Open Sponsorship Founder Ishveen Anand wields cutting-edge technology to sponsorship marketing

Adam Carpenter

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Chirion se main baaz turaun, 
It is when I make sparrows fight hawks,
Gidderon se main sher banaun, 
It is when I make lions out of wolves,
Sawa lakh se ek laraun, 
It is when I make one fight a hundred twenty-five thousand,
Tabe Gobind Singh naam kahaun 
That I am called Gobind Singh

At the turn of the 18th century, famed warrior and Sikh Guru Gobind Singh united companies of “sparrows” against hordes of “hawks” in a series of 13 gallant military campaigns. As he fought for the freedom of the Sikhs, he probably had no idea his legacy would inspire a modern-day warrior like Ishveen Anand, CEO of OpenSponsorship. In place of a sword, Anand wields cutting-edge technology, AI, and innovative problem-solving to lead her team in its campaign for a “smarter, simpler approach to sponsorship marketing.”

From the Field to Forbes

Anand thrived as an avid scholar-athlete throughout high school and while attending Oxford University. Once, when faced with choosing between continuing her athletic pursuits or preparing for career-defining exams, she took the road not taken—and did both. For Anand, sports are not an additive to life, but an integral part of it. Not only do they provide a balancing respite but invigoration and inspiration. So a natural extension of her philosophy lead her to create a tool that links athletes and businesses. And for OpenSponsorship, this mission has made all the difference.

In 2015, Anand joined Cristiano Ronaldo and the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, which featured leaders changing the face of sports. But Anand only accepts a portion of the credit. She tips her hat to her parents and mentors like Tami Erwin, president of Verizon. Anand describes Erwin as someone who “is completely dedicated to her team,” and the young CEO is spurred by a similar spirit.

A Fresh Approach to Sports Sponsorship

Half of the team behind OpenSponsorship is composed of engineers. Under Anand's leadership, they developed a system that combines tech, like IBM’s Watson and other artificial intelligence, with fan favorites like Javascript and integrated databases to give the business world a novel way of accessing sports sponsorship. 

Using an app, businesses outline their campaigns and budgets, and athletes create profiles.  Then athletes can scroll through campaigns, Match.com style, swiping left or right to accept the deals they like the most. Athletes can apply for the campaigns for which they’d like to work, and the brand can respond with an offer.

And it works. So far, OpenSponsorship has inked more than 5,000 deals. Their satisfied customers include big names like Intel, DraftKings, and Glassdoor. OpenSponsorship's athletes encompass heavy-hitters like English footballer and Derby County Captain Wayne Rooney, American Houston Rockets basketball player Russell Westbrook, and India’s cricket champion MS Dhoni.

Three Secrets to Success: Hard Work, Hard Work, and Hard Work

Perhaps the only thing more straightforward than OpenSponsorship’s solution is Anand's answer to the requisite inquiry, “What is the secret to success?” Hard work. 

She notes that when someone proudly announces having finished a day's work in four hours, they should reflect and ask: “What could I have achieved if I had worked that hard for eight hours straight?” 

Anand notes that in both personal and business life, you should set aggressive goals and then work hard to achieve them. For OpenSponsorship, the team set the goal of building a tech-heavy foundation. Anand observes, “A lot of startups begin by doing things manually and then build up their technology. I never wanted to do that. I always wanted to make sure we could do what we wanted to do through tech.” 

This upfront commitment to technology has paid off and OpenSponsorship now boasts more than 6,000 athletes on its roster.

Keeping Everything in Perspective

Anand, alongside husband, Kirat Anand, balances work and life by teaching herself how to “turn off the switch” after stepping out of the office. But the most powerful stabilizing force, she says, is her spirituality. When faced with challenges, the couple reminds each other that like one of their favorite poets Gobind Singh, they can make sparrows fight hawks, lions out of wolves, and one warrior fight a hundred and twenty-five thousand.