June 17, 2020

Baron Davis — NBA All-Star on Power of Athletes Owning Their Own Media Brands

Baron Davis — NBA All-Star on Power of Athletes Owning Their Own Media Brands

Former NBA All-Star Baron Davis joins The Game Plan to discuss his success both on and off the court, including his development as an investor long before it became in vogue to see athletes playing that role.

Former NBA All-Star Baron Davis joins The Game Plan to discuss his success both on and off the court, including his development as an investor long before it became in vogue to see athletes playing that role.

Best known for his early investment in Vitamin Water (a company which eventually achieved unicorn status and a multi-billion dollar exit), Davis also discusses his recent investments in Kitu Super Coffee, Overtime, and Sleeper.

Listeners will enjoy hearing how our guest bet on himself early in his career. We take a look at how he continues to pave his own unique path to success off the court through his media platform Business Inside the Game ("B.I.G") and Sports and Lifestyle in Culture ("SLiC"); a content studio for professional athletes to retain ownership of the stories they want to tell.

This episode of the Game Plan also explores what it was like for our guest to experience an NBA career fraught with distractions off the court including the Charlotte Hornets relocation to New Orleans and the Donald Sterling scandal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Not to be missed is the story Davis tells about the time he waited in Michael Jordan's locker for an autograph at All-Star weekend 2002.

Make sure to follow Baron Davis on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with his latest efforts off the court. Listeners can also visit http://www.barondavisenterprises.com/ to learn more about his business ventures.

Follow co-hosts Jay Kapoor (@JayKapoorNYC) and Tim Katt (@Tim_Katt) for all things sports, media, tech, and venture capital.

Follow The Game Plan on Twitter (@thegameplanshow) and Instagram (@gameplanshow) for show news and updates, to recommend guests, and for bonus content!


Transcript

*Please excuse any and all typos, errors and mistakes in the following transcript as an automated service is used to generate this text*

And so a lot of times, just to the other side, outside of basketball was like a lot of people saying, no.

And me trying to prove myself that, Hey, I want a TV show. I want to do something that's funny. And I think a part of that was me wanting to step away and do a lot of things creatively from a, from a content standpoint, because people are just like, no, you don't have 30 million followers.

You're not LeBron. You know what I mean? It's like, but Can we start to create the things that we want to create and have people come to, you know, our side of the story and then Kobe wins an Oscar, For his, cartoon, his animation. And it was just like, all right, now the mold is starting to be broken, but like, where are the other Baron Davis's right.

where are the other athletes that have, that are multihyphenate that have, so much other things that they want to do, right. That will make them better players if they have the outlet and the access, to be able to just get that off their chest. 

Yo what's up. I'm Baron Davis, 13 year NBA vet, CEO of slick sports, lifestyle, and culture, and the founder of business inside the game, the big factory, and you're watching or listening to listening and watching the game plan.

You may have heard of many NBA players getting involved in VC and entrepreneurship over the last couple of years, but our next guest is one of the OGs when it comes to athletes, investing in tech and startups, whether it's as investment and vitamin water or as media platforms like bag business inside the game, or SLIC.

His forward thinking approach and personality have served him well, both on and off the court. We are thrilled to welcome 13 year NBA vet, two time NBA, all star and founder of Baron Davis enterprises. The man, the myth, the legend, mr. Baron Davis himself. Barrett. Thank you so much for joining us on the game plan.

Thanks for having me fellows. How's everything.

Doing well, yeah, it's a great Avenue. You have this incredible NBA career and your energy on the court is something every fan remembers, but now you're an established investor and an entrepreneur. What do you identify more as, and how do the two compare.

I mean, always identify as a professional athlete as a basketball player because. You know, it's like you work so hard your entire life to live out this dream, you know, and to be a part of this, you know, this committee, this like private club, of, you know, like experts, you know what I mean? In different walks of life and you learn to, appreciate.

That time, I remember my first coach, Paul Silas told me, he said, boy, do you know what the NBA stands for? I say national basketball association. He said, no, it stands for no boys allowed. Right. And so at that moment it was like, This is a man's game. This is a man's league. This is a business.

This is something to learn. And this is, this is your testing ground. And so I always identify with, Being a professional basketball player, the NBA, because that, that was like, not only, it grew me as an individual, but you know, that was my business school. Right. So when people talk about, investing and things like that, I'm like, yo, I damn near have, you know, 15, 20 years of experience in investing people, investing in me, investing in other people, building things.

And so, It never really gets articulated in his proper form. I think now that I'm not playing basketball, you know, I think my goal and my job is to really, start to stitch together that fabric, that communication to show, you know, more similarities than not, 

well, you certainly went through a lot of.

I should say the teams you played for in the franchise. You were a part of had a lot of adversity off the court from. you know, relocation from Charlotte to new Orleans. we don't need to get into Donald Sterling, but that was a massive thing for the league and the league.

Just changing as a whole through your time there. What do you take away from your time as an active player that you've been able to carry into the business world?

in NBA history?

or the top five, you know, as far as like, you know, if you were to be judged, but I think for me, you know, and Charlotte, our team was a part of a relocation to new Orleans. It was when I got there, there was 20,000 people, for our first playoff game. the year we were leaving, there was barely 6,000 and you watch, you know, we watched our owner and George Shinn, basically go on to a limited partnership with four people, right.

