(Sports Tech Tokyo is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
Athletes like Kevin Durant and Lebron James have made waves in recent years for their savvy investments as well as their play on the court. More and more professional athletes are following this path by finding ways to branch out as entrepreneurs while expanding their personal horizons.
Tracy Deforge is the founder of The Players Impact: an exclusive group of professional athletes who invest in early stage companies together. Deforge spoke with Front Office Sports at Sports Tech Tokyo about the current landscape of athlete investment, her own history in the startup space, and the type of service that her company provides to athletes looking to invest in small companies.
Edited highlights appear below:
On the difference between traditional athlete investing and what The Players’ Impact does (0:38)
Deforge: “I would think the first distinction is the Kevin Durants of the world that are investing right now, they’re known for traditional venture capital funds. What we’re doing that’s a little bit different is really bringing the athletes to the startups in a new way that is more angel investing style. The athletes are making the decisions themselves, they’re not putting money in the hands of a funds manager, they’re getting educated on how to evaluate opportunities and making the decisions on their own.”
On facilitating relationships between athlete investors and companies (1:30)
Deforge: “What we do is curate good opportunities. So we see, especially in sports tech, a lot of deal flow. Oftentimes, the athletes are bringing them to us and asking us to evaluate. If we think it’s a good opportunity, we’ll bring it back to the broader group and [the athlete] will make the decision on their own. What we’re learning about their process is as they’re having these conversations, they’re learning how to evaluate the deal based on moderated pitch calls that we do.”
Where is there not a lot of interest yet in terms of athlete investment, but will be very soon? (3:18)
Deforge: “Cannabis…There’s the sexiness of a new market and the opportunity that’s coming from a return on your investment in that industry. But yes, they can understand from a medicinal side, maybe from pain management, etc. So there’s the wanting to get into an industry that’s about to take off and up and coming and it makes sense for them as individuals.”
On the importance of the type of service that The Players’ Impact provides their clients (6:07)
Deforge: “What’s different about how we look at it is how they’re investing. They’re not giving their money to a fund manager. They’re actually taking the time to dig in, do the due diligence, and understand not just deploying capital but even when they’re evaluating opportunities to be brand ambassadors. We really our roster through three lenses: the athlete investor, the athlete entrepreneur, and the athlete in transition. That connectivity to that ecosystem can benefit all of them in different ways.”