And that’s why you see a lot of things sneak up. And it’s probably like the pre 2013 era, like this dark space in social media, where all of us really had no idea where this was going. And we would say whatever we want, without regard to what it could do for our future.
Eric Hornung 20:18
Help me understand the difference between you guys posting something for Prince, and you sending him exactly what to say exactly what photo to post, and exactly what time to do it. Where’s the authenticity that’s added by him posting it?
Blake Lawrence 20:35
Yeah, well, there’s always opportunity for them to edit the copy, right, so the athletes can adjust the copy. So it actually sounds like them , but then also its visibility into it. So imagine that we post right after practice some highlight of Prince and at practice that day, he busted up his ankle, right. And so here he is stretched out, everyone’s talking about how he got injured that day. And he’s tweeting about how awesome it is to be a giant like that that is a dangerous world to be in. And so that is part of the balance of authenticity is not just the copy, right? But it’s about the awareness on the other side. And that’s happened. We’ve been in situations, many times we were athletes, with all good intentions, were supposed to post something, but then something happened in their personal life that made them not want to even touch social media. And that’s okay, we want to protect that relationship.
Jay Clouse 21:29
So this is you said about 2011, when you had this aha moment with Prince, you sold Hurrdat in 2014. So what was the evolution of the athlete side of things leading up to focusing on a full time?
Blake Lawrence 21:43
Yeah, so we tried all these different methods from 2011, you know, all the way through. And then late 2012, we said, I think we got something here. And this is when we started opendorse. And we’ve had a software engineer on our team that was working on some things for our social media agency side. And we kind of put his resources into trying to solve this problem for Prince. So we built a tool, that Prince would connect through the Twitter API and Facebook API, his social accounts, then what we would do is load up the photos and videos or whatnot ended the tool and Prince would get a text message anytime that we had content and he clicks a link, and it shows in the photo, the channel, the copy, you can edit it, and there’s a big green button, and a little red button. It’s like Prince, if you want to share the content you like it just hit the green button. And the platform will do the rest. And that was in late 2012. We officially got that in his hands, you know, 2013 started polishing it and put it in the market. But this changed everything for us guys and went from Prince wouldn’t share any content, he shared everything. And he started to build up his presence. And so that was early 2013. And when we officially got the product into the market, and then friends showed it to his agent at CAA, which is a giant sports talent agency. And they added Eric Decker and Golden Tate and Demaryius Thomas, I’m sitting there like this is cool. A month later, we got a call from the NFL players Association. So the union who represents every NFL player, they said, Hey, we we have a problem. Can you come out to DC and let’s talk about it. And I’m like, oh, shoot, like, what did we do? We, are we in trouble, flew to DC sat down with their leadership team. And they said, here’s the problem. And again, I’m like racing, and said, we’ve got 1600 athletes that are all supposed to be fulfilling content, tweeting, posting on Facebook for all of our sponsors, and licensees, and they’re not doing it. So huge problem. And like Oh, so you have the problem, like we don’t have the problem you have. So you know, those are those are key little nuances. And they said, Can you help us we said absolutely. And so we are really a month removed from actually making this thing happen. And we’re in DC talking about a long term partnership with NFLPA and all their players and sponsors licensees and that that was serendipitous mean those things, those moments, I could go back living forever. But from that point forward, it started us on this path of, of being a highly trusted and respected resource in the world of sports marketing and athlete marketing. And, you know, that set us down a path. So the first three years of opendorse, you know, we started to build up these relationships. And really, the tool was being used by sponsors like Courtyard Marriott tied, and they would log into opendorse, and they would select, you know, an athlete, Rob Gronkowski, they want Rob to tweet about a new promotion of how to get a free room during the Superbowl week. And then Rob gets a text, clicks the green button, we publish the content, like everybody’s happy. So that was really the first three years of this of opendorse, we’re working with sponsors and licensees guaranteeing that there’s the fulfillment of these obligations by athletes. There’s a second epiphany in 2016. I’ll share but I’ll pause there.
Jay Clouse 24:53
So at this point, you guys were running the agency, I’m guessing that was kind of just like funding the build out of this thing. You had this meeting with the NFL players Association? When were you like, all right, I guess 2014. But what what was the tipping point to say, let’s just do this full bore.
Blake Lawrence 25:08
There are moments as a founder, where you, you see a path that gets you super excited. And for some founders, that’s the shiny object that appears every week, every month. And even though we were only a couple years into our first company, there’s a lot of shiny objects, and that’s something that it’s hard to ignore, and every founder has to go through that. But when those shiny objects keep popping up, right, and and and then it’s something that you become obsessed with something you think about all day, every day. And it’s also a line of what you care about, right? And remember this helping an athlete share content on social seems like a simple, nuanced niche thing. But for me, it was my life like this is my story was I was an athlete, it ended. And all I had left for these people that followed me that still support me to this day, you know, and I imagined what if we can do this for every athlete on the planet, right? Not just Prince, not just a couple guys, this but like every athlete on the planet. And it just kept us up at night. I mean, Adi was played in the NFL again for a year, right? His career was done. And we’re sitting there saying, like, we when we started, our social media agency, were the first social media agency in Nebraska, right? proud of that Hurrdat is still around today. And we’re the first social media agency in Nebraska. But by the time we sold it that we’re there are one of six in Lincoln, right? But this chance to do this and the to help every athlete solve this problem. Like we’re still today, one of one in the world doing it exactly how we do it. And like, to me, that’s, that’s impactful. But that’s the type of thing I’m doing exactly what I want to do with the people want to do it. So you can’t ignore those things too long.
Jay Clouse 26:45
You mentioned that prince had something like 500 followers that went to like five or 100,000, overnight when he went to New York.
Blake Lawrence 26:52
Jay Clouse 26:52
How does that happen? You know, I look and I see incoming freshmen at major college programs with 10s of thousands of hundreds of thousands of followers. Just how does that happen?
