Vicente Fernandez is the founder of the SportsManias app, an app dedicated to getting hardcore sports fans the information he or she craves. Fernandez founded the company with his mother when he was in his early 20s and it’s now the fastest growing sports app in the iTunes store. His success caught the eye of Forbes Magazine, which named him to their 2016 Sports 30 Under 30 list, along with names like Steph Curry, Cam Newton, and Madison Bumgarner.
Fernandez, from Miami, FL, played football at the University of Chicago and talked with us about how his football experience has helped him in business.
How did the idea for SportsManias come about?
The idea for SportsManias actually started with a phone call from my co-founder and mom. It was the spring of my first year at the University of Chicago and she wanted to discuss an idea that ultimately turned into SportsManias. She had watched my habits as a diehard for years and felt like there should be a platform for the most fanatical of fans to get all the information they craved in one place. With that, we began building an application for fans that curated the best content on their favorite teams from social media. Today, we’ve turned that initial concept into the fastest growing sports app in the country.
What was it like to be named in Forbes 30 under 30?
I found out I had been named in Forbes 30 under 30 on an unassuming day last January. All of a sudden my phone was ringing non-stop with congratulatory texts, emails, and calls from people who’d seen my name listed with Antonio Brown, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson. It felt like I, and SportsManias, had been inducted into a sort of hall of fame. We’d worked so hard to build a top sports app and user base, which was now being acknowledged in one of the world’s premier business magazines. It’s opened countless doors for me and brought significant recognition to SportsManias. But, like in football, I consider the award a team accomplishment and look forward to continuing to achieve great things with SportsManias.
How has being a former football player helped you in your dealings in the sports world?
The mentality I had on the field has helped me tackle the challenges that come with making a start-up successful. During my football career, I was committed to the sport as much as anything in my life. I’d fall asleep with a football under my arm. That commitment has transferred to my company and, now, I fall asleep with my laptop by my side. Beyond that mindset driving my dedication, many executives in sports have a high level of respect for individuals who were athletes. They recognize that former football players have an understanding of the game, the fans, and the greater world of sports, which gives them a distinct advantage working in the industry.
We profile lots of Football Moms on our website and you’ve partnered with yours to start SportsManias. What are some of the benefits of going into business with your mom?
It can come as a surprise when we tell a potential investor or partner that my mom and I are a mother-son co-founding team. But our relationship is one of our biggest advantages at SportsManias. We are transparent, voicing opinions without filters or hard feelings, and we have a shared commitment to the well-being of our business and each other. Like in football, you want your team to feel like family, and with our team already being family, we are committed to making SportsManias a success together.
Are there any lessons that you learned from football coaches that you use in running your business?
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned came from my high school coaches at Belen Jesuit. We were a tough, well-disciplined group and the philosophy was that no player was bigger than the team. You were responsible for doing your job and trusting that your teammates would do the same. When that happened, we succeeded. Teams could drive the field, they could get first downs, but as long as we remained focused on our assignments, we would get stops and victories. That sort of focus and trust is critical in entrepreneurship, especially as you grow your business. I’m very thankful for my lessons from football and how they have paid off in my career.