July 29, 2020

Dhani Jones — The Art of Storytelling in Entrepreneurship, Investing, Media and the NFL

Dhani Jones — The Art of Storytelling in Entrepreneurship, Investing, Media and the NFL

TV personality and NFL alum Dhani Jones joins The Game Plan to share his perspective on all things media, technology, and storytelling.

Dhani Jones played 11 years as a linebacker in the NFL, including time with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Cincinnati Bengals. During his NFL career, Dhani became the first active player to be featured on the NFL Network as an analyst. Dhani details those early days of the NFL Network where he did everything from interviewing players on the sideline of playoff games to helping pack up the cable truck after games.

In addition to his work as a football player and football analyst, our guest became a household name through his television work as the host of the Travel Channel's "Dhani Tackles the Globe" and CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists". Dhani shares the story of what it was like to work for two well-known companies in Cincinnati (the Cincinnati Bengals and Scripps Networks) at the same time, and how a run-in with Bengal's owner Mike Brown in the team cafeteria led Dhani to play some of the best football of his career.

Other topics included on this episode include how a Montessori education as a kid helped fuel Dhani's curiosity today, and how the desire to go out and do something is the most important attribute someone can have on their way to becoming an entrepreneur.

Today, Dhani is Chairman of QEY Capital, an investment group he founded with fellow University of Michigan alum and Goldman Sachs veteran Ebow Ivory Vroom.

You can follow Dhani Jones on Twitter and Instagram for all of his latest interests and activities off the field. Visit https://qeycapital.com/ to find out more about Dhani's approach to investing.

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*

The storytelling aspect, when you're looking at as a VC or whether you're looking from a television standpoint it's an art form,  but regardless of how you, how you do it, you got to think quick on your feet. 

If you can't be yourself, you can't tell a story. The ultimate storytellers, the ultimate actors are the method actors. They become. Who their character is, and that's how they can tell the story the best. And that's why they're so convincing. And so if you can find a way to become the Daniel Day Lewis of presenting to a VC, you can get any kind of money you want 

 what's up? Everybody's Donnie Jones, 11 year event, NFL athlete, investor media guy. This is the game plan.

 

Tim, our next guest is so much more than an athlete that I think the fairest way to describe him would be to call him what he is. A modern Renaissance man from the NFL entrepreneurship to his own TV shows the honey Joe's has been entertaining fans around the world for decades. I only hope that my intro can do them adequate justice.

The honey, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

 

  Boom. Yeah. It's Donnie Jones and this is my game plan. How about 

I

thank you for joining 

Let's just get right into 

Well, since we, since we were talking a little bit before and I love kind of rolling right into podcasts 

we were talking about competition, right. And we were talking about how do you live in a world of competition, but at the same time have respect. I think that's maybe another angle to look at. And we were talking about this sport that's played in Italy. 

One of my friends, Andrew fried did a TV show called the home game and it's one of the episodes and I. Had an opportunity, but we missed out to play this sport in Italy, but basically, you know, you take the ball and, and, and one of the players. Is responsible of just basically, you know, like a running back or a wide receiver, you know, they have the ball and they're either trying to score it by running down to the other side of the, the zone or they're able to toss it.

And if they get it into the net, then they get a point. If they don't get into the net, they lose a half a point. Okay. The only way you can get down there or the closer you get, obviously increases the probability to give you getting the ball into the net, or you actually get into the zone. Right. Okay. The only way you can get down there is because your frontline people are fighting and we were talking about fighting and I'm not talking about

Doesn't like NFL in the trenches,

No, this is not NFL. And the trenches in there about reps. No, we're not talking about risks. not talking about, Pereira up. We're not talking about like the competition committee, trying to figure out if you can cut somebody. No, you don't have any. you know, knives, you don't have any, you know, bats, you don't have any crowbars, you just have your body.