Blake Lawrence 27:03
It’s it’s a natural part of this sports fandom. Right. And Ohio State your your Buckeye, right,
Jay Clouse 27:09
Blake Lawrence 27:10
And they’re one of our partners. So we work closely with them. They have an internal while they’re at Ohio State, they have brand building initiatives for the student athletes on campus. It’s fantastic. That wasn’t there seven years ago. But this relationship between an athlete and their audience is so deeply ingrained in our culture, it’s hard to even take a step back and understand it. But if you combine the passion that we’ve always had for sports as a culture in America and a culture globally, athletes are at the center of everything, Michael Jordan, right. We’re fans of mj not necessarily the bulls, right? We like the bulls because of Jordan. But before social media, all we knew about Jordan was whatever he said behind the podium, which was staged and propped up whatever he said in a magazine, which was obviously cut and clip by everybody in under the sun. So we never quite knew these guys. But this, the growth of social media is given this connection that couldn’t exist before real legs. And it’s starting earlier and earlier, and athletes with the recruiting era, are getting a lot of buzz and hype while they’re still in high school, then they go to college, and they are continually showing the world that they have a direct connection with their audience. And that’s how this has continued to evolve as that people feel connected to people first and foremost on social and our stars in the world of sports are the athletes. So it’s a day in an era of the influencer or the creator on social media. athletes are the OG influencers man, these guys for for centuries have been idolized. But now we have a connection to them that we didn’t have previously. So that’s how those things happen. That’s how people want to know who’s coming to town, whether it’s the new recruit at Ohio State or the first john jerry for the giants. People want to follow and get to know those those people,
Jay Clouse 28:52
These fans what type of I mean, I totally buy into that because I would want to know anybody that you know, I follow their team. I like to know them as people. So if they’re tweeting out stuff for their licensees or their sponsors tied or whatever with crunk, you know, what are fans reactions to that type of content from athletes,
Blake Lawrence 29:11
there’s always a balance athletes have been a natural endorser of local businesses and products like that local car dealership wise as some athlete in the picture, right. And that’s been accepted in the traditional advertising realm athletes and advertisements is accepted. Now athletes advertising through their own channels is still get some mixed reaction. But one of my favorite trends and today in 2019, is that fans are understanding these are people that are securing the bag, right? Like that has become like, you know, get that money, secure the bag, good for you. And they’re finding a new level of respect not not be, I think, because these guys are humanized now, right? They say, Hey, man, I’m good for you. I’m so glad that Campbell’s junk your Pep Pepsi is paying you. Because you’re my guy, I want you to secure the bag. And that’s a shift in culture. But I think it’s coming from the fact that everyone that’s listening has a friend. That’s an influencer, that’s getting paid or getting free product to post on Instagram or Twitter, like everyone knows somebody. And when they post it, all of us are saying good for you, man. Like you did it, somebody’s willing to pay you to share something. Now that’s more relatable. And we don’t look at athletes as like super human being, but like right beside us. And I think that’s been good in terms of the positive reaction to those types of promotions.
Eric Hornung 30:30
How our athletes that aren’t using the opendorse platform, using social media, like is it being managed and then is it different between, like the Odells and Lebrons of the world? Like how do they manage their social media? And how does someone like, I don’t know like Quincy Enunwa or Ameer Abdullah, or backup linebacker for the Cleveland Browns like how do they manage their social media?
Blake Lawrence 30:56
Yeah, so the superstars have a team around them. They’re helping them thing of content, push out content, and they’re paying those individuals to provide support. Most of them do, right? So Odell, Lebron, Juju Smith-Schuster, those types of athletes have a team, right, Steph Curry has a team around him. But that is the top 1% of athletes that even have that. So the other guys are finding ways on their own to do it. The younger athletes are, are natural, when they really the guys that are coming into Ohio State are a lot better at social media, the guys leaving and the guys leaving Ohio state today are elbow out there and the guys that left four years ago, so it’s only getting better people owning that voice. But they’re looking for help. And if you look at the state of athletes on social, the average athlete share six posts a month on social media across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, six posts a month, the average influencer share six posts a day, the average sports team shares 30 posts a day, and the average sports league will be over 50 a day. Right? So you’re talking about an athlete share six posts a month, right? versus 1000 a month for a sports team and several thousand for league and influencers are on the hunt several hundreds. So athletes are still not maximizing the value of this platform. And it’s because the majority of athletes don’t have someone there to help them. Like they can’t afford to pay somebody to create content for them, or they don’t have even an inkling of what that means, like most athletes are not marketers. And that’s the biggest difference between athletes and influencers and athletes and teams and leagues is that these guys have an audience not because they pander not because they know how to create content or engage your audience. They have an audience because they run fast and jump high. And that’s not a knock on, like their ability to understand marketing. It’s just simply true. So that’s why we feel our calling is to be the company that helps every athlete and we’re doing it today and I’ll tell you how we’re doing it but I’m excited because there’s a lot of upside in this market. Pun intended. Let’s roll.
Eric Hornung 33:08
So you’re telling me there is a full team behind Odells like looking eyes emoji tweet.
Blake Lawrence 33:15
Yes, yes, there is the NFL is helping Odell the Browns are helping Odell his agency’s helping Odell his Odell’s mother is involved in his social media presence, like yeah, so Odell has been a long time user of opendorse. And it’s been fun to see him grow. Right? His story is evolved. So I want to say I want to say centered on that, then I’m going to show you this like epiphany. Can I do that?
Jay Clouse 33:39
Yeah, sure about this 2016 epiphany,
Blake Lawrence 33:41
I will, I will. I’ll put Odell right in the center, and have some of these just to visualize the problem that we solve and why this is maybe sounds abstract, but it makes sense now, right? So Odell, as the face of Campbell’s chunky soup is tasked with pushing out this is the 2015 or so pushing out one tweet per week and promotion of his relationship with Campbell’s chunky soup. And it’s in a contract, it’s a large contract. And at the end of the season, he had posted twice, right. And this is to visualize the problem that we solve. And Campbells are saying, Hey, this is the one of the best potential partners ever. And we’re not getting any the value that you know, we were promised. And he talked to Odell and he’s focused on the field, like he just had a breakout season. And his agent doesn’t want to interrupt his flow, his mom doesn’t want to, you know, call him up and say you’re supposed to be posted about chunky soup. And so it just goes to the wayside. And in those moments, you know, Odell even though he’s worked his tail off, and he’s getting lots of money on the field, like he’s dropping the ball. And so that is the problem that we come in and solve. And so you know, Campbell’s and the sports marketing, they work with licenses opened or software and loads up 18 pieces of content for Odell to publish as part of their partnership over the entire season, and Odell gets a text, click that green button, and then it’s every single one that goes out on cue, right? So what we’re doing is we’re helping Odell never dropped the ball, which he rarely does on
Jay Clouse 35:09
auto ponds here.