And then wound up being the sole owner of the team. So you start learning. Oh man, like that was shady. And like, ultimately the same thing happened with him and Ray Woolridge, you know, in new Orleans and, you know, Ray comes in as the minority owner. And I think for me, I was just caught up in the middle of all that bullshit.

You know what I mean? It was like, Oh, here's a franchise player. We just, you know, maximum player out. And it's like, Oh, you come over here with me. Oh, you come over here with me. You come over. Like, you're my, you're my player. And I was like, Matt, I don't really care about none of this shit. I just want to hoop had an opportunity to win, but you start to, as a focal point of the team, I would say as the largest asset, right.

You get to be a part of like the growth and see all the management mismanagement, like what's happening. And for me, it was just like, Hey man, I'm here for the education too. You know what I mean? and so when you look at that from George, Shandon get traded to go to the state and, you know, Chris Cohen, that was just a whole different thing, you know?

you see where we were and you see now with new ownership where they are. So I think I was a part of, you know, just like a generation where the owners. Felt like they own the players. And a lot of times some of these teams were trying to figure out how to be middle market teams, but they weren't really, , professional sports lovers are real, you know, highly sophisticated business people that could, you know, run these teams.

And so you start seeing, teams coming for sale.   just being a part of that, you know, from, Charlotte to new Orleans then and golden state, Chris Cole Hamels have had to sell the team because of like his taxes, being able to have the Clippers and the owner was like never, ever, ever going to sell the team no matter how bad of a person and how negative his Mark and his, His brand was on the players themselves.

Right. on the employees. Right. And also the city Los Angeles. Right. So, you know, you have someone who's almost like, an incredible rich tyrant, you know what I'm saying? And so, you know, you had to, you know, for me it was, and then I was the Mark there. It was like, Hey, he's the reason why. And it was like, nah, maybe cause you're racist dude.

 and you know, then the go on. And, from that point I got traded to Cleveland and I think in Cleveland, I just, you know, that was after LeBron. So, that was the first time that, players were getting amnesty.

So it was just looking at. just a business behind the scenes and know, just kind of learning the business of what I was going to have to do to transition out of my contract.

And then I think with the next, despite what people say about James Darwin, James Dolan gave me a hell of a lot opportunity. when I got hurt to still be around the team. And I think what I learned from the Knicks and their organization was I was able to create the mix tape, which was like a marketing, you know, like kind of like the steel curtain for the next

I'm I'm, I'm a diehard Knicks fan growing up. And I remember when that came up, man and Lin sanity and the whole thing. I mean, it's

that was like my whole, you know, that was my whole project was like to create a. You know, a steel curtain, a brand around the Knicks where the players could feel protected and go out and feel like you know, they're balling for something that they want to represent and be a part of, you know what I mean?

And like building a newest extension. Of the mix that allowed the fans who didn't have the money to sit on the floor, be, you know, in the arena to have the same experience. And as you know, Brooklyn wit, , black and gray, they moved to the city. So I was like, damn dude, like black and gray, always beats, you know, orange and blue.

You know what I mean? Just like on a daily living. And so what we did was I took the mix tape and started making like old English stuff, like tough crowds, set out the tough crop, started making more black and white mixed tape stuff with the old English writing and start like giving the Knicks kind of like this.

Hip hop kind of culture feel. And it allowed me to get to where I am now and building slick, you know, just like off of that recipe and, you know, shout out to the next, their whole organization for buying into it, but also letting me, move up the chain, even had an interview too. , work at fuse, like to be the president at years while I was at the mixtape.

So it was just like, yo man, I'm learning this corporate structure. I'm learning this MBA structure. And now, like, after all that, you know, how can I apply this, you know, to a business that can be complimentary to both the players, the teams and the leagues within themselves and give the fans a little bit more premium access.

So that, so that's a really interesting point, because you said earlier that your experience in the NBA and I'm thinking back to even representing yourself, you know, was, was your MBA was. Was your business education. So you've always had this entrepreneurial drive and obviously you're trying to access it in different ways, even as a player.

But at what point during that journey, did you start thinking about life outside the game or off the court and getting involved maybe in different entrepreneurial ventures off the court?

Well, it was just a shout out to my grandmother. Cause she always harp on me about like, yo boy, you gotta go to school, get an education. You know, like, what happens if you get hurt? You ain't got no grades to fall back on. You need a plan B like, what else are you going to do? and I was, you know, I'm playing basketball and that's it.

But that always stuck in the back of my head. And I would say my entrepreneurial spirit started in high school. Just like these guys today when I realized like, Oh shit, I'm going to probably go pro you know what I mean? Like, I'm at a point where I have a trajectory to go pro I'm from South central, we still on welfare.

we ain't got no money, but everybody wanted me to play. Right. Everybody want me to go over here, go over there. And so I was like, at that point I was thinking about, I started my own clothing line. And I was thinking about, building my own brand, knowing that, Oh, hopefully one day when I get ready to sign my Nike deal, I can just sign the brand and now I can be an owner, you know, like all that didn't happen, but it was like, that's where I kinda got it from, from like this hustle of, Hey man, you from South central Los Angeles, right at the end of the day.