Okay. And so you can put someone I'm talking about, knock them out, right. You can kick someone, try to break their leg. How I compare this to business or how I'm trying to ask the question, in that game. If someone says, I can't breathe, you stop. There's a certain amount of respect. And so, as we're thinking about these different environments of which people try to communicate, and there's, there's some type of like privacy or charter house rules or inside baseball or, you know, friend da.

 like you wish in some way, shape or form that people will have that respect, but there's also this, this, this driver survival of the fittest 

there is still a notion of edge. I don't care what you say. There's still a notion of edge. Like, how am I going to beat you?

Where you try to use everything to your best ability to win. The challenge now becomes like, how are you a good person, right?

That competitive edge. in the same way as that sport, where you beat them to a pulp, but if they say that their heart you stop, like where does that competitive edge live and where does that respect live? I think. It's hard to kind of gauge in the world today, especially if we're looking at the world of business, because I want to, I want to win.

But at the same time, there are good people in this world. Like I love giving, I love giving away ideas. I love trying to find partners, but also know that there are people out there that are trying to take that are trying to. Give me the Heisman so that they can go and run the ball and they can win.

They'll leave me in the, dust. And I wonder, are there more people like that? Are there less people like that? And in the end, we're ultimately only celebrating the winners. Not necessarily we haven't got there.

Well, the, the rules are a little bit different, right? So, so talk it now in the context of like digital media, right back back when it was a hard to get a show done and you can speak to this, having. Pitched and put a show together, you know, now with digital media, anybody on Instagram, anybody on Twitter can start to create their own shows.

So there's a lower barrier to entry for what ideas

are 

Lower mean lower. There's no barrier to entry. If you want to do something stupid, somebody else will film it for you. You don't even have to have any type of device. They have an incentive recording feature for all intents and purposes. You can use a closed caption TV. You could use a security cam was by the way.

That's a good idea. You basically create all your content via security cam, anything you just

That was cops right back when cops was, was the biggest show in America. That's all I 

was 

time, which I'm happy that they, they, they finally canceled. Yeah,

Yeah. How does that change? How you think about content today? When you again now have seen it in one era where you were pitching the linear TV with the travel channel. I want to hear all about sort of what that process of getting a show made is, but then today, as you think about how content is different and you being a storyteller, how does that change your mindset of like, is it harder?

Is it easier? Like, what is that now?

That is such a complicated question with so many levels to unpack. And some of which I honestly don't know. I will say, I will say this. it is extremely easy to create whatever we call TV. MTV is. And will always be some type of content that another person watches. It doesn't matter where it is, right.

It could be on your screen, in your office or in your living room or on your phone, or it could be on your computer. Whether we call it digital, whether we call it linear, where we call it traditional, whether we call it new market, there's a lot of things you can call it. it's you can create it. People will always give you feedback on as if it's, it all comes down to if it's, if it's good.

And when I was creating. Tell her. I remember my first show that I did was with the NFL network back in 2003. And this is when the NFL network was first starting off. That was my first real shot. I mean, I did some different shows with, Oh, by the way, Jay Glazer, before, you know, he basically blew up on flats.

I'm talking about, this was like with ms. MSG TV or New York. I can't remember it was MSU TV or a New York one. Right? This is back in 

New York. And. Back in my giants days. Right. And so I got an opportunity to do the NFL network and we had a camera and we had align all the way back to the truck. I mean, I had to carry the line all the way back to the truck.

I had to pull it all out onto the field. You know, you're dragging things around. I mean, the world of television was so much different back then because you were still attached to something. Right. And then as I kind of progressed and I had the. NFL network. I got an opportunity to do an ESPN show was ESPN too.

It's called timeless. And that show I did the intros, middles and raps, and it was around obscure sports stories and it lived right after Bassmasters. So I doubt you saw it. I watched it all the time cause I loved it. And maybe I the rating soon, because that's the reason why I didn't last that long. Cause maybe I was the only one watching,  

you know what I think ESPN T would probably take the ratings they got from that show however many years ago for what they put out there. Now, I think they'd be happy to have it.

We can either we can either watch timeless or we could watch Cornell. I think Cornell is on

ESPN. I can't believe as a professional sport. It's like this backyard game and basically a bag and you throw it into a hole, whatever, what is it? 30 yards or 20 yards, whatever the distance is. I mean, I, my mind is blonde.