Blake Lawrence 35:10
There. I’m all I’m all about it man, but also helping Campbell’s you know, realize the the investment they’ve made in sports and be happy about it. And so now Campbell’s is work with Dak Prescott. And so they continue their investment in sports. Because for these brands that want to engage and reach sports fans through athletes, one bad experience with an athlete can turn them off from the entire concept. So one athlete can ruin it for all of them. And so like that was how opendorse being used up until 2016. So we hit this moment, guys, we’re gonna thousand athletes using opendorse for you know, selling to sponsors and licensees, and every athlete, going back to the concept of you know, how these guys can help. Eric is saying, hey, how much of my tweets worth like, you’re 1000 bucks? Well, how do I get 2000? You got to have more followers more engagements? Well, how do I get more followers more engagement? Well, you guys share more content, right? It’s got to be engaging content, because well, where do I get content? Is it Well, you’d have to create it yourself, or pay someone to create it for you. And he said, Well, I’m not going to pay somebody because I’m not just not wanting to do even these guys have money, they don’t want to pay for those sorts of things. And I’m too busy to create content. So we heard that 1000 times guys, like, how do I get more. And so our second epiphany was like, man, we got to find a way to get these guys access to content, like they can help them grow their brand, not get them paid, but just help them engage their audience going back to why Prince called us in 2011. But we sold Hurrdat, we had sold our social media agency, which was a content creation, you know, machine. And so they said, we’re not going to create content, but we’re going to find it for these guys. And so you take Ameer Abdullah at Nebraska as an example. And we said, you know, if we were going to create content for him, we’d want to share content about Nebraska football. And we thought to ourselves, we’re not going to create content, but who in the world is creating content every day to engage Nebraska football fans? And the answer is Nebraska football. Right? So we scheduled a call with the athletic department went over to campus or our offices right on campus, pretty much and sat down and said, Hey, we have this crazy idea. What if What if Ameer Abdullah shared anything you want anytime you want, just with a click of a button about Nebraska football? They said, that sounds great. Like, how much is that going to cost? Right? Like how much we have to pay Ameer? And I said, Well hold on to that. And we go back to Ameer and say Ameer, guess what, man, we got a way for you to get high quality content to engage your fans talk about Nebraska football. And we can get to you any time. And Ameer asked a question. This was like this aha moment. He goes, how much is that going to cost. And then that moment, we saw an opportunity where the content was so valuable to the athletes that they they’re willing to pay for it. And that the distribution is so valuable to the teams that they’re willing to pay for. And when you have those two just cancel each other out. So what we created was our first relationship with Nebraska athletics, where they would log in, and there’s no payment, this would select, you know, Ameer Abdullah, and send them photos and videos, just like we’re doing Prince on 2011. And they started doing it for every alumni, you know, and then Michigan called and Clemson called and TCU and Iowa and Florida and Georgia and Ohio State and, you know, just go through this. And they all started to use the platform that way. And it was like, it transformed our business model into licensing our software to college athletic departments that were sending content to alumni. And then we got into pro sports. And you know, it just started to evolve where this is a behind the scenes, every team and league and athletic department starting to use a platform to increase the distribution of content through the athletes on their roster. And it was a super rewarding because we started to help more and more athletes and it really took off.
Jay Clouse 38:47
So I know who your users are users are teams, athletes, leagues, who sounds like the customer is the the league’s the teams. And the athletes are kind of a user of it that are not actively directly paying.
Blake Lawrence 39:00
That’s right. So opendorse is free for athletes and agents is free to receive content through the platform. Right. So we sell, we’re a SAS company, right? So we sell annual subscriptions to sports organizations and their sponsors. So they pay an annual fee to login and send content to any athlete that’s opted in to be a part of the roster. That’s how the model has progressed. In the early days, it was all transactional. It’s like if Odell shares this post, then there’s a payment. But if he doesn’t, there isn’t. But we’ve since shifted to a subscription model, which has really created this recurring revenue model and business and Predictable Revenue and growth. And it’s been really exciting. So that’s the model.
Jay Clouse 39:40
What’s that annual fee to a organization or sponsor.
Blake Lawrence 39:44
It’s a range depending on the type of sponsor, but it’s a starts at $10,000 a year on the low end and can go up to six figures a year, depending on what bells and whistles you want within the software. But you kind of your average customer is probably going to be below $30,000 a year, you know, and then it goes from there.
Jay Clouse 40:02
Are those customers then the ones that have to chase the athlete down and say, Hey, you got to get on opendorse?
Blake Lawrence 40:07
Yes, they are. They’re inviting athletes to use opendorse. What’s the unique thing about this was when Ohio State started using opendorse, they have relationship with Cardale Jones their relationship with JT Barrett, like they invite Braxton Miller to the platform. So now we’re not in the middle of it. Like we’re just providing a tool and they send invitations out, right. And it’s been really great to see it grow from that, because a year ago, we’re up to 3000 athletes using opendorse a year ago, right? Right now 6600 athletes use opendorse. So we’ve doubled the amount of athletes in just the last 12 months. And what’s happening is that we’re really educated the market, these teams and leagues are signing on, and they’re inviting their entire roster, right. So we work with Ohio State uses our platform with current student athletes, I can’t talk to you about them by name, but it’s transformed the amount of athletes were able to help on a daily basis just by putting the tool in the hands of these teams, and they’re inviting the athletes, they’re sending content out. And we’re impacting the sports conversation on a daily basis on social in a major, major way. You just never know it. You don’t know if it was that? Who helped Braxton Miller share that. Right who helped Cardale Jones say that will help Saquon Barkley say that Rory McIlroy just posted about, you know, his round of golf at the Masters like, how did that get there, right. So those are moments that we are behind that the average sports fan won’t know they’re just seeing more content from their favorite athletes. And that’s how it works.
Eric Hornung 41:34
So there are over 1000 student athletes at Ohio State, we’ve talked mostly about football. I mean, you just mentioned a golfer but how do you decide which student athletes get access to opendorse? Or how does the organization decide?
Blake Lawrence 41:49
We don’t have a part in the decision of who they invite, right? So we provide the platform. And there it’s up to them who they want to invite and send content to and most of them want to get everybody on on campus outfitted with this. Because what we talked about the early days of sports teams on social media, and they’re trying to figure out what they’re doing. Most teams have figured out like that they’re going to pump this amount of content per day and like the channels are getting bloated. And so you go to a, Is there swimming and diving at Ohio State?
Eric Hornung 42:17
Oh, yeah, you know, I think they’ve won like a lot of big 10 titles.
Blake Lawrence 42:20
There you go, we’ll take that. So you go to swimming and diving. And you take 150 photos of, of this women dive meet or even a practice and you might go post one of them on social media. And there are 25 student athletes that just participated in event that they have nothing to share on their social channels. And he’s have a photographer who just took 150 photos and sees one of them posted. So what happens to those other 149 assets, they go and sit on a shelf and do nothing for the university, nothing for the student athlete. And so what what we’re seeing our partners do is take those assets that would be remnant inventory, sitting on a shelf getting dusty, and student athletes who are disengaged with you know, sharing their story, because I have nothing to share. And they’re they’re combining the two right to share more content more often engage fans directly through the athletes that are creating these moments. And so that’s the next level of distribution and sports. And we’re proud to be the engine that actually makes that possible.
