Ex-Huskers split growing social media agency Hurrdat in two

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Posted: Saturday, July 27, 2013 12:00 am

Hurrdat, the nearly 3-year-old social media agency founded by former Nebraska football players, is splitting in two.

Co-founder Adi Kunalic is sticking with the Lincoln agency — now a team of 10 people supporting around 50 brands — and co-founder Blake Lawrence is stepping out to spearhead opendorse, a product born at Hurrdat.

“We got to a point where the opportunity had become so clear that we decided to ramp it up and remove the athlete engagement platform, put it into opendorse as a completely different entity and raise capital,” Lawrence said.

So the company did just that.

Opendorse in June closed a $300,000 financing round from friends and family, a list Lawrence declined to divulge but said nearly all the backers are in the Midwest and the group includes software and sports veterans. The funds are being used to support the growth of the opendorse team, which already has eight members.

The idea for opendorse, Lawrence said, came from helping athletes use social media to brand themselves. That work exposed Lawrence and Kunalic to “a whole other world,” the one of athlete endorsements.

“Just on Twitter alone, there’s 7,400 athletes who impact 623 million consumers, (so) they create about 623 million marketing impressions every day through Twitter,” Lawrence said. Opendorse will let them “provide brands a simple platform to tap into the marketing potential of professional athletes.”

It’s free for a brand to sign up. Same goes for athletes and agents. The company’s revenue comes when an endorsement deal is made, at which point Opendorse takes a percentage of the transaction. So far, around 150 athletes and 100 brands are signed up, finalizing more than 400 endorsements, Lawrence said.

Want Husker alum and current New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara to tweet out your product? It’ll cost you $630. How about a tweet from Falcons wide receiver Roddy White? That’ll be $1,400.

On a budget? Try Lawrence. A tweet from him costs $35.

Opendorse isn’t the first to tap into the market. Thanks to the proliferation of endorsement platforms, such as Adly, Sponsored Tweets and MyLikes, the news media and Federal Communications Commission are watching celebrities to make sure rules are followed. To comply, opendorse uses a custom short URL that contains “SPON,” short for sponsored.

When it comes to setting itself apart from those other options, Lawrence points to his startup’s unique focus on athletes. Today, opendorse is all digital, but it has plans to offer off-line engagement, too, such as the hiring of athletes for speaking or live appearances. That addition would pit them against companies like Thuzio.

Another leg up on the competition: Kunalic, a former pro football player, and Lawrence have connections.

“Being former athletes and playing the six degrees of, I guess, Blake Lawrence and Adi Kunalic, it allows us to find athletes in a very quick manner and add them into our platform pretty rapidly,” Lawrence said.

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