I had the pleasure of interviewing Ishveen Anand, CEO + Founder, OpenSponsorship. Forbes 30U30 sports list maker, Oxford University Alumni and the CEO of the largest platform connecting brands and athletes directly for marketing deals. Athletes include Draymond Green, Rob Gronkowski, Odell Beckham Jr. and 4000 more.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us about your back story and how you have transitioned into your current business?
I was always a keen athlete including being both Netball and Cricket Captain at Keble College, Oxford University. After a few years in Management Consulting, I decided to follow my passion of sports and moved to India to join a sports agency focused on the highly lucrative cricket tournament, IPL, in its 2nd year. In a few years, I closed deals worth over tens of millions of dollars and had fallen in love with the form of marketing that is sponsorship. Fast forward, I moved to New York to marry my husband, and then I realized how archaic sponsorship truly was, it has basically continued to operate the same way since it started. Brands primarily base their decisions off innate biases and limited relationships. That’s when I had the eureka moment of starting what I describe as the Airbnb of sponsorship. There needed to be a new offering, which was more inclusive, more data driven and providing better measurements. Sponsorship was ready for disruption; the only question was can we be the ones to create the tools to solve it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your business?
There have been so many interesting or what I call sliding door moments — from moving to San Francisco for 6 months to be part of the 500 startups accelerator, being at CES this summer and pitching and signing NBA All-star Baron Davis to come on as an investor in a 20 minutes car ride, or just last week IBM featured us on their homepage as a partner company using AI and ML to change the sponsorship industry.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we first started out, I thought raising money was going to be easy, I was so naïve, all I knew about raising funds were the success stories that I had read. I went to meet people way too early with crazy valuations. For me it was pretty simple, it was a huge industry, there is a massive potential, and I was going to do major things, but now with hindsight I realize how crazy I must have sounded given we had basically no product, no team and no traction.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are hiring pretty aggressively so that’s exciting, so apply to OpenSponsorship today if you are interested 😊 I don’t like to comment on future products which are in the pipeline. But one new matching product was released, which our brands are loving. This is powered by IBM Watson and incorporates cognitive sciences.
Can you share one piece of advice you wish you would have known before beginning your business?
Building a business is more of a science than an art. You think that its luck or that it’s just hard work, right timing etc. but there is a playbook for all companies and the more you follow it the higher your chance of success. I wish I’d followed the playbook sooner.
Can you share 5 tips that you would you recommend to your celebrity/athletic colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out” as they branch into new endeavors?
1. Understand that things take time, building anything substantial is a marathon not a sprint
2. Surround yourself with good people, whether that be the right team members, advisors or mentors. Getting the right advice is priceless
3. Conversely to the above point, don’t listen to everything people will tell you. When you start out, its really good to ask for opinions, but its important to not follow everything. Someone who meets you for a 30mins coffee, may not necessarily have the best advise even if they are very impressive.
4. Have focus. When you start a new endeavor, it will take 150% of your brain power and time, if you are stretched too thin, you are ruining your own chances of success.
5. Be aggressive, things are changing fast, so make sure you are constantly growing and evolving to not be left behind
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Great question — staying true to my passion of sport, it would involve using sport to bring communities together. Thanks to sports I formed friendships with people I never may not have socially been friends with, it gave me confidence, leadership skills. When you are playing sports, you are judged on ability, not religion, race, appearance etc. In a time of so much division in our country, getting more children into sports can help us unite.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I wouldn’t say there is one quote we live by, but given we are a Sports Sponsorship platform, it would seem only right to quote:
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky
People often say I am lucky, but they don’t realize how many chances I took that never panned out. Likewise at OpenSponsorship, people love our product, they don’t see all the features we built that never got used
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband — Kirat Anand. Whether its him being my #1 champion or pushing me to continually be outside of my comfort zone, he’s been amazing.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Serena Williams — on so many levels she is an absolute inspiration. I am a British-Indian female making big waves in the archaic American sports sponsorship world, I know what it feels like to be an underdog, I’d love to get her advice on having the winning mentality always. It’s also pretty cool that she married a Tech genius!
Jilea Hemmings is the CEO & Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme. She is running a series on how stars turned their name into a successful business.
Originally published at medium.com