Eric Hornung 43:17
What KPIs you guys look at in your business, to see how healthy it is, we talked about pricing. So let’s skip past that. But what else?
Blake Lawrence 43:26
I was a published rate is something we look at, and we’re proud of 80% of the content that is like sent to an athlete, and this is without compensation. So there’s no compensation 80% that sent to an athlete is actually published, right. And we again, go back to why we built this in the first place is we know the feeling of working your tail off to push something to an athlete and not see it shared. And so that is the moment we want. Every one of our customers to have is this feeling of magic that when I send something to an athlete, it is shared. So having an 80% publish rate where there are some other tools in a market that will sit around 10% 20%. And it’s we’re just proud that we’re started by helping athletes. And they know that when they get a piece of content from opendorse, it’s going to help them and so we look at publish rate, we also look at the audience size just as an overall metric. So right now, there are 6600 athletes that use opendorse, if you add up all their social followers, it’s about 1.36 billion. If you add up the social media following of every sports team in league in the US and every sports published in the US, it’s about 860 million. So on the other side of openers are athletes that collectively influence more sports fans than every League, team, and publisher in the US combined. Like that’s a metric we track. And in terms of our impact on sports,
Eric Hornung 44:50
I want to talk a little bit about kind of the evolution of social media, we see that a lot of things are becoming more authentic and less published. Blogging is going away. podcasting is coming in Instagram posts are going away stories are coming in Facebook is just lame, I’m sure for most of the freshmen athletes that come on to your platform. And some of them like my youngest brother doesn’t even have a Facebook account. And then you have this whole rise of Tik Tok so what does that mean for your business? In that things are becoming less scriptable?
Blake Lawrence 45:26
It becomes an education opportunity for athletes on how they can supplement their personality with a highlight of them at practice during a game, or a throwback to their moments in high school or photos of them walking into an arena like all those moments matter to sports fans, but when they turn the camera around. And you know, last week at the Masters, Phil Mickelson just talking on his drive into the Masters about what he’s going to do that day like that is what sports needs. And that’s what athletes need. We need to start younger, on educating them on how to do that. And then it’s if you watch sports center, it’s not just all highlights, right? You have the talking heads, you have the interviews, you’ve got these feel good stories, like when you look at the future of athletes on social media, it will look and feel and live like a media channel, right where they have the highlights of the game they display, they’ve got to feel good story about their, you know, local community effort. They’re promoting something like an advertisement. They’re humanizing themselves, to relate to their audience, but also, you know, looking and feeling just like today’s media channels, but bringing it all the way down to recreating that experience for every athletes channel. Like that’s what we envisioned and that we’re empowering, and but we have to start educating them earlier. So we just signed our first high school partner, which is they’re out of philosophy High School in Wisconsin. And man, that gets me hyped, right, because I think about the same resources that are being provided to the best golfers on the planet, we just partner with the MLBPA, we’re partners with the IndyCar, I mean, the biggest athletes on the planet, is now being passed down to high schoolers in Wisconsin, right? So maybe if one of them makes it to the next level, and they make it to the next level that since day one that cradle to the grave like there’s been a tool helping them understand the value of their audience, and how to maximize
Jay Clouse 47:19
what types of channels are available through opendorse like Twitter is an obvious one. But what are the social channels that athletes can use on opendorse?
Blake Lawrence 47:28
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the three, those are the three platforms that we publish to help athletes publish to. And as more channels emerged, it’s just we’re observing the usage and habits of how athletes use them. And Instagram is a tremendous tool for athletes right now. I mean, the engagement rate is 10 to 20 times higher on Instagram, that it is Twitter, and athletes, that is such a natural thing for them. They don’t, they feel a lot of times handcuffed by need to write something, right. But visually, these guys can just get it done. So those platforms are where he focuses where their audiences most engaged. Facebook is a challenge. But internationally, Facebook is huge. So just depends on the athlete in the market.
Jay Clouse 48:11
Snapchat is kind of a big thing for athletes now, too, right? How does how does that work for athletes who want to use opendorse, but also want to be on Snapchat.
Blake Lawrence 48:19
So remember that Snapchat is a great platform athletes do enjoy it. opendorse provides pre produced content for athletes to publish on social and Snapchat is built around in the moment content and private messaging to a small group. And so we have not been in a position where we feel our core value proposition lives well within Snapchat. And for that reason, we’ve stayed out of it in terms of an integration. But if there’s more and more demand, and if an athlete’s asked for something, we do it right, we just have not heard that asked enough.
Jay Clouse 48:54
I’m friends with Braxton our connections with Braxton on LinkedIn. And I see you guys posting stuff to LinkedIn now, which makes a lot of sense to me, as athletes prepare for like a future after athletics. What are your thoughts on LinkedIn?
Blake Lawrence 49:07
Well, I think there’s value there in terms of an integration for us. And that’s something that we’re seeing opendorse again, evolve and how people are using it, a College Athletic Department is now adding their athletic director, their coaches, their staff members, their student athletes, their alumni, their mascot, right? It’s like, so really, if you strip away this whole, we’re we love athletes, we built this in to help one athlete now we’re helping thousands the core technology is is content distribution tech, right. And as our customers are using it in ways that we didn’t foresee, which is pushing content to athletic directors, what that AD says on LinkedIn might drive conversation. So we’re looking at that as a way that we can help bolster that there’s corporations that are using it, not only from there, to get their athletes to fulfill sponsored messages, but to get their executive staff to push out internal messaging. So that’s been a cool evolution is that a lot of people even, you know, you guys trust each other, you’re both have to tweet out and post about this show. But you might fall through the cracks like downloading and uploading a 200 megabyte video is not fun for anybody. And so we just make it incredibly simple. So there’s been an evolution. And I say that in a way where LinkedIn becomes part of that for some of our partners. And if it becomes part of it for athletes, then that’s fantastic too.
Eric Hornung 50:26
Jay, you trust me?
Jay Clouse 50:27
I trust you on Twitter.
Eric Hornung 50:31
very narrow scope of trust,
Jay Clouse 50:33
you know, like, how big is your team with opendorse?
Blake Lawrence 50:37
So we are a team of 33 at Opendoors.