Your question is irrelevant is a very relevant one. One is sort of, how do I see the evolution of TV too? You know, how do I look at how people are pitching three in terms of the talent? I think it's still in the midst of this change. And I, like I said, I can go through all the different shows that I've been a part of.

The experience, I think those large and part the same, because ultimately everybody, regardless if you're on tick tock, Instagram, whether you're on Facebook or on Instagram live, or whether you're in, you know, some type of other. Content, you still want to get to the Holy grail with which is TV. Right?

Everybody still wants to get to TV, but everybody still wants to get, get the brand to give them the money so that they can really get into a sustainable place where they're not running around. Just trying to create some, some content. Like I just saw one of my, one of my friends, spice Adams, and he does some of the best videos I've ever seen in my life.

Right. I don't know. I don't know all the names of all the characters. But, you know, if you haven't watched it, check him out and he's doing an ad for Nerf crossing, crossing over now that's another layer to unpack, crossing over. What does that actually mean? Does that mean that you get out of just sort of self creation into sort of commercialization?

 

that's certainly always been the case with media, but would you agree that it's harder than ever to keep someone's attention? Like spice has perfect example. He's been so successful because he's making clips mostly, right. He's making anywhere from two to three minute videos that are easy to digest in your feed versus like going out and.

Being part of a TV show, like you've done many times, like The ability for those shows that capture someone's attention and keep it for the whole 30 minutes is less and less the case, especially in an unscripted series. If it's not reality TV,

Yeah. maybe it's it's the time, maybe it's the, to your point, the attention span of, of people. But, you know, if you look at, I will, I'll throw out three shows right now and everybody will say, I love that show. I'll watch it. And I'll binge watch it. Billions. Okay. Peaky, blinders. Okay. Westworld, right?

So, you know, game of Thrones, you know, good show, right. And you could also attribute it in very similar world way to the VC world. You know, you're going to have, you know, 10 companies that fail in one company. That's the, that's the success that makes the return on the whole entire thing. And I think that.

Like I said, I'm not sitting here as a head of a major network, but they're all thinking about the same way. How can you find that hit show that Seinfeld show that Kirby enthusiasm show that office show that basically cares the entire network regardless of where it lives. and in this world today, You will look through all the different platforms.

I mean, how hard has, has it gotten to be for someone that's sitting in a room trying to make a decision on the show? How hard is it going to be to be able to look through all the different platforms that are out there to be able to determine which one is actually going to live the best on your platform to attract the most on your platform and to retain the most amount of people on your platform.

so, so that you can keep the lights on. Right. So, I mean, look, if they brought tackles the glove back right now, we'd be crushing it.

That's

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and it's, it is an interesting parallel you're drawing between media creation and venture capital, because they are both in your words, like hits driven businesses, right. You sort of have to have that one that covers for the losses of the other. I think the other. Parallel between the two is this idea of whether you are a founder that is pitching your company, or you are a creative, that's pitching a show.

There is a level of expertise in storytelling that you have to have. And I know this is something that's like a bit of a passion topic for you. So let's, let's start there a little bit, cause I'd love your thoughts on it. What is good storytelling and why? Like what makes it a good story when you are pitching either as a founder or as a creative.

Well, let me say this. When it comes to storytelling, part of the story in real time comes at the ability to read the room. I don't think a lot of people really take that into consideration and just sort of just looking at the times that we live in now, even looking at stuff on. Right now on a zoom, right?

 but, but you're right. The storytelling aspect, when you're looking at as a VC or whether you're looking from a television standpoint, it's an art form, right. And it's something that I've lived my entire life and maybe I have my Montessori education to thank because it fundamentally gave me the opportunity and the ability to ask questions.

And you know, whether you come into a situation. And you're on the offensive, trying to draw as much information as possible in order to kind of present your energy or whether you're on the defensive listening so that you can repeat everything back to someone while interweaving sort of the narrative of whatever you're trying to present.

Those are two different ways, but regardless of how you, how you do it, you got to think quick on your feet. You know, you ha you have to be malleable. And one of the challenges that I feel as though some people deal with now, because there's sort of the, everybody's scared of saying the wrong thing is living a rigid.