It had been all films. You'd gone back to South central Los Angeles. Right. And so now it was like all the start building landing pads. When I jumped out from my agent, I had already been with him for three years, working in the office every summer.

So I work out, go hang out my agent's office until everybody leave, find out what everybody doing. , you know, looking at player's contracts, seeing what my contract was sitting in on negotiations is knowing what, you know, all the young ladies in the,  front of the office did people on the back of the office, you know, every day I spend time with, you know, Rob Pelinka, Bob Myers, aren't telling him like all these people, who were really.

You know, great at what they did. And I, you know, I was privy to, you know, have the access to like learn, you know, what they were doing, you know what I mean? And so when the decision came, it was like, all right, I don't want to start my own agency.  And so when I left, it was almost like I knew that. This is going to be the most dangerous thing that I do. But if I go broke, it's gonna all be on me. because I know like what the value of, this contract is what my brand is and what I could ultimately be.

Now I'm in now, I'm in LA and now I have an opportunity to invest in the next generation of LA basketball. And so, because I had been through it, went through it now I was in an all star.

It was like, Oh shit, what do I do now? I'm not going to be. Magic. I'm not going to be Kobe. You know what I mean? I don't like my all star team is very small. There all star team is very large, you know what I mean? I play at Charlotte, they play in Los Angeles, you know what I mean? I think it was probably too early for me to think like that, but because I was on my own, I was like, yo, I may never be magic Johnson and have that.

You know, championship and things like that, because, you know, when you come into the league, it's like, know you're gonna be in Charlotte, the rest of your career. You know what I mean? , and then ultimately, you know, the leaks are changing. People start in training. , but I think for me, it was just like, you know, it was like, alright, I'm not going to be magic.

I'm not going to be Kobe. How can I be something in our life? And never lose my brand because now I'm out here in Charlotte. People miss me. So every day, every time I go home in the summer, I got to do something. So I started doing camps and started investing and basketball teams, build my own agency.

I created the first basketball camp where I had high school college pro guys, almost like a mini training camp. And we had like, Walt Hazzard come in and speak to the point guards and people about success. I remember the rapper in the game at the time, came in and was just talking about, you know, hip hop and they can ask some questions and we had, financial advisors come in and it was all while, you know, Brandon Jennings was in eighth grade, big baby was in high school.

The Morris twins was in high school. poo Jetter, you know, a bunch of guys from LA. Darren Collison was still in high school. So I was like, know, I'm getting more of a fulfillment out of this than I am like trying to like build my brand to be the superstar. 

And you've been, and you've been given. Back in these ways. Cause, cause I saw you tweet about a couple of years ago where you said I'm investing in 10 companies this year. My goal is to do it with my athletic family, any athletes that are investing, you know, reach out. And so, and then my favorite part of that is you said no more broke athletes hashtag no more broke athletes.

So before we get to the investments, I actually want to understand maybe your perspective on this. Why do you think there is this narrative around guys that have struggled so much after retirement? And how have you seen that trend change? At least in the last few years as you've become a retired athlete.

Well, I think it's all now just kind of looking back, it's scary. You know, people invest in marketing to scare people. Right. So if I can scare you into thinking that you can go, bro, then I can actually work for you, take your money and do what I need to do, and actually help you in that process.

Right. you may not go broke, but you may not have as much as you should. Right. And so, there's a whole arbitrage of business of marketing, of people that sit in between, you know, here's an athlete that's going to accumulate over a hundred million dollars a well. And then here are the people who know how to manage the accumulation of a hundred million dollars of wealth.

But you'll never get to those people. You'll run into everybody in between financial advisors, right. Money managers, mom, and pop people. You know what I mean? So you got someone who's handling a $12 million account, right. And you're the biggest account. Right. Their next client is, maybe a doctor who's been practicing for 10 years.

You know what I mean? Or something like that. how does that equate? You need to get to this guy right. To get those deals. And so that's $12 million starts to be getting depleted. Cause you're trying to, you're trying to take two to get over the fence, right. And you wind up losing four, you know what I mean?

Just to get over the fence to realize like, damn dude, there's, there's a $50 million fence to get over and there's a hundred million dollar fence to get over. Right. And so instead of having that right kind of system of people that help you along the way, you know what I mean? A lot of banks and everybody that, you know, especially in our day.

And it's like, who are the easiest people to pry on the people who accumulate wealth so fast that you can't, that is unimaginable athletes, musicians, entertainers, right. type people don't have that issue. because they, they have structured their business and they understand the business. So they've been through all this, all this stuff, hands on, right.

Where they can get, you know, manipulate in the process, but it's still there. Right. And so the athlete had for a long time, been marketed, been informed, right. That you don't own your own business, you know, you know what I mean? That you're not capable. Of saving your money.

Yeah. So it brings up an interesting question then, which is, let's say it, maybe trust is the foundation for any relationship you would have, and for anyone you'd be willing to work with or trust with your money, but how, how what's your system or code, like, take it a step further to go beyond trust and also determine like, who are the smart people I'm working with with, with what you just said in mind.

Yeah. So, where there's dark, there is light. And I think, MBA taught us that, you know, these people sitting on the floor are not just sitting on the floor because you know what I mean? They they're fans, you know, that these people are, you know, huge entrepreneurs and business people.