Jay Clouse 50:40
Blake Lawrence 50:41
Yeah, we have 25 full time and eight part time. So we are one block from Nebraska’s campus. So we got a lot of student interns that come in and hustle and work their tails off for us. But yeah, 25. And I spent half my time in New York and half in Lincoln, Nebraska, where we just built a new headquarters. And you know, from the ground up, it just feels great to look back and know the impact that we’ve had on that market and that markets had on us. So Nebraska is home for opendorse, but we’re wherever we’re at now.
Eric Hornung 51:12
Why are you in New York?
Blake Lawrence 51:14
I am in New York, because in the world of sports media, this is the center, right? So we will soon announce a major partnership with a league and every single one of its teams. And that league is five blocks that way. And when I was in Lincoln, Nebraska, it was like, you know, five days, that way I could never get there soon enough for fast enough. And so for us to be right down the street from the biggest decision makers in the world of sports, that’s a value. That doesn’t mean we all need to be here, right? There are there are so many things that are good about building a company in the Midwest, that we can imagine ever moving from the Midwest, but having a presence on the coast is something that we are keen on. And it’s important for us as we grow.
Jay Clouse 52:00
What are some of those things about Lincoln that had been beneficial for opendorse?
Blake Lawrence 52:05
The people, Midwest values, people work their tails off, they want to be a part of something bigger than they are they impressed me every day with their level of commitment to this because as as a founder and building two companies like it’s all about people, man, this is all it is, we got to find good people that care that have a purpose, they’re driven. And Nebraska gives you that by default. You don’t have to coach it, you don’t have to teach it, it’s just ingrained in them. So that matters. Cost of living is important too like, if you’re going to build a technology startup, and you want to start it right here in Manhattan, that’s going to be a challenge for you cost wise, I mean, it is literally 120% cost of living adjustment from Lincoln, Nebraska to New York City. And so the same engineer, you’d have to pay them double and more, right if you want to employ that same person in New York. So building our team in Nebraska has allowed us to help more athletes with less resources, and have a customer experience that I think is second to none people that will work their tails off to actually make this happen for our partners.
Eric Hornung 53:10
How come you guys fundraised? And will you continue to fundraise? It seems like you guys have a lot of traction and a high lifetime value of a customer.
Blake Lawrence 53:19
Yes, we have raised nine and a half million dollars to date we just closed like around this week, like fully subscribed our most recent round. So it’s actually oversubscribed. Now it’s the $3 million round. And all of the fundraising process has been about setting out key milestones and hitting them, right. This is like going back to the athletes and us. Right where we know that if we get in the gym, and workout, and two months, I can gain 20 pounds, hey, I need access to the gym. Right? I just can’t brute force it. I got to find a way to get in. And that’s been our approach every time is that we set a milestone, don’t we say? How long will it take us to get there, if we have to construct the gym, if we have to go find the weights? Are we going to lift trees logs, whatever, like we’ll find a way to get there. But raising capital is like finding a fast route to that milestone, like finding a way to hit your your weight gain goal, right. And I know that’s that analogy. I’ll stop it right there. But we take that approach to opendorse. So you know this last $3 million round, we’ve got a milestone, we understand how to acquire customers, right? So our customer acquisition costs around $5,000. Right now, we have a high lifetime value and annual contract value. And you know of the 3 million we put a million into software development to get our product up. So we can increase our average contract value with new features and product development. And then we put the other 2 million towards customer acquisition at the next 400 customers in the door at the 10 million annual recurring revenue mark, which puts us on a path to be in complete control of our future. So those are things that really are tied into the why of this round. The why along the old time is, again, changes with each round in terms of what milestone you’re looking to hit. But overall, we can’t help every athlete if we’re not around, right. So we got to find a way to continue to progress and grow. And but this most recent round is like we’ve got product market fit. We’ve got key objectives. And getting close and now focusing on putting it to work is something I’m proud of.
Eric Hornung 55:26
Is this a billion dollar company in the future?
Blake Lawrence 55:29
That brings me to a epiphany number three, can I do that? My answer that is yes. This is the makings of the backbone of the future of athlete driven media. In 2017 Jordan Spieth, the travelers championship. He’s in the bunker, if he makes the chip, he wins. He chips it rolls on goes right in the cup. Jordan Spieth one the travelers. By the time he gets back to his bag, he has a video of that moment to push out on Facebook to his millions of followers. And when that happened, and we saw you know, opendorse was a part of that process. So this is the future. This is the future of this industry. And when you think about athletes being their, their own distributor of their own highlights their own media, and every athlete on the planet, having that ability and being the backbone for that that’s a billion dollar company. And it’s becoming more and more true. When Rory McIlroy won the Players Championship two weeks ago, same thing he gets back to his locker and he has the highlights of that day waiting for him. And so what we envision as a company where every athlete every level of sport, from philosophy high school to the PGA Tour, the moment they get back to the locker, they have a moment they have a piece of content from that game they displayed to share. And being that type of company like there’s hard fought for you to tell me that doesn’t create tremendous amount of value for this market. And that’s the path rob.
Jay Clouse 56:56
Fantastic. Blake, thanks so much for taking the time. If people want to learn more about you or opendorse after the show, where should they go?
Blake Lawrence 57:04
twitter.com/Blake_Lawrence I tried my best to be a great follow. I will encourage you and also engage you with all the behind the scenes of athlete marketing. So Blake_Lawrence on Twitter find me there.
Jay Clouse 57:16
All right, Eric. We just spoke with Blake Lawrence of opendorse. Before we get into the deal memo here. I threw a bit of a hail mary and got a professional athlete to join us and give a little bit of context into that world.
Eric Hornung 57:29
Is it Odell Beckham Did you get Odell Beckham on the podcast?
Jay Clouse 57:33
That would have been awesome. I should have tried actually, if I would have tried it probably would have worked, but it didn’t try. I got a hold of instead Braxton Miller wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles and former Ohio State University quarterback when we were in school.
Eric Hornung 57:47
He was legendary. Hit that spin move. He men Braxton Miller was a fan favorite for five years.
Jay Clouse 57:54
And actually, at my time at Ohio State when I was covering the football team as a freshman I got to cover actually might have been my sophomore year but I got to cover Braxton’s freshman year as a incoming quarterback with Luke Fickell’s first year leading the Buckeyes only year leading the Buckeyes.
Eric Hornung 58:08
Look at it as being such Buckeye fans
Jay Clouse 58:11
go bucks didn’t have a whole lot of time here Braxton is in OTA’s with the Eagles, so I really wanted to spend this limited amount of time understanding his schedule and how he manages it. So please enjoy the short interview with Braxton Miller. Braxton, welcome to the show,
Braxton Miller 58:26
Man. Thanks for having me, man, for sure.
