I used to work for a professional athlete...
On June 21/22, I was invited to attend the Venture & Tech Summit by my good friends over at Next Play Capital: Ryan, Eric and Erin. The purpose of the event, hosted at Playground Global's beautiful space in Palo Alto, was to help professional athletes dip their toes in the jacuzzi of venture capital. As I'm sure you know, athletes have the potential to make quite a bit of money over the span of their careers. Investing a portion in new, innovative companies to generate returns is a key to maintaining and growing that wealth. But, like with any person without a strong background in business or finance, athletes are often taken advantage of by fast-talking founders and promises to make lots of cash really, really, really fast. But not on Next Play's watch.
The firm was started by former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Ryan Nece and his business partner Eric Valle. I met Ryan while I worked managing some of his dad's philanthropy. While its important for athletes to be financially prudent during their careers, it's also extremely important to plan for the future when their time on the field, court or rink comes to a close. This summit was a peek into what that could look like. The 2-day event included talks from Silicon Valley icons Aileen Lee (Cowboy Ventures), Tim Chang (Mayfield Fund) and Jeff Jordan (Andreessen Horowitz). Product demos from Lighthouse and Subpac engaged the crowd during the lunch hour and offered insight into the type of products companies that are growing at Playground Global. Demo sessions and pitches are a critical piece as I learn what type of companies and products I think are most interesting, valuable and why.
At the end of our two days together, I chatted with a couple of the athletes whose perspectives had been widened by the programming & speakers. They mentioned how just being in Silicon Valley gives them a sense of excitement and empowerment about who they could become and what they could do after their last game has been played.
The value-add of Next Play Capital to athletes is they bring not only knowledge and experience in venture capital but also, perhaps most importantly, they offer safety to athletes entering the venture space. And for top VC firms, Next Play provides access to a new cohort of high net-worth potential investors.
My Key Learnings from the Tech & Venture Summit:
1.. You've got a better shot at winning with 1/37 odds at a Vegas Roulette table than in VC. Check your expectations!
2. The actual structure of how venture capitalist firms make and distribute money. I'd say this was important to know ;-).
3. Fund of Funds are an interesting subculture in venture. This setup allows new investors the opportunity to participate and pool funds to invest is larger, more dynamic funds.
4. Large VCs can be extremely bureaucratic. They can often lose out on deals to smaller, more nimble VCs.
5. If you don't know who the sucker at the table is, it's probably you.