Life where you don't have the flexibility and malleability to evolve to whoever is in the room and or to ultimately be yourself. And they talk about this all the time on clubhouse. They talk about this all the time and Twitter and Instagram, like, how do you be your, how can you be yourself? If you can't be yourself, you can't tell a story. The ultimate storytellers, the ultimate actors are the method actors. They become. Who their character is, and that's how they can tell the story the best. And that's why they're so convincing. And so if you can find a way to become the Daniel Day Lewis of presenting to a VC, you can get any kind of money you want 

because it makes it so believable. and I think it's, it's hard for people to do that nowadays because there's so much restricting and preventing you from, if you know, for sort of. Being who you are. Right. And, and, and for me, that's been a part of whether it's tackles of globe or has been a part of adventure capitalists, or whether that's a part of the Jones and Moseley show, or that's a part of my CNN show, or just being a man on the street, you know, meeting people where they are.

I I've just sort of lived that way and I, and I love it.

When you look back at all the different content you've produced shows, you've hosted even going back to those early days on NFL network, which is funny right before you came on. I was saying to Jay I'm, like, I'm pretty sure he was like the first active athlete, you know, on NFL, not only on 

NFL network, but really in any,

any, any 

Tim, Tim, let me tell you something. I was the first active player to be on the field interviewing players. During a playoff of which I was not in on NFL network. I was the first one. Right. And then you can talk about ESPN. Yes. I was the first player, probably one of the first players to have his own show. Right. So, 

Kim, yeah. Thank you. Thank you for 

Well, and it's funny, cause now we have like the NBA bubble and the only people covering it are active players through their social media accounts and whatnot, but

Oh, wait, wait, which by the way, which, by the way, You know, I retired from football in 2011 and it's almost 2021. I was 10 years later, 10 years ago, it was frowned upon Okay. It wasn't what you were supposed to be focused on. And now the teams, the leagues, the networks, the people, they need the content, they thrive off the content.

They want to see, you know, what we see what we experience. Right. They want that. Right. Because that's the real, real, right. That's like the real part, the real part of the game. 

Well, almost 10 years removed. I'll pivot a little bit to what you just said almost 10 years removed from the league. Now, in which situation did you feel the most pinched as it related to the stuff you were doing off the field, where a team or a coach really put the pressure on you to, or made you, you know, tried to make you feel guilty about that tougher, even maybe straight out said, Hey, you can't do that anymore.

That was all the time. Come on. You live in a world where you're trying to push the bubble, you're trying to push the envelope. And so you naturally get resistance, right?

So you naturally sit in a pinched environment.  And so going back, Tim, to your. Question about pitch. You know, when I was on the giants, you know, obviously you're, I'm a rookie and I got hurt.

I'm hanging out with straight hands, straight hands, like, say, please, thank you and shake people's hands and be nice to people. And I start meeting people. I'm a Montessori person. So I started talking to people and I started spending time with people. And then it becomes like the running joke. Don is burning the candle at both ends.

And I. I made the most of a 24 hour day.  I was on my razor scooter. Right. I should've came up. I should've came up with Bird and lime and, and bolt and all these other companies, I should have came up with that back in 2000, because I was doing that in New York city. .

 I should have been doing, I should came up with that business. but that became like the running joke and then the field. And then I focused on my game. I made the plays and at the same time, then I was doing stuff as a symbol for Jake Glazer.

And then all of a sudden the NFL network came up and I wanted to do that too. And then the questions start. Flirting about right. They become these little bubbles drawn around the character. Sure. Of Donnie's face, which I imagine. In the world of sports or in any type of way where you're managing your inventory, are you managing your, your employee base?

What are they doing? What are they talking about? How are they focused on the game? Are they actually paying attention to the game? Why did they miss that tackle? Was it because they were out that last night? It wasn't because they weren't focused on what they were supposed to be focused on. Some of those bubbles started proliferating out into the universe.

