(This article originally appeared in the Belen Jesuit Magazine, summer 2019 edition.)
Vicente Fernandez ‘10 is the co-founder and CEO of SportsManias, the real-time, personalized app for diehard sports fans and fantasy players, ranked as a Top 10 Sports App in the App Store. A University of Chicago graduate, he is an award-winning digital media innovator, and has been named to Forbes 30 Under 30, Magic Johnson’s 32 Under 32, Inc.’s 20 Young Entrepreneurs You Need to Know, Entrepreneur’s 50 Inspirational Entrepreneurs to Watch, and as a White House Emerging Global Entrepreneur.
Q. What was your experience like at Belen?
My time at Belen was an ideal high school experience. I made great friends, explored my academic and creative interests, and was able to play on a football team that made a run for a State Championship. Belen was like a second home and I was genuinely excited to go to school every day by the time I was a senior.
Q. What type of student were you?
As a student, I was trying to be successful in all aspects. I cared a lot about my grades, but also explored my interests, like football and writing. Belen gave me the opportunity to balance and go after everything I wanted to pursue, for which I am incredibly thankful. I wanted to be involved in as much as possible at Belen. Whether it was being the sports editor for the school newspaper, being part of the leadership for different clubs, or playing on the football team, I devoted the majority of my days to Belen, especially in the classroom and on the field.
Q. Can you describe one funny moment while you were a student?
We had a good friend who always made us laugh, especially with his dancing. In classic Belen fashion, we had a mariachi band playing at a school assembly in the central patio, which itself seems like it would only happen at Belen. We got our friend going and he got so into the music that he cha-cha’d his way down the long aisle of seats and got on-stage with the mariachis dancing as only he could, off-beat. The crowd loved it.
Q. What is one thing that you will never forget that you learned in the school?
I will never forget to have faith. Not just spiritual faith, but faith in yourself and those around you, especially when you’re putting the work in. We weren’t supposed to make States my senior year. There were more talented teams, but we really believed we could do it even when things didn’t start well. That communal belief and the effort that came with the belief, let us accomplish a goal that seemed near impossible to those around us. At Belen I learned that it’s not always about being the smartest, the most athletic, or even being the most studious. Understanding your environment and working well with those around you are just as important. I have friends who are just now learning the importance of their relationships and how to leverage them together strategically. I knew that from high school, thanks to Belen.
Q. Who made an impact in your life?
I think there were three people who impacted me most, in different ways. The first is Mr. Maza, who I really looked up to as his student and as a writer. His classes and mentorship helped me hone in on my voice and my writing style. The second is DQ, who impacted the way I carried myself and interacted with others, with care and professionalism. Lastly, Coach Stuart and his staff, including Coach Delgado, shaped my competitive spirit, showing me the rewards of dedication and grit. Coach Stuart was actually the person who connected me with the University of Chicago, where I eventually went to college.
Q. What is the difference between a Jesuit education and other forms of education?
There is something about Belen students and graduates that is immediately recognizable when you meet and interact with them. I think that comes from the Jesuit education. You learn to express yourself well, interact with others in a way that is genuine, but professional, and you have a level of focus, on all things big and small. Men for Others is engrained in who we are.
Q. What prompted you to go into the media industry?
I’ve known I wanted to go into the media industry for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I was even featured in a TV commercial stating that I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. As I explored that sports media interest at Belen and UChicago, my path formed in a way that I did not anticipate, but I am very excited about and grateful for.
Q. How do you make a difference in that industry?
There are 2 billion people using messaging apps and many of their texting conversations are about sports. We are giving those fans a way to better express themselves with animated emojis of their favorite teams and players. That difference that we are making in the industry is being validated through our partnerships with leagues, players associations, major brands, and broadcasters. As our society's way of communication has evolved, we’re paving the way for a new type of media for sports, complementing the artificial intelligence we created for the curation of sports journalism. These innovations have garnered us recognition in Forbes and by the White House, and we plan to continue to be a part of the changing industry as our company grows.
Q. What do you hold most dear?
What I hold most dear are my passions—my family, football, and creating content. That is what I’ve devoted the majority of my time since I was a student, and is still true today. As much as I get excited about a new partnership, I get equally excited about watching a Belen football game where my brother is playing.
Q. What advice do you have for the current students?
The Belen community is there for you. That is the main message I’ve learned over the years. Of all the business and personal networks that I am a part of, Belen is the most valuable. Alumni and people within the Belen family will answer your call and they’ll give you support as a professional and as an individual. That powerful Belen loyalty will continue to be passed down.