Blake Lawrence is no stranger to sports or business. As a former University of Nebraska football player, he knows what the life of an athlete is like. As the founder of Hurrdat Social Media, he knows how social media is shaping business. Like any good athlete, Lawrence saw an opportunity to change the game, and he took it by launching Opendorse.
Opendorse is the sister company to Hurrdat Social Media, which was started in 2010. At that time, Lawrence was a recent alumnus of the University of Nebraska, having played football for the Cornhuskers for three years. His experience with a company specializing in document management led him to look for solutions to the growing issue of social media management for companies that weren’t big enough to need in-house staff. Realizing that these companies would increasingly need specialized plans for using social media led Lawrence to open Hurrdat while still pursuing his MBA.
For Lawrence, success is all about outworking opponents. He said that when he and Adi Kunalic, COO of Hurrdat and co-founder of Opendorse, were first envisioned Hurrdat, they would have business meetings while at football practice (Kunalic was a kicker). While Lawrence was still working on his MBA, he realized he didn’t want to go work for anybody else. It was then that he told Kunalic, his roommate, “We should start something.” A few years later, Lawrence’s experiences as a fellow in Pipeline led him to realize that the “window was open now, but wouldn’t always be” for a new type of system for finding influencers to speak for businesses.
Simply put, Opendorse allows businesses shopping for athletic sponsors to shop one site to find the right athlete for its product needs. Once they’ve found a good match, the process is simplified from sending proposed contracts back and forth on paper to a simple online transaction. The process can also be used for an athlete to advertise his or her willingness to endorse products and businesses, without time-consuming negotiations.
Lawrence said the timing of launching Opendorse was critical: Because Opendorse fills a specific niche, the idea could only have happened at this exact moment in business development. Lawrence credits his experience with Pipeline, where he was surrounded by high-performing individuals, with giving him the push to take a big risk.
One such risk was in keeping Opendorse separate from Hurrdat Social Media. Many of the same people are key players in both companies, and crossover with clients is also common. By keeping the companies separate, Lawrence allows each to develop its own influence and growth within the business world. He credits his teams at Hurrdat and Opendorse for being the right people in the right places to keep both companies going. “We will continue to solve problems,” he said.
Lawrence also credited the burgeoning business networks springing up all over Silicon Prairie. He believes it is the support system and networking that allows new companies and entrepreneurs to thrive. For example, he said TheBigPlate, a membership community for entrepreneurs, artists and innovators, is “exactly what this city and the Midwest needs.” TheBigPlate has developed an organized way to connect entrepreneurs, which Lawrence said is the epitome of what’s working about the Midwest business world.