Hurrdat secures investment, spins out endorsement platform opendorse

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Posted: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 12:00 am

Blake Lawrence (left), Timothy Braun and Adi Kunalic (not pictured) co-founded opendorse.

Hurrdat is headed in a new direction.

The nearly three-year-old social media agency founded by former Nebraska football players is splitting in two. Co-founder Adi Kunalic is sticking with the agency—now a team of 10 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 recently told Silicon Prairie News.

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 did reveal that nearly all are in the Midwest and the group includes software and sports vets. The funds are being used to support the team's growth, which already is at eight members.

The path to the launch of opendorse this past April, Lawrence said, is a result of helping athletes use social media to brand themselves. That work exposed he 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. And, as he sees it, this is opendorse's opportunity: "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 it takes a percentage of the transaction. So far, around 150 athletes and 100 brands are signed up, finalizing more than 400 endorsements through the platform, Lawrence said.

Want Husker alum and current Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara to tweet out your product? It'll cost you $630 (right) 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.

Sound expensive? Well, there's a market for it, and opendorse isn't the first to tap into it. Thanks to the proliferation of endorsement platforms, such as AdlySponsored Tweets and MyLikes, the media and FCC are now watching celebrities to make sure regulations 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 the athletes. Today, opendorse is all digital, but it has plans to offer offline 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.

Behind the launch of opendorse also is co-founder Timothy Braun, the lead developer of the platform. Lawrence gives credit to his time in the Pipeline entrepreneur program, saying it helped his team "understand the opportunity." Fellow Pipeline alum Davyeon Ross is one of the company's three advisors.


Credits: Blake Lawrence and Timothy Braun photo courtesy opendorse. Prince Amukamara screenshot from opendorse.

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