And I think that, for me, it was just really like looking at the ecosystem, looking at UCLA, looking at, friends and family  and saying, What did you do? What are you doing? How are you making money? So, you know, asking questions, listening a lot, and then understanding that this is a space that I want to be in.

I'm going to invest in myself. I'm willing to invest in the things that I know that I can be responsible for helping. But I will only invest in this. If this can pass me up. So if you're like way smarter than me, if you have a business as way better than the idea that I had, you know what I mean?

It makes so much more sense. For me to, you know, his, his prop wagon to your stage coats, you know what I mean? And follow suit. But if I need to leave in order to get you to a place where you can pass me up, then that's even better for me because I can become a champion. And that's what happened with vitamin water, right?

It was, you know, I signed this max deal with the team. I was going to be my own agent. So I did. It was like I had the money, you know what I mean? And so now I can actually like do things differently and take chances where every athlete, it was like shoe deal, beverage deal camps. Foundations. And then little things like, a member of the STEM shoes are marketing, Spalding cards, things like that.

And so when the, when my beverage deal came up, you know, like once again, like, now I'm an Allstar, but I'm still low on the totem pole. You know what I mean? And like Paul and behind Ben. So I'm behind T T-Mac. I mean, hi Ray Allen. I'm behind a sit. You name it. Allen Iverson, you know, it was a lot of guys, Jason Kidd in the Eastern conference. And so I'm still trying to fight to build a name for myself. And so in the vitamin, when the vitamin water vitamin water came about, for me asking questions and I had a marketing deal is Sprite. My guy was a Sprite, but he was like, yo, let's get your deal done.

He was like, , and then two weeks later he was like, you know, I may be leaving, taking this new job. And I was like, where are you going, dude? Like, you know what I mean? Like, don't leave dog. I don't really have no agent. I didn't want to tell you that. And so when he told me, when he told me he was leaving, I was like, yo, where I, like, I told him, like, you know, I'm, you know, I'm doing my own thing.

I'm gonna do my own agency. Right. And so he was like, yo, I'm going to this company, but you know, you're going to get your scribed deal. And I was like, well, what is it? And he was like, vitamin water. I was like, Oh my homeboy drank that down as, Oh, he drink it's in the hotel at the w you know what I mean? It was in the little mini bar that was like, probably like the only place you can find it.

You couldn't really, he used to go to like different bodegas when we work out at UCLA, 

And what a name to vitamin

Yeah. And I was like, damn God. Like, I know that's going to work. I was like, I'm on end. And so he was like, we don't have a lot of money to pay when I was like, I don't care. I'm making enough money. You know what I mean?

Like let's figure out a way to do something. Cool.

And besides besides just that, I mean, you've invested in, I mean, vitamin water obviously is where you started, but you've done a ton of interesting things in consumer products, whether it's Quip and Lisa or key to super coffee, which I drink pretty much every day. And then now I love that, man. And then now you've got consumer mobile and social apps, like tune star over time.

And we'll talk about sleeper in a minute or two. What categories of investments do you look for and how do you decide that a certain category? Not just the company itself, but like, this is a category that you want to lean in on.

I started, I started to look at myself as, an institution. And it's like, what, what things, how sustain history and modern times that's institution colleges. Right. and Disney, of course. and so when you start studying, like, you know, a lot of the big. Companies, their institutions, CAA is an institution.

Disney is an institution. Universal is an institution. UCLA is an institution. And so for me, it was like, okay, what are my core foundations of my institution? Sports, particularly basketball. And so how do you institutionalize. Sports and basketball. Okay. Technology. How do I get in technology? Oh, basketball, scorekeeper stats, things like that.

Oh, medicine. How would I get into medicine training? Things like that. Health wellness. Right. So when I start to look at. You know, sports as an institution, you can say, okay, sports touches, technology, sports touches, medicine, sports obviously has a lot to do with fitness and training and, wellness, sports touches entertainment.

when you look at a are just envisioning. You know the game. And so I'm like, all right, dude, I know what everybody does. Cause I'm just friends with everybody, the camera due to the score down Siri to the stat person. Like I know everybody. And so how do you build, like, what are the different touch points right?

That I can institutionalize. My ideas. , from that point, you know, when you're building a college, your professors are experts, right? So if I invest in experts right, then I know that what it's going to give me the information that I need to be able to make better assessments and be a better judge of talent.

I am a really good judge of people and talent. Right. And I'm a really good understanding of. where people need to go and where they need to connect through listening. And so I think from that point, that's kind of like how we've built, our institution and then looking at that and saying, all right, now, how do we populate that?

Let's populate that with the right people, the right community, the right minds. just like a college, you know, you have incubation and every time that incubation and every time that class graduates. Right. They're going to go on and do great things, right.

Because of, What we're able to bring as a community, right? Shared values, right? Share resources, And so every year that there's a class like we went, so we want to graduate. We want to graduate honors entrepreneurs. We want to graduate athletes, want to graduate students. And if you build that, The great people will find you and you will be, you will be a lot more, in a humble state of mind to understand that, Oh, this is good for you. This is great for me. Right. But this is also even better for the people at my institution. 