Is he actually focused? Right. So you kind of feel that it's 

Yeah. 

one, it's not two, it's just sort of. The environment. And so that continues into, or it he's a heavy role in how do you get your next contract?  You know, that plays into that negotiation as well. Right. And I remember my agents specifically saying to me, you know, you might want to adjust. You know, you're a voicemail because I even had like a creative voicemail. You might want to adjust the voicemail so that it can fit a little bit more mainstream and businesslike because then when people know or listen to you, when you're thinking about the game of football, they know that you're only focused on that and don't have sort of that creative audience around you.

I can give you a myriad of stuff, stories where I've been pinched. But I can also tell you that when I got to the society bangles and not saying I didn't have a good experience with the giants or I didn't learn some amazing lessons and love going to the super bowl with the Eagles and, you know, and, and just love playing for the teams.

But I remember when I was on, the Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Brown. Okay. He's the owner of the team. Okay. Mike Brown comes downstairs. And eats lunch with us and he's in line and he taps me on the shoulder. And mind you, this was after my first year or my sort of my player, minimum contract, kind of like a cam Newton contract that he's getting to new England.

I got into got my, my one year deal at Cincinnati. And I was doing Tawny tackles globe and at the same time playing football. And I didn't really talk about it because I had had that previous six years of experience in terms of like how people are looking at it. And I figure like, I will necessarily talk about it if they see it fine and they bring it up great.

But I'm not going to really bring it up. Cause I just want to really focus. Right. Trying to understand this game. This is my game plan. Right. So. Mike Brown taps me on the shoulder, in the lunch room and he just says this and it just crystallized the reason why I was supposed to be in Cincinnati. he said, my wife makes me watch your TV show. Every Monday night, my mind 

was blown. 

Mine was blown. this kind of bringing everything full circle and being who you are and how that really starts to show, or, or that allows you to tell the true story that also allows you to function at your best self.

Right. So going back to the pitch in the room, or whether it's a company or a pitch to a network or a show, and really being able to be who you are, I wasn't able to be who I was until I really got to Cincinnati. And when I got to Cincinnati and Mike Brown came out and told me that was it, basically, it was okay.

So do my show without saying it was okay. Right. And I was a captain on the team and I knew it in my mind. I had to take responsibility. Like if I got hurt all season, there would be no season. Like that was on me. Right. Once I was able to take ownership over that, I was the leading tackler on the team. I was a captain three years in a row.

And I just went out there and played, and I really kind of reached that next level. and I think that everybody is trying to try and trying to find a space or a time or a place to be able to do that. And going back to the content piece, I think we're still in the, in the time where we're flirting with what is actual content we're flirting with, who people are really are, and we're flirting with.

How do we really consume this content? And where does it essentially live? And those that are picking and choosing and green-lighting and red lighting, which by the way, that show Hollywood is ridiculous. Okay. That's a beautiful show, right? Those that are in the room, I think they too don't necessarily know and we'll see over a, you know, within our, our lifetime.

Things start to consolidate or, or, or start to 

become a little bit, you know, for lack of better terms, linear, 

Yeah. Yeah. Well, that, that example you've shared, isn't just in the NFL. We had Trevor Booker who retired this year, played the NBA for many years, said that when he was signing with the nets, his agent called him and said, the team has questions about all these, you know, venture investments and private equity investments.

You're doing off the court. And they're worried that it's pulling your attention. And he was like, come on, man. Like, you know, and Tim and I talk about this, like, okay, you don't ask those questions.

When Russell Wilson sells a company to Nike for 300 million, but you ask it when, you know, the guy coming off the bench is maybe doing something and you're looking for reasons. So, so I'm, I'm curious when you find yourself. And again, I know, you know, it was about a decade ago to the league is different.

Maybe it's changed now. But how did maybe it's not, but how do you find guys balancing that and are those conversations that are happening amongst players where you're like, Hey, I see you're doing real estate. I see you're doing this. Let's talk about it. Let's talk about more than, 

I  think it ultimately comes down to the person. can you balance your lifestyle, your outside interests with your abilities on the field? Right. Can you find the advocate on the team that lives upstairs in the front office to always bet on you? and can you convert. Right. and ultimately it comes down to, you know, it comes down to your performance.

