Blake Lawrence calls his company’s move to a new office space in downtown Lincoln “a full-circle-type story.”
Opendorse, which Lawrence co-founded with fellow Nebraska football player Adi Kunalic, has leased the building at 1320 Q St. that used to house the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Center for Entrepreneurship and hopes to relocate there sometime in June.
Opendorse, which helps athletes share content on social media, has been in a building one block away at 1320 P St. since 2014, and Lawrence said the space has been “a great place to spread our wings and grow.”
But that growth necessitated the need for a bigger office, and he said the company spent several months exploring all the opportunities it could find downtown, including the new Hudl headquarters building in the West Haymarket.
However, Lawrence said that when he found out the building was open after the Center for Entrepreneurship moved into a space in the new College of Business building, he said “the conversation shifted very quickly to, ‘how can we get in there?’
“We jumped on it before it even hit the market.”
Why the fixation on that building?
It all goes back to the start of Lawrence’s entrepreneurial career and the man he considers a main mentor.
In November 2009, Lawrence was about a month removed from his decision to quit football after sustaining four concussions in a little more than a year and was looking for some new direction.
He was taking a class taught by UNL professor Sam Nelson when he stood up and pitched his idea for a company that would turn people’s tweets into an online diary.
Lawrence said Nelson’s act of allowing him to share that unsolicited vision to the class “was probably critical to letting me find something.”
Nelson later went on to be the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, a place Lawrence went for advice and mentoring as he built his business.
“He once sat in the same office that we’ll be sitting in,” Lawrence said.
The new office will allow the company to continue to grow.
Lawrence said opendorse has about 25 employees right now, counting interns, and will probably grow to 30 people by the time it moves into its new office this summer.
“The floor plan Day 1 is built to serve 30 to 40 (people), but we see it being able to handle 50 or more,” he said.
That number of employees is likely to come sooner rather than later.
Six months ago, when it announced a $3.5 million equity investment, opendorse had fewer than 20 employees. It also at that time had about 2,400 athlete partners, a number that has since grown to more than 3,100 — nearly double what it was 12 months ago. In addition, the company has partnerships with more than 1,000 sports agents and hundreds of sports properties.
Lawrence said more content has been shared through the opendorse platform in the past year than in the previous four years combined.
The way opendorse works, athletes sign up for free to distribute content on social media platforms. In its early years, most of the company’s revenue came from fees companies and other organizations paid to have access to those athletes.
Now, Lawrence said, more of opendorse’s revenue comes from long-term subscriptions and partnerships with athlete organizations, such as the NFL Players Association, the men’s and women’s Professional Golf Association and Conference USA, as well as specific teams.
“We’ve experienced significant growth in partnering with sports properties,” Lawrence said, noting that he expects that part of the business to continue to grow.
Also in the past year, opendorse opened offices in Chicago and New York to be closer to the big players in professional sports markets.
Lawrence himself will be spending more time in the New York office, as his girlfriend got a job in the city. He said he will be splitting his time between the New York and Lincoln offices.
Though he won’t be spending as much time here, he said he’s still very excited to move into the new space.
“It’s going to be sweet,” he said. “I’m excited to continue to call Lincoln home.”