Jay Clouse 58:29
Can you walk me through a day in the life of Braxton Miller.
Braxton Miller 58:34
So I say, for a day for me, my day started like seven o’clock in the morning. First thing I do, I pray to God, thank you for allowing me to get up this morning to be who I am, today get my mind right, Go ahead and brush my teeth and stuff. And then you wait for my son to get up at eight. And, you know, I had it to the facility, and you know, get some good breakfast and I’ll go there, you know, get some coffee, hang out for a little bit and go watch some films, a couple guys. And oh, plays get ready for our freshmen at 9:30. You know, for their own, we start from 9:30 to 1:30. In between those hours 9:30 to like 9:50 we have like a meeting with special teams. And after that we’re going to transition for like two hours, you know, we get like a little 15 minute break. And we go into all kinds of meetings for like an hour and a half. And you know, once we’re done with that, there’s going to be 1:30. And I say for the rest of the day, you know the hot tub and cold tub and get my body right. So I’m gonna write proper steps to you know, stay healthy, and get a good meal in is a by the time I’m done with that, I’ll be ready to go back to the crib. Take a nap, wait for my son to get out of preschool were gonna facetime me, and you know, relaxing for the rest of the night studying plays and just chill out throughout the week.
Jay Clouse 59:46
So sounds like most of your day is pretty scheduled and you have kind of a task at hand and to be completely focused on.
Braxton Miller 59:53
Oh, yeah, definitely focus. Definitely focus one thing at a time, for sure.
Jay Clouse 59:58
So how do you manage the huge social media presence that you have? Or the huge following that you have? How do you even allocate time to deal with that?
Braxton Miller 1:00:08
So for me, I have a good team behind me, as my brand and my myself sort of thing is that I need the right on hand, you know, 24/7 I got a great team. And that’s how many things that I’ve got going on outside of football, social media wise, business wise too as well. And so, you know, depending on them, you know, to get things done what I can’t do it because I got I gotta focus on one thing at a time. You know, that’s why you got a good team around you to see, you know, go for.
Jay Clouse 1:00:35
How do you think about like the fans of you, of the team, what a fans mean to you, as a professional athlete,
Braxton Miller 1:00:43
Man, keeps me who probably came, you know, without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. So I appreciate all my fans, all the people that followed me since I was young. And start with me through the ups and downs and know that what drives me each and every day, because, you know, for me, you know as motivation, some of the people that you know, look up to me, and they reach out to me to this platforms that I have not understand I wasn’t coming from. So that’s a big thing for me, you know, just getting back to my fans and be able to interact with them and be a big, you know, a lot of tool. And that’s that’s what things that’s how things go with me. Sure.
Jay Clouse 1:01:18
With all the scheduled time during your day where you’re in a hot tub or the cold tub or studying plays or like on the field literally practicing. How do you think about allocating time to interact with those fans? Or like, if you were to pick one activity to communicate with those fans, what is that?
Braxton Miller 1:01:35
I say? Well, now you know, I’m part of the moti app. So you know, that should be a good thing for us to talk face to face. They want to see my face and get advice and just talk to me they can reach out to me through the moti app. If not, you know, they reach out to me like through Instagram, LinkedIn or you know, Twitter, things like that. Comment international things, you know, how you gonna hold on to what you really want to talk to?
Jay Clouse 1:02:01
All right, Eric, we are really leaving it all out on the field. today. We just spoke with Blake and Braxton about opendorse. Where do you want to start? You want to talk about Blake the founder you want to talk about Odell Beckham some more you want to talk about the opportunity here?
Eric Hornung 1:02:16
Let’s talk a little bit about Braxton’s feedback and thoughts. Man, he is a busy human being.
Jay Clouse 1:02:23
Yeah, I can’t even imagine you and I have talked about well, we saw a screenshot on twitter at one point of lady on bell sharing a conversation with one of his former teammates. And he was trying to showcase the kindness of his teammate. But what we saw was like 10s of thousands of unread text messages. I can’t imagine the level of digital inbound communication to manage when you have an audience this size, or how you do it. I’m really, I’m really starting to empathize with that because even in small ways, you and I are dealing with more inbound than we ever have before. And it’s a real shake to the system. And on a level of scale. That’s 100 x what we’re doing, I can’t imagine,
Eric Hornung 1:03:06
Yeah, and we’ve built processes to like handle inbound and to track things. And imagine just going from nothing to being drafted and having 1000 text messages, like how do you handle 1000 text messages? I can barely handle six?
Jay Clouse 1:03:20
Yeah, after talking with Braxton, he got back to me with some texts and screenshots of communication with his team, talking about using opendorse and using it with a a sponsorship. So it’s clear that you know, as busy as these athletes are with their day to day training, and everything, this stuff just isn’t top of mind for them all the time. It can’t be for them to really, you know, do their true jobs. And that was a really good telling of the value of opendorse is platform.
Eric Hornung 1:03:53
Yeah, I would agree with that. So let’s pivot real quick into what that value could be. I mean, this is there are a lot of athletes in the world, Jay. And not all of them get sponsorships get that. But I really like that there’s multiple use cases for this technology. And this app.
Jay Clouse 1:04:11
Well, if you want to really jump straight into some of my deeper thoughts here. Something Blake shared at the end of the interview was his third epiphany is what he put it of the world moving towards athlete driven media. And in that world, there are tons of athletes, I feel like historically, people thought about the world of professional athletes is actually a pretty small group of people, if you look at professional athletes, but you add in college athletes, and now, Blake’s even going downstream to high school athletes, you’re talking about a lot of individuals. And right now, with 6600 athletes on the platform, they are already followed by an aggregate of 1.36 billion followers, I’m sure there’s probably a lot of overlap there. So how many actual unique are there? I don’t know if that’s a unique number or not. But that’s a huge list level of influence that can be shared through these athletes. And if they are running their own media companies that have opendorse is the backbone to help them do that. That does seem like a larger opportunity than just what it is today.
Eric Hornung 1:05:11
Yeah, I would agree with that. I think that the college and high school routes are going to be extremely interesting, because it’s essentially the school that’s paying for it. You don’t have to get all it’s it’s it’s a different type of account structure. Whereas if you go to a professional athlete, you sell to them, it’s one to one, you’re getting them on board, like opendorse, just went to the NFL rookie combine or rookie signing, or whatever it was where you go and talk to all the rookie class. And that’s a one to one, hey, do you care about media? Do you want to do this? Yes or no. But if you go to a school, we’ve been talking about the Buckeyes. So let’s let’s go up north, you go to a school like University of Michigan, and you sign up their entire athletics department, which is all D1 athletes. I mean, that could be a couple thousand kids for one account, a couple thousand users for one account. It’s it’s a flip of business model, but it’s it’s much more scalable.