You really keyed into your position as an athlete and a celebrity to unlock access to opportunities and unlock. Access to different people and founders, and then other experts. Tell us a little bit about how that, idea of access works with, , sports, lifestyle and culture with slick, that you're starting up.

Yeah, so slick sports lifestyling culture. Our aim was to build, digital studio. , that would allow us to partner with talent, collaborate with talent and brands and tell authentic stories. And so when we start thinking about, community, the community doesn't have the platforms to tell their side of the story when you watch the last dance, you know, as great as it is when you watch Dennis, Rodman's 30 for 30, as great as it is.

Those are reporters talking to you. I did not play, you know what I mean? They were there, you know, they have a great role and a great responsibility because they were there taking the stats and, you know, telling the story. But you know what lights the fire is when the BJ Armstrong's top. Even bill Weddington, you know what I mean?

Because that's a firsthand perspective. And so what we wanted to do with slick was build a platform where it was an insider's platform. So insider storytelling for the insiders, right. And for us, it allowed us to treat athletes as production companies. Right. And not as talent. So great idea. We say, yes, we format it.

And then we present that with this athlete to their audience, our audience. And it gives us a great way to, continue to look at comedy entertainment, you know, lifestyle culture, and start to develop shows with athletes that they get to produce, they get to own. Right. And then we, as a network, as a brand, we're really focused on, you know, building recipes for.

Brands other platforms, right. that we ultimately could, you know, have ownership in what we watch and what we

So it's taking this idea of players' Tribune, maybe an expanding it out. Right? Cause I think players Tribune started with this idea of telling the story. And you're now saying, don't just tell the story, but, but own it. How do you find yourself fitting into this broader landscape of this athlete?

Storytelling?

Yeah, I would say, you know, and shout out to players' Tribune for being one of the few first companies to go first. you know, I thought what they were trying to accomplish from a publishing standpoint. You know, firsthand articles was cool. you know, for, for us, I think we're just a lot more nimble and mobile and can have, and we have the same access, you know, it's coming from us, you know, when Nick van Exel writes an article is coming from Nick Mehta axle.

And you know, for us, it's really to. Not give you a one off, but give you things that are snackable, that you can digest, that you can become a fan of and a participant of. Right. And so, looking at the uninterrupted, the players tribunes, you know, platforms like that, that have kind of come before us Bleacher.

What we decided to do was to be content first. and so our, Money right. Are hard, earn, you know, sweat and things like that is really in partnership with the key collaborators. And so a lot of times, just to the other side, outside of basketball was like a lot of people saying, no.

And me trying to prove myself that, Hey, I want a TV show. I want to do something that's funny. Right. And I think a part of that was me wanting to step away and do a lot of things creatively from a, from a content standpoint, because people are just like, no, you don't have 30 million followers.

You're not LeBron. And it was like, dude, I just made like four or five movies. You know what I mean? It's like, but you need. You know, and then I had my agent one time telling me like, yo, you need to go out and be famous. And I was like, what the hell does that matter? If you know what I mean? You have nothing to give people.

Right. Do you want me to be famous and be in a shitty movie? Or can, Can we start to create the things that we want to create and have people come to, you know, our side of the story and then Kobe wins an Oscar, For his, cartoon, his animation. And it was just like, all right, now the mold is starting to be broken, but like, where are the other Baron Davis's right.

where are the other athletes that have, that are multihyphenate that have, so much other things that they want to do, right. That will make them better players if they have the outlet and the access, to be able to just get that off their chest. 

Yeah. And so is that really the differentiator then versus like a player's Tribune or an uninterrupted, is that it's full creative ownership by the players? Because what I hear from guys a lot is like, Oh, well, that's LeBron's thing. That's Derek Jeters thing or it's like, you know, where's my upside or so how do you, how does this become something for guys that's Oh, well that's, how's it become more?

It's not just, Oh, that's Baron Davis's thing, but it really feels like it's their thing.

we say, you know, slick is insiders, in a place where legends get to live on. I think slate gives us the opportunity to. Do like it's the same institutional structure, right? Where it allows us to now incubate talent incubator content format, content, right. And then move that up the chain. Right. And so there's a huge middle ground. And what you see on, in, MTV, ESPN, you know what I mean?

And then what you see on Bleacher. Uninterrupted players should be in. And it's like, alright, then YouTube is somewhere here. Netflix is over here, who, you know? And so it's like, where is our platform for us? where's the platform for the athletes who played high school, basketball who play college basketball, who went on to other things, but still want to that experience.

You know what I mean, experienced great college stories. Like there's just not enough content. And there's so many more great stories. Where's the George Gervin documentary. Where's the Reggie Miller documentary. Now that people are starting to see, these characters in Barkley and people like that in the last day.

So I'm like, Oh shit, they can play. And it's like, dude, imagine like how good will it was? And Kareem and Earl, the Pearl Monroe and pistol Pete. And so, you know, it gives us the opportunity to give the platform to the culture. and other athletes say, Hey, man, I want to tag that dude and do his documentary.

And for us, I think what sets us apart is we actually operate like the television network. So we format it to where Our budget is all going towards production. And so that alone gives us, A great opportunity for profitability, right? Instead of having you know, we don't want a huge payroll.

I'd rather have a hundred producers that we have projects with and they're just turning them into the factory and we're actually giving them an opportunity to show up.