Alright, LeBron's not going to have, you know, the, the a hundred million dollar contract from Disney first for spring Hill, had he not been or become LeBron through his hard work, right. Katie's not going to do the same type of thing. All these players, Steph, you know, that's basketball, right?

You're talking about Patrick modems or whether you're talking about Russell Wilson, they're not going to do it without having the success. Tom Brady, right? He's not going to have TB 12, had it not been for Bledsoe. Right. And then him being able to convert him being on the, on the right team at the right time with the right coach and the right management with their right supporting cast in the right environment.

And the right lifestyle, right? So there's so many other things that kinda come into it. And so I think it's a little bit a luck. I think it's a lot of timing and I think that it's, it's a, it's a rally of a community that really wants to support and see you be successful. 

And so it goes back, right? We can bring this full circle. it goes back to the people that will ultimately make the decision. And those people will in turn, allow you to capitalize on your opportunities, which would therefore allow you to capitalize on what you see are opportunities outside of the game that therefore,  add value.

To who you are and therefore add length and add time 

to your success,

Yeah. Yeah. 

man. That was lots of  You're making me think here.

I didn't, it made me, it made me think, Oh, okay.

I had a stretch. I stretch 

Regardless of a players, platform or how successful they are pretty much across the board. Any athlete that we've talked to, especially retired says, I wish I had done more while I was still an active player, but I think to your point could they have handled more?

Probably not. That's why they didn't do more nowadays. I think it's easier to start thinking about. What can I be doing off the quarter? I need to be doing something else. And you were one of the first guys to kind of introduce that as an active player. So that certainly helps. But here at the end of the day, you need to be able to perform on the field to continue to be relevant, to continue to get paid.

And now the opportunities, Jay and I have also talked about this, get really interesting because. generally speaking, professional athletes in more recent history have done a better job of managing their wealth and ensuring that they're protected for the long haul. It also helps that they're making a lot more money because the value of the leaks. Has gone up so much. So we're interested to see.

You know, are we about to turn a corner where guys have said, okay, I've made enough. I've I'm safe for me, from my family. Like, I'm good. Now, now actually I do want to get a little bit more aggressive or do some more interesting things and we could handle. Pick and cherry pick, we don't need to commentate on every single guy.

That's doing something interesting. But even guys who aren't all stars in the NBA for example, are getting max contracts. And so that, that opens up just from a pure amount of capital. 

They have, it opens up new opportunities. 

And so if they've they buried it in their mind to say, Hey, I got to take care of this.

Okay. Now I'm covered. What can I do now?  I'm, I'm blending a lot of topics now, but curious to get your perspective on that. 

yeah. let me, let me just touch on another subject and then we can kind of come back to it. I've always wondered. Why does an athlete have to stop making money after you play the calcium the conversation? Always sort of revolves around making enough while you're playing so that you can live comfortably that stereotypical narrow narrative, not saying that you're supporting or you're, thorning sort of the narrative you're saying in generally speaking, when people think about athletes, they say, okay, well you only have a short window of time in order to make money.

building off of that, if we made Dani, like how do you feel like athletes being taken seriously in something other than what they're doing? And this is, this is like a theme that, that Tim was touching on, which is like, you want to do all of these things. You have the ability to do all these things, but then there's that barrier of. Hey, like, can you be taken seriously doing

  But I, I think. The question, then there it goes, you know, to what you're alluding to Jay, is that the serious illness or how do you take an athlete or, or player? And I don't know if we've essentially removed the narrative of just an athlete from players in this world.

I don't know if we've necessarily done that And I know that a lot of people have tried to work through that. A lot of people have represented themselves outside of just being a player. I don't know if the society hasn't necessarily removed that care category. And frankly, I don't know if necessarily players want to be removed from that category too, because in order to get into the door, you have to have something.

That's different than the other person that's trying to get into the door. I'm trying to pitch my company. Or if I'm trying to pitch my, my show, how am I going to get to see you, Jay? It's not my neighbor that you're talking to on the game plan. Right. Tim, how am I going to find you? I have to come with something that's different, right?

