25. Fanatics

Dress like a champion today

Founder: Michael Rubin
CEO: Doug Mack
Launched: 2011
Headquarters: San Mateo, California
$1.7 billion
Valuation: $4.5 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning
E-commerce, online sports apparel

George Kavallines | CNBC

When an athlete makes the winning basket or scores a touchdown, fans want a piece of that spectacular moment. Fanatics makes that possible. The Jacksonville, Florida-based company has exclusive licensing deals with the NFL, NHL, NBA, major league baseball, and scores of colleges and universities to make and sell jerseys, caps, and tons of other official team merchandise.

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Last year it rolled out its proprietary Cloud Commerce Platform so that fans ordering merchandise from their smartphones (about 80% of Fanatics customers utilize mobile) can do it faster and with greater ease. The company also recently signed a partnership with the NFL and Nike, giving Fanatics the rights to make all Nike fan gear sold at retail.

Earlier this year, it clinched a deal with Walmart to sell NFL jerseys, NBA T-shirts and other sports-related merchandise on Walmart.com. Under the partnership, Fanatics will be the exclusive provider of all licensed sports merchandise on Walmart.com.

The company in its current form was started by billionaire Michael Rubin (co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and NJ Devils) in 2011. That same year, he sold a sports e-commerce business to eBay for $2.4 billion, bought back parts of it and acquired Fanatics — which back then was a two-store retail operation in Florida. He renamed the entire entity Fanatics.

The company is now run by Doug Mack, who joined in 2014 after spending several years as CEO of the e-commerce company One Kings Lane. Fanatics reportedly does about $2.3 billion in annual sales but is projecting $10 billion over the next five years with a major expansion globally, especially in the U.K. and China. It recently added offices, fulfillment centers and tech hubs in Hong Kong, India, Tokyo and Spain. It also signed partnerships with the national governing bodies for England and Germany soccer and the SoftBank Hawks Japanese baseball team.

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