That's the entrepreneur's mentality. Right? How do you do a lot with a little, and I've seen, I mean, again, just reading about how.  you've been on the other side of the ball as an investor now as an entrepreneur, but also as an investor, I read that there was an interesting story about how you got into sleeper, which, you know, recently just raised a pretty big round from Andreessen.

So give us, give us, give us a quick hit on that. So how did you fight your way into that deal?

shout out to now. I'm like, Oh, I have to. Let me tell you this story. But a good buddy of mine. Zach made mama a advisor to slick guy that I call invested in, Irby rides, which is micro transportation and cargo for 'em. They did just did a big deal with Amazon. So there'll be like people on scooters delivering your stuff.

So Zach, he, we were talking about fantasy football. He has like bill phobia, right. If he doesn't do some type of deal or look at a deal a day, he freaks out. And so like, we're like, we basically, it just like once a week, just like trade, you know, five or 10 companies to look at and sleeper came about and I was like, good.

I'm in. And he was like, , I think they close around. I was like, dude, I don't care what they did. I need to call him. And he was like, Aw, man, I'm trying to go through my people. And everyday I was like, dude, call, call him, call him. And so luckily we were able to squeeze into the first round, you know, right before they close.

And it was all because We had used the app for our fantasy. And for me, I was the, the owner or the manager of the fantasy league for the first time in my life.

 

Technical dummy. You know what I mean? You would never want me organizing anything, especially a day of fantasy football league, let alone go pool anything. And I was actually like, yo, I had to, and I was mad. I was the manager and I was like, yo, this is built for like me. I'm a technical fantasy dummy. You know what I mean?

And I was having the best time and I. And so when I, when we approach a sleeper, you know, I gave him my pitch and I was like, yo man, my mama couldn't use this. You know what I mean? My sister could use this and it's actually a better way to like, chat and have people that don't understand.

You know what I mean? It's like, it's almost like a relationship app, right. if. You wonder why your boyfriend plays call of duty and Madden all the time and freaks out on fantasy, joined the league. You know what I mean? And like you can say why you get a better understanding, you can communicate with them, right?

It's the best way to communicate, do a tray with your boyfriend. And you know what I mean? Like opera, him and shade.

We do have one question from a listener and mutual friend, , Zach Wiener, the co founder and president of overtime, which we're both invested in. He wants to know which founder that you would. Work with has the best three point shot.

The founder that I work with has the best three point shot

this is coming from Zach at overtime.

was that guy, that guy again? Zach is like the Steve Carr of celebrity basketball games. He gets buckets.

This might be a little bit off topic, but I gotta ask, cause I heard this story somewhere that you camped out to try to get Michael Jordan's autograph. And those of us that have watched the last dance know how tough he is about doing that. So. My question is, did you get the autograph?

No, It was during the all star game. I was hanging out in his locker, while everybody was warming up, I was like, man, I got to see what it feels like to be Michael Jordan. And when he walked in and I was like, ah, like fumbling, like, you know, , I just came to, you know, see if I can get autograph.

And he was like, no. And I was like, can I get your shoes? He was like, no. And I was like, can I get your resume? He was like, no, would you leave me alone? And I was like, no, hell no, dude, do you know who you are? Yeah, Michael Jordan, dude, I'm never gonna leave you alone. Like I'm going to sit next to you watch.

Oh, why is it during the all star game? I basically annoyed Michael Jordan into basically being my friend. I would say.

You know what that's, that's the kind of hustle that we as investors love to see from our entrepreneurs. Right. It's like, you know what they can say no. Right.

I love my country. Let me tell you, I only laugh with Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is a great person. We laugh and joke. I had it, like, I didn't know. That he was like, until I, like I didn't see that side, you know what I mean? Because like more than I think that he was older, but I didn't see that side, you know what I mean?

And, and maybe if I play with him, I probably wouldn't even seen that side of them anyway, because that, that is kind of like the mentality that, you know, someone like me would have fed off of it. I only further understand what makes them great and why he thinks like that.

And I think for me, it was like, I understood that in a weird sort of way, now more than ever, but like, I guess my comedic timing was, I was on that day, dude, just like a good convenience. You know what I mean? He looked at me differently. He looked at me differently.

You've always, you've always been ahead of your time, whether it was the vitamin water deal or getting into investing as an athlete before that became the popular thing to do. but given all that success, what advice would you give your younger self on how to approach the transition from athlete to investor and entrepreneur?

Find the right mentors, finding the right mentors. Take the time, invest in yourself. As much as it costs for business school, you should pay for that in your learning responsibilities. I usually tell young guys that are athletes, that have money and disposable money, you know, take 10, $25,000 and like make a play, give yourself three years.

And. Take that opportunity and say, yo, I paid $25,000 for business school in real estate. Right. I paid $25,000 in business school for tech engineering. You know what I mean? Because as an athlete, you experienced things more hands on and so it's okay to pay your way. And if you're going to take advantage right.

Of. That opportunity. And so not only is it an opportunity for you to learn, but at the opportunity, if that company is successful for you to be, to see what your money would do you know what I mean?

