While the companies picked to outfit the world’s athletes are plentiful — Nike, Under Armour, Adidas and more have inked major deals in recent years — there is one business behind e-commerce for all the major professional sports leagues, 200 collegiate teams and the world’s biggest soccer clubs.
And the technology behind all of it comes from Boulder.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based Fanatics handles online sales for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, MLS, PGA, Manchester United and Real Madrid, among others. Revenue will surpass $2.2 billion this year, driven by the company’s vertical model of manufacturing, controlling the process of getting gear to fans from order to delivery.
One year ago, Fanatics established a new office in Boulder to house its growing technology team. Staff has nearly doubled in that time, and hiring is still ongoing. We marked the anniversary by chatting with Jim Oxenhandler, director of engineering, to find out more:
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
1.) What’s the last year looked like for Fanatics in Boulder?
A lot has happened with the company, as well as our office. Here in Boulder, we’ve experienced massive growth. When we started last year, we had 18 people. We’re at 30 now and we’re in the process of adding more desks so we can start hiring again.
We are running out of space. It’s a good problem to have when you have to hold your hire until you get desks.
2.) What is Boulder’s role in Fanatics’ push for sports apparel dominance?
The main reason for that is our organic growth over the last year combined with the April acquisition of sports group VF Corp. (which includes MLB uniform-maker Majestic). We are working on the supply chain and back-end systems behind that.
In sports commerce, turnaround time is critical. When you have a game-winning event, you need to turn around those products at unprecedented speeds. Typically, creation and distribution in apparel has taken awhile. My team is working to turn that around.
Our office is working on some really cool technology to take design, manufacturing and delivery from what is an archaic process of weeks and months to an amazing turnaround time of hours. We’re using a lot of open source technologies combined with consumer data and predictive analytics to be allowed to turn that product around instantaneously.
To give you a good example, for the last couple of years on most of our sites, as end user you’ve been able to customize a jersey or shirt and order it. We have to take that customization and scale for something like the Super Bowl.
3.) Will the tech team stay in Boulder? Or are they going to outgrow it?
We’re going to be able to add some additional space. We have no intention of leaving Boulder. Boulder, Denver is known for technology and sports. We love the area, the talent. It’s an easy sell (to prospective employees).
People want to work for Fanatics. All our employees are fans. It drives what we do. People love working on what they work on because it powers the teams they’re fans of. Especially here locally. We have the Broncos, the Rockies, the Avalanche, CU, CSU, the U.S. ski and snowboard teams.
4.) Do the intra-office rivalries get intense?
It can get intense at times. There are some times we get some head-butting, but we try not to push it too much. We have sports on TV all the time. When there are big events, we’ll shut down the office and have everyone watch. It does foster feeling of camaraderie around the office.
5.) You’re a sports tech company, two worlds traditionally dominated by men. As you hire, how do you promote a workplace that’s welcoming to all?
It’s one thing we’ve concentrated on here, just making sure we don’t have pre-conception in our hiring. We’ve done a good job of making sure we’re not too bro-y. Most people are here for the same reasons, regardless of gender: We love the outdoors we love sports.