Ryan Howard Draws Venture Capital Inspiration From Athlete Moguls
Sports Illustrated | SportTechie by Max Rettig
PHILADELPHIA — Inspired by athletes and entertainers of his era who launched successful and world-famous businesses, Ryan Howard is turning to venture capital to help fund tech startups.
“You look at the Magic Johnsons and what he’s been able to accomplish. I think you look at Michael Jordan and what he’s been able to accomplish. But I think one other person that really stuck out to me was Jay-Z, and Jay-Z was the person who was able to use his platform as a rapper to now become the business mogul that he is today,” Howard said. “Looking at what LeBron (James) has done, looking at what Andre Iguodala has done out in Golden State with the Golden State Warriors — I believe they created a team VC where they’re doing a lot of stuff in tech — you see that the athlete or the entertainer is not just the athlete or the entertainer anymore.”
James created UNINTERRUPTED, his own digital media platform, dabbled in virtual reality, and invested in WePlay, a youth sports app acquired by TeamSnap, Inc. Iguodala has invested heavily in tech companies and startups. He recently teamed up with teammate Stephen Curry to create a Bloomberg-sponsored athlete tech summit, which will be held in August in San Francisco.
And, as of May, Howard, the former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman who helped the team win the 2008 World Series, is a partner in VC firm SeventySix Capital. Howard said at the firm’s recent panel discussion that he was drawn to the VC world after conversations with his agent and former Phillies teammates. He views the alternative career path as another way to positively impact different communities and people.
To that effect, Howard hopes he can also use his new position to help young athletes just starting at the professional level understand the world outside of sports and how to manage their money to prepare for when their athletic careers end and the rest of their lives begin. A sports career lasts 10, 15, maybe 20 years, Howard said; “How have you been handling your money? How are you set up?”
According to a statement, Howard is already actively working at SeventySix Capital with portfolio companies like Whistle Sports, as well as with Rubicon Talent to create entrepreneurial openings for its clients, among whom are Greg Olsen, DeMarco Murray, and Kerri Walsh Jennings.
“The perspective that he has on life, on business, his overall values, they line up with everything we care about and our overall philosophies,” said Wayne Kimmel, co-founder and managing partner of SeventySix Capital. “At SeventySix Capital, our philosophy is all about working with smart, nice people who want to change the world, and when we shared that with Ryan, he was basically sharing that back with us.”
Even as Howard hopes another MLB team will call, he is preparing to join SeventySix Capital full-time: “I’m trying to have that seamless transition of starting this process as I continue to want to play … so that when I do lay those cleats down and I pick up the sports coat, I’m ready to rock and roll.”
Maybe he’ll even get an invite to Iguodala’s tech summit.