Jay Clouse 1:06:06
I love this moment that Blake shared, I think his first epiphany or maybe second epiphany, there are a lot of epiphany, more epiphanies. And I’ve probably had in my life.
Eric Hornung 1:06:12
I’ve never had an epiphany.
Jay Clouse 1:06:13
Never had an epiphany? I can I can vouch for that doesn’t seem like you have. The Epiphany where he mentioned, he went to the college organization, the University of Nebraska, and said, Hey, I can help you use this distribution engine, essentially, these these athletes, I can help you distribute your content through these athletes. And they said, that’s great, how much will that cost? And then he went to the athletes and said, I have a ton of free content, that’s high quality that I can get to you. An athlete said, that’s great. How much does that cost? What a beautiful, synergistic moment to experience that and say, okay, there is something here like you are taking an inefficient market and making it efficient right then and there, which I love is a value proposition to both those stakeholders that allows the platform to be free to athletes to use, and charging a SAS fee to the organizations and their sponsors. I think there’s a real model here, there’s clearly product market fit. They’ve grown 100%, in terms of athletes on the platform in the last year. The question is, in my mind, is athlete driven media the future? How big is that opportunity? And do you believe that this team can do it this team from Lincoln, Nebraska?
Eric Hornung 1:07:22
Do you think that this expands beyond athletes?
Jay Clouse 1:07:27
I like this is a thought exercise? Let’s think about this? My initial thought is, there’s probably something there. So let’s think do you have a market in mind that is similar to this, like entertainers maybe?
Eric Hornung 1:07:38
See, I think corporations and I know that that is wild, but every corporation has employees. And if you think about the larger corporations, so I work for a company that has 4000 people, and we get a social media blast of what to post How to post it every single week on Monday. And I just have to imagine that the conversion rates on those are like zero, I also think that it would benefit the organization to be able to utilize social media and utilize all of the different all the 4000 different accounts that they have sitting underneath them to push their message that that they want to push, kind of like a sponsor, I see a lot of the similar dynamics there. And there’s also this whole fear, especially in kind of older companies about social media still, because people can put whatever they want out there, that might harm the company. But in this case, you can kind of control the message. And people know what’s approved and what’s not approved and don’t have to like search through an email and copy all this over and paste it in. So I think it solves a lot of the same problems with pretty much the same technology. And that’s something I can’t stop thinking about. Because think about like Amazon, they have 40,000 400,000 employees or whatever, that’s just an echo chamber that they could create.
Jay Clouse 1:08:49
That’s interesting. And at a lower level known user behavior that we’ve seen the thunderclap campaigns where somebody centrally says, Hey, sign up for this, let me authorize your account to send out the message at this time. We see click to tweet, we use click to tweet when we send something to supporters. So yeah, it seems like if it goes outside of that, is that you know where opendorse wants to go? Or to say, but I definitely do see the argument there.
Eric Hornung 1:09:15
I mean, if they don’t want to go there still can license the technology.
Jay Clouse 1:09:18
Maybe we should do it.
Eric Hornung 1:09:19
Guys, we are closing the upside podcast.We’re gonna launch company, it could be called Open corpse. We’re just gonna sell opendorse technology to corporations.
Jay Clouse 1:09:28
Oh, you said open corpse. And I was like, Oh, no, it’s not a cadaver inspection company. What’s an autopsy? Oh, man, it’s got weird. So Eric, let’s turn our attention. Well, let’s pause before we go there. Do you think in athletics alone, or as an investor not knowing whether they’re going to take the chance and go into other verticals? Do you see this as a compelling opportunity?
Eric Hornung 1:09:52
I think it depends on what kind of investor I am. If I’m someone who’s consumer focused, like Ezra, or first round, or anybody who has this kind of consumer focused orientation. Yeah, this fits my thesis I’m in I’m on board the numbers, I think all makes sense, making it big enough. And one thing I don’t think we really talked about much is like the platform role, it can be synergistic with other things. So by investing in opendorse, you are now a secondary degree connection to 6600 athletes that, hey, maybe your other companies want to sponsor. So that’s kind of a second tier benefit to bring this into a venture portfolio.
Jay Clouse 1:10:33
It’s weird, we’re actually on the same exact page there at real . Think that the same lines I was thinking, you know, I do think that there’s an argument to be made that this is a billion dollar opportunity. But also, there’s a lot of power and influence. And this is powering influence. So a good group to align yourself with I think, so let’s transition. Let’s talk about Blake as a founder. We’ve talked a few former athletes on the pod here thus far, Eric, and I’m just gonna go out and say it. I like talking to former athletes as founders.
Eric Hornung 1:11:07
Is it because you’re jealous? You wanted to be a former athlete?
Jay Clouse 1:11:10
No, actually, I don’t think I don’t even think that I ever really wanted that.
Eric Hornung 1:11:15
That seems like justification.
Jay Clouse 1:11:17
Probably also have three student athlete interns this summer. I’m really having a great experience, you know, managing. So there’s just something about athletes in the hustle. They’re like, you know, if I’m, if I’m investing in an athlete like Blake, I just feel the determination to get through the hard times, which you know, in athletics world, you’re literally doing. While talking to our intern Kyle, they’ve been doing conditioning and he’s like, every Wednesday for the past several months. I have puke during this workout. the mindset that you build in doing something like that has to be so valuable in the world of building a company.
Eric Hornung 1:11:55
Yeah, I would agree with that. And shout out to Kyle, shout out to Izzy and shout out to Sammy are three interns this summer? I think that aside from the general student athlete vibe, Blake is incredibly genuine. Funny enough. Our sound engineer Nathan knew Blake from Nebraska and said he was a great guy, which was a resounding endorsement because Nathan doesn’t think either of us are great guys.
Jay Clouse 1:12:24
We just we just yearn for Nathan’s approval at the speed at which after the interview, when we shared the clip of Blake talking to Nathan, like we, at the end of the interview, we continue recording Blake and said, Hey, anything you want to say to Nathan, within actual minutes, Nathan had found the clip that was at the beginning of this episode, and stitch together that intro, which is just wild.
