Why would I ask a former NBA player out to dinner? Am I crazy? Why on earth would he say yes?
These were questions that (luckily) did not run through my mind a few months ago. Back in February, I had a random idea to build a virtual angel investor group of professional athletes who were interested in investing in startups. Why? I’m honestly not sure. I had this over simplified thesis that today, 100 athletes invest in 100 different startups and 99 of those fail. Why not try to find the 1 startup that has a higher chance of success and have 100 players all invest in that 1 startup together? Then as a group, we can leverage the power of the crowd in two ways — on the front end as we assess the startups and then on the back end to help grow the businesses.
Anyway, I thought I’d try it. What the heck, right?! I built a website and created a Twitter handle and set out with a small goal of 5–10 players and one startup pitch call every two months or so. The Players’ Impact was born. That first weekend I built the website, had my first 50 or so Twitter followers, and was quickly connected to a few players who were interested. On day 2, I hopped on the phone with former NBA player, Maurice Evans. We had a great phone call, and I told him as we were hanging up, “Man, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I think if we build a group of 100 really smart people like yourself, we could do something pretty cool.” He agreed!
As it turned out I was traveling to the same city “Mo” now resides, so after we hung up, I texted him to see if he wanted to get dinner in a few nights when I arrived. Sure enough, he picked me up at the airport, we went out for some great BBQ, and he and I chatted about business and startups for a couple of hours. We had a great time and have become friends ever since. Honestly, if I didn’t have dinner that night, this athlete investor network idea probably would have been filed away, alongside the 100s of other random ideas I’ve had over the years.
Luckily that dinner conversation was great and it gave me the confidence to push this side project along. And as it turns out, there was a lot more interest than I realized! The entrepreneurial and investor athlete network has grown well beyond the 5–10 goal. We now have more than 75 players interested and engaged! What has been so impressive is the thoughtful referrals of the great people who are joining — far exceeding anything I ever expected.
The Players’ Impact (TPI) has Stanley Cup champions, Super Bowl Champions, current MLB pitchers, Summer Olympic medalists in track and field, Winter Olympic Women’s hockey stars, current NFL linebackers and everyone in between — the best part though is everything these folks are doing off the court, rink or track. We’ve somehow attracted some of the smartest, most entrepreneurial minded athletes in the US and Canada. It’s not about the number of goals scored or medals won, it’s connecting like-minded business people with each other and talking to great entrepreneurs. And it’s truly been awesome to see it all unfold.
Fast forward to today. We’ve met so many great entrepreneurs and people in the sports industry. We’ve made a few investments, but the more important piece in my mind is the community and trust that is being built. Just a few weeks ago, former NHL player Bryce Salvador came up to Boston and we went to the PULSE @ MassChallenge demo day together to learn about some new healthcare technologies. It was remarkable to listen to someone so passionate about concussion health chat with a founder of a concussion startup. Below is Bryce demoing some Virtual Reality for physical therapy!
Who knows where this group will evolve to, but it’s already been great to see it develop over recent months. Looking forward to continuing to grow this group and seeing what happens next!