Yeah, no, that's right. And it's one of those things of like, You know, failure is sometimes the best teacher. And as, as somebody who like, you know, look, I've made investments early on in my career, the lessons that you learned, where you were so sure this thing is going to be the next big thing. And it goes under the humbling that you have to do for yourself to say, Hey man, I don't have all the answers and now I gotta go and figure out how to get better.

So I love the idea of having those mentors. Because, you know, you gotta, you gotta lean on the gray hairs right there. There's that experience for, for a reason. So listen, we appreciate you sharing that. look, I think that you've got this mentality. You you're already, you're already the OG man.

You're already the guy that other guys look to, but the fact that even all these years in you keep this mentality, you keep this energy about you. we're super excited about

Okay, me too, man. I'm just, you know, I'm excited about building our own LinkedIn, Building our own infrastructure where, It's a call center, right. I just feel like we need to build that institution and build that, you know, that safety ground, right.

That is like, yo, no matter what, if I do this and I'm here, I'll never go broke. Right. I will only accumulate money and resources and having an opportunity to be my best. Next person, you know what I mean? And so I think that's where, you know, I'm focused on, I thank you for the opportunity. I thank you guys for the opportunity, you know, any, any chance to like, just to speak to people, to rally them and, and like, get us all in this mentality.

You know what I mean? Cause even in COVID it's like we cannot depend on, you know, a lot of the leadership that we have now. I think if we, pay attention to the last 10, 15 years, you know, our leadership has kind of like led without purpose. And now, like, it's showing that your money, is not even purposeful when it's something that can't be solved, you know what I mean?

So, where are we as the next generation going to pick up the Slack, right. And be able to pivot this world and pivot the opportunity that we have as people, right. To make this a better place where we can all live. Right.

That's a powerful statement. I think that's a great way to wrap it up. Ben, we really appreciate your time and thanks for joining the game plan.

Appreciate it. Thanks. This is enough.

Thank you.  So at the end of every episode, Tim and I do, we call our weekly partner meetings. Which is an opportunity for us to talk about the athlete and business that you just heard about and share some of our perspectives on the challenges that they might face.

We borrowed this term from the partner meetings that we have at our respective firms when evaluating investments. So Tim, we really got into it with Darren Davis. Huh? What was one of your biggest takeaways?

yeah, so much to unpack, but one of the things I really liked. In terms of the way he said it was how sports is a platform for so many different things. Right. So he talked about, okay, well I want to invest in or get involved in sports. I can do that because obviously that's what basketball is. But if I'm thinking about something in the medical field, I can look at that because we have these training experts that I can interact with or there's.

People sitting in court side seats that aren't just fans, but they've accomplished a lot to be able to afford those seats. So they're experts that I can tap into in other ways as well. And quite frankly, for me as an investor who has been tied to sports, media and entertainment, that's how I've always looked at.

It is sports is just an entry point to so many different things. And it's just a lens to look at different things as well. And so I actually get less excited about the companies and the opportunities out there that are like. Super sports specific, , creating a better patch for monitoring sweat, or, you know, not like it's a knock on any specific company, but just, you know, that they're really nice stuff.

And I get more excited about what, what does sports show us as like a Petri dish or as a lab for how something is going to work for a broader audience or, or for a bigger market?

It's like those opportunities that are almost like one degree removed, right? It's like you use sports as that testing ground, as you said, but it's also, I think the reason we're seeing so many funds that started out as. Sports specific. I mean, not just you, right? I mean, we courtside, we mentioned on there, , Bruin sports.

I mean, there's all these different a team and, you know, team owner connected funds that all started as a sports fund and have now expanded out to lifestyle. And I think he made that point, right? Who is the influencer? Who is the person that makes culture, it's the celebrity and it's the athlete. And so when you think about a sports fund, really what it is, it's a influencer fund.

It's a celebrity fund, something that starts with real engagement and real sort of  endemic engagement with the athlete community or with the sports community. But then what it's really doing is picking up potential customers because these athletes drive the culture. And I think we've talked about them in the past before with, with some of our guests where it's, it's really like.

The value that they're bringing to these, these companies, the value they're bringing to the startups is their personal brand because they drive the culture

what's your belief, as it relates to athletes and celebrities investing, do you think that startups should provide them with options or warrants without any commitment of, of capital or that capital should always be tied to it?

I'm gonna actually go against what we know to have worked. So we know with Baron that his investment in vitamin water was a straight up equity deal for his engagement. Historically, what I have seen when athletes get involved and have no skin in the game is that the engagement is really, really hard to buy.

Right? No matter how much equity you're giving. Nine times out of 10, again, depending on the athlete, right? You're not actually getting the value back for the warrants that you're presenting and look, athletes are like human beings. Like anybody else, they see a company. If they see it's doing well, they want to be close to it.

They want to be engaged with it. If it's not doing well, they might pull back. They're like, you know what? It's not really that great for my brand, for me to be seen as super close to this company. I would say if you are a startup, having somebody come in as an angel investor, Is way more valuable than having them come in for some equity and warrants as an advisor.

And I say that even knowing that in the case of vitamin water worked out really well for the company and it worked out really well for Baron. I still think that skin in the game is such an important thing to have, even if you're not an athlete, having an advisor, if your advisor can come in and even put $10,000 into your company, that's a show of faith that, you know, literally you're not gonna be able to buy.