So that there is something that is of great. yeah. People stand in awe to the notion of that app. so you like this world that we live in, where on the one side you don't necessarily want to be defined as the athlete on the other side, you say to yourself, well, I need that AF that, that athletic prowess in order to get myself to that other side, other side of the other side of the table.

Right.  

so it's a, it's a, I think. Maybe you're you're you're asking the question. Will we ever get past that? I don't know if we're going to get past it, and I don't know if players want to necessarily get past that because it's such a valuable, pin on your lapel that allows you, the opportunities that you have now.

I think the question is what do you do with those opportunities and how are you able to capitalize build. Develop create worth net worth family values, legacy. I I think that is where the conversation really should start to lean more towards, because then that is the most important piece that you're gonna leave.

Right. 

it's not necessarily how you're going to live, but it's really what you're going to leave. 

Yeah, I guess, no, it's, you're, you're giving us a lot to think about here too. So, as. We think about your entrepreneurial journey. Cause I also know that on that whole idea of storytelling, I mean, you sort of went into the business of storytelling, having started some creative agencies, even having gone and sold one through that process.

What was the most surprising thing for you in becoming an entrepreneur and maybe what were you least prepared for in that journey and how did you handle it?

 What was that surprised by. 

Yeah. Having, having never been an entrepreneur before you start something 

Yeah, but I didn't, I wasn't thinking about it like that. I wasn't thinking about like, I'm going to become an entrepreneur. I was just thinking about starting a business. I don't even think like the word entrepreneurship. I don't think the word entrepreneur was sort of like held in since revelry as, as we kind of see the faces of these unicorn companies and all of a sudden this word entrepreneur.

Becomes like, just as famous as the word, like humanity, but I think the thing that was most surprising, I think the thing that's most surprising is how it's not, it's not that difficult to start a company. You know, I think that the surprising part is it's really hard to get. Can you building a business? 

I don't think that's really surprising. I mean, if you have a couple of dollars and you, you spin up an LLC and you walk into a room and you convince someone to give you a chance, I think there's a lot of people willing to give you a chance, but when you really get to sort of this level of scalability, then that ultimately becomes the biggest challenge of them all.

because that's getting multiple people and multiple rooms to believe you. Multiple times over in order for you to build your company into a higher level of valuation. So therefore you can sell it at a multiple, but that's really, really hard because then it starts to be a limited amount of people that at the top ranks of the business that ultimately are determined the destiny, and then it comes down to.

What people have said for time, time, again, it's not, it's not amount of money you have. It's the out of relationships that you've been able to build along the way, the people that love and respect you and the people that want to work with you. And it's the people that have grown to know like, and trust you.

And it's the people that have wanted you to be successful just as much as you want to be successful. I think that is the hardest part of it. Is building that narrative that goes back to, are you more than just an athlete that goes back to, are you an entrepreneur? That's doing this for fun. Are you doing this entrepreneur?

That's really building a serious business. Then a lot of those other bubbles that I started talking about before start to creep into people's mind and then because it's human nature or even that much more now to be a little bit more conservative. And sometimes those opportunities really don't present themselves and you get stuck and then you have a business that's kind of floating around in the ether

and you can't ever get over the hump.

Is that, is that what happened with the agency business or 

well, no, I'm just saying, I'm just saying those are the types of things that are challenging in any sort of business environment. And, and, you know, you start to hit that plateau and, and there's more conversations about. You know, there's more conversations about companies that have failed and companies that are successful and less far less conversations about companies that have plateaued.

You know, our, our company proclamation, we were able to sell that VMG. Creative is still going very well. and. There have been businesses that I've invested in that have done really well. And some that have, have failed along the way, but everybody has that same narrative. But if you have that, that pin that I was talking about before then that all of a sudden X like a light, and then people like to highlight the ones that didn't do so well, they, you know, right, right.

So that plays into the stereotype to kind of reinforce that narrative that. Yeah. That's some people want to keep listening to, or they want to continually play in their CD shovel. 

So you bring up a great point about the stages, especially as it relates to venture capital, the pressure to scale. And you're an investor yourself, you've incubated other companies like action streamer, which is actually how we were introduced to you