Eric Hornung 1:12:47
Yeah, Nathan’s amazing. Blake’s great. One thing that I don’t think came through on this interview with Blake is that we’ve had the benefit of time afterwards. And Blake added us to his investor update every month. So we get to see and kind of keep up with what’s going on with opendorse. But he’s also incredibly good at responding to updates that we send out and giving us some feedback and thoughts. So I think that that’s something that’s not going to come through an interview, that kind of consistency, that kind of response time, that kind of openness. And I just wanted to mention it here in the deal memo.
Jay Clouse 1:13:22
Yeah, just to kind of round this out on Blake, the founder. I like that he’s thinking big, it really does feel like he’s thinking at a high level and thinking nationally, and you know, vertically going down to the high school level. I just got a big vision, big swing feel from this interview from Blake the founder. And that’s someone that I find myself well aligned with.
Eric Hornung 1:13:45
So we’ve been very positive thus far. Are there any shadows that stick out to you, Jay?
Jay Clouse 1:13:51
I don’t know what the future of social media looks like. This is you know, right now they’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and likely will add more platforms, LinkedIn, etc. I don’t know what the future of social media looks like, and how opendorse may or may not need to involve evolve as a platform to facilitate these things. You know, will athletes continue to have huge followings on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram? Will there’ll be some new platform that pops up, will we as a culture, stop being on social media? And if the way that I mean, we’re thinking bigger to athletes being athlete driven media, how could that media evolve? And will the needs change? And could opendorse continue to facilitate whatever that form of media has to look like? Is it no longer as simple as pulling together content from a team around you and pushing send? Is it production? I don’t know that’s my shadow is if there’s a change that is external, in terms of just how we use social media, can opendorse adapt?
Eric Hornung 1:14:58
And I think for me, my biggest shadow, which is going to be very counter to the show, is is Lincoln, Nebraska, the right place for opendorse? It feels like Blake’s already spending some of his time in New York, because that’s where all the media companies are. That’s where all the sponsors are. That’s where all the professional leagues are. Does it make sense to be in Lincoln? I don’t know. I don’t know that you couldn’t build a billion dollar company in Lincoln. But it just feels like everything in the media. And then entertainment sports world pulls everyone to New York City.
Jay Clouse 1:15:34
And when we talked to Blake, he was in New York. So at least he’s open to traveling and doing these little deployments to where he needs to be from a relationship standpoint. Of course, you’re limited if you are physically in Lincoln one day, and someone at a league headquarters says, Hey, can you come down the street and meet me for lunch? You can’t do that when you’re based in Nebraska. But he’s near a very large customer, who I think would be continued be relevant and indicative of the College Athletic market. But I hear you’re saying and I definitely think that is a challenge that at least we’re seeing an effort to bridge, as opposed to, you know, completely work around.
Eric Hornung 1:16:15
It seems like an amazing business model to be completely distributed as a team.
Jay Clouse 1:16:20
So the next six to 18 months, Eric, opendorse just closed a $3 million round of financing. What are you looking for from them the next 6 to 18 months?
Eric Hornung 1:16:30
this is kind of a weird one, for me. But I think team size is what I want to see. I see this as being a opportunity that requires a lot of feet on the ground, a lot of talking to athletes, a lot of selling to schools, a lot of selling to organizations, a lot of talking to sponsors, and just a lot of communications. So I want to see how the team grows over the next six to 18 months and what the focus has been put on, is it on sales? Is it on tech is where’s it going,
Jay Clouse 1:16:58
I’m looking at continued growth, a number of athletes on the platform. And I’m doing that because I think this becomes something that can be fairly monopolistic without any real spread of regulation against them. I think they’re well on their way. And if they can continue to build that headway and build that moat, they just become the de facto if you’re an athlete, you install this. And the coaches tell you that your teams tell you that your organization’s tell you that. And from there, I want to look and see what is the rate of content creation that is increasing from these athletes at opendorse is powering and is that leading to more sponsorships generally. And I mean, this is probably not a sixth to 18 months thing, longer term. Do those sponsorships proved to be fruitful, that they want to continue those relationships in our followers of these athletes enjoying the experience more? You know, is this helping grow the athletes and brand by using opendorse? Or do these followers see things that don’t feel like they’re true from the athlete and stop following? We’re gonna see that trend.
Eric Hornung 1:18:01
Wow. So you want to see a lot here? You want to see penetration rates conversion rates, you want to see it really sounds like you just want a lot of percentages?
Jay Clouse 1:18:08
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, I want to see things continuing to go well, but I mean, I think they’ve found product market fit. And once you’re at product market fit, it’s kind of it’s about market penetration and and growth. So, you know, those are the measures that I’m looking for with growth, I’m probably looking a little bit further than 6 to 18 months, six to 18 months realistically, I’m looking at athlete growth, how that is happening. You know, he mentioned a customer acquisition cost at $5,000. Right now, is that going down? And what does that mean for you know, continued projections of team growth and revenue growth?
Eric Hornung 1:18:41
I like Jays new segment, what are you looking for the next 6 to 60 months?
Jay Clouse 1:18:46
Eric Hornung 1:18:48
Awesome. Well, if you guys liked this episode, or want to interact with this episode, you can find us on Twitter @upsideFM, or you can send us an email if you got something a little longer at Hello@upside.FM. We’ll talk to you next week.
Insight begins: 58:13
Debrief begins: 1:01:59
Blake Lawrence is the founder and CEO of opendorse.
opendorse is the athlete-marketing platform that helps the biggest brands in sports share content on social. Founded by two former major college athletes, opendorse was built seeking to make it easy for athletes and their partners to work together to engage their fans. Today, more than 7,000 athletes use opendorse to share content with their 1.4b social media followers.
Top sports properties including the PGA TOUR, LPGA, NFLPA, WTA, and New Jersey Devils, and college properties including Michigan, Clemson, and Nebraska Athletics partner with opendorse to send content to athletes to share through their social media channels. More than 1,500 brands also use opendorse to engage professional athletes and their audience.
- Ad: What are the most important terms for an entrepreneur to be aware of when raising capital? (7:56)
- Blake’s turning point on being in the social media business (11:26)
- A throwback: running a social media agency way back 2010 (14:50)
- How does opendorse maintain the authenticity of the content being shared? (20:35)
- Blake Lawrence advocacy in running opendorse full time (25:08)
- How opendorse helps in advertising (29:11)
- opendorse saves the athletes maintain a balance in the busy schedules (30:56)
- What happens to Opendorse years from now? (55:29)
- Day in the life of Braxton Miller (58:33)
opendorse was founded in 2012 and based in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This episode is sponsored by Taft, Stettinius & Hollister, a full-service law firm known for assisting entrepreneurs across the Heartland.