Yeah, well, and the vitamin water example is actually a good one because he gave up something in order to participate in that manner. So he gave up a deal with Sprite. In order that he could pursue the opportunity with vitamin water. And he went so far as to like intern there. I think he didn't mention that, but I, if I recall from some of the research I did before we talked to him, he like actually interned there and then they had actually even offered him potentially a cash deal as an endorser.

But he said, no, just take that. What you would pay me in cash. And let's put that into equity in the company. So in that sense, like it wasn't just straight up. Oh, Hey, Baron Davis. Here's equity in the company because we'd love to work with you. He was proactively reaching out to them. So kind of, I think I agree with you that the push should definitely be for the celebrity or influencer to have skin in the game, just because then all of the incentives are aligned properly and it keeps them attached to it.

But there are other ways to go about it, depending on just how the whole thing is approached. I think.

So Tim, I actually want to talk about the company itself. So beyond his involvement as an investor, he's also been building companies and we talked about it at the end that he's got just such a real passion for it.

But even, you know, looking at this landscape of players, Tribune, uninterrupted, and these athletes started, you know, athlete develop media brands. he's trying to build something that is differentiated. I'm curious for your take on it. Cause you've seen so many of these as investor. How does something like slick stand out in this market?

well, that was where my question was coming from. When I asked about. How does this look from a player's perspective? What are their incentives to participate? And I think I mentioned that, or the question that I had asked was around like, is it because they have full creative control or, you know, also understood like, w what's the payout structure look like?

Do they have full ownership of the content too? Because. Like I said, in my experience and talking to different guys, as they think about, do I want to work with non interrupted or a player's Tribune or the ringer, whatever is uninterrupted always been seen as LeBron's thing, our LeBron and Mavs thing. And player's Tribune was Derek Judas thinks so early on when players Tribune could give some warrants for guys to make big announcements or participate with them, it was all great.

But then. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie, the pie wasn't big enough for everyone to get in on it. So I think that's the challenge from like the differentiation standpoint. And then the second part of it, I think about which I'm curious to get your opinion on is. How does this really look like a venture opportunity?

And does it even have to look like a venture opportunity? Because if it's more of like a production house or studio, that's not necessarily the typical kind of thing I would look to invest in because it doesn't necessarily have the growth opportunity or addressable market that a more integrated like media commerce type company might have.

Yeah, well, there is this Axiom with, with investors where it's like, don't invest in, you know, the gold miner invest in the pickaxes, right? So where I think this becomes a venture scale opportunity is if he is building this production company as the rails, as the white label service for any athlete that wants to come in and.

Tell their story around this brand. They're building, you know, our guests, Langston Galloway, if Langston wants to come and build a channel where he is the shoe guy, and he's talking about all his different things and he builds it on Baron Davis, his platform barren provides the production, the team, the distribution, the marketing, and obviously shares, you know, like a true production company would in some of the profits.

But all Langston cares about is. Getting his love of shoes out there creating his own show, creating his own reality TV show around the love of kicks. Okay. That tends to work out as a venture scale investment because every new show that you create, the marginal cost goes down. Right. And so from a cost structure standpoint then, and only then does it look like a venture scale business?

I think on the broader point, Tim, the reason I think we're seeing so many of these, , athlete driven media brands is because. It's not even just about these reporters that are telling our story. I know that's the way that Baron presented it. I think it's that everybody athletes, celebrities, human beings want to own their own distribution. If you have your own distribution, then you have a direct relationship with your fans. And if you have a direct relationship with your fans, then you can eventually monetize it in a way that doesn't feel cheap. Right? If you are a sponsor somewhere, If you are a brand ambassador, you know, in a weird way, like as, as customers, we have a good bullshit meter and we're just going to say like, okay, yeah, your, your heart's not really in it.

Like you're, you're pumping this thing, but your heart's not really in it, but if you own your own distribution and then you come in and say, Hey, buy this brand, I'm an investor. I'm a part of it. And you've had this audience, that's come with you for many years. That's what everybody's trying to do. And I think that's why Baron is forward.

Thinking is always coming in and saying, I'm going to own my own distribution and then I'm going to help all these other guys start to own their own distribution too. So that's where it starts to look like a really interesting investible opportunity

Yeah, I think that's right. And it's not just. They want to own their distribution, what they really like. They have the right to,

Oh yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, there's the want, but then there's the value. Yeah.

and so also I think as different players and celebrities start to dabble with that, there's also some learning that goes on to say, Oh, well, there's other things that are required of me. If I am going to own my distribution too, to your point about like being genuine or authentic with it, that, or just in terms of like time and.

Headspace that has to go into something. And so some people will pull back and say, Oh, actually, maybe there's like more of a turnkey solution for me out there where it's not fully owned, but that's okay. I, you know, I can work through it. So I think that's a great place to raft. Jay, is there anything else that you want to add to this partner meeting?

no, I think that's great, Tim. I mean, Barron's enthusiasm. His excitement is what we love to hear as investors. And he is an investor himself. I think brings that to every company that he puts his money in his name behind, but it is so exciting to hear that he is now taking that to the other side of the ball.

And starting this company himself and running it as a CEO. So we're excited to see where he goes from here. And I want to thank you for joining me in this partner meeting.

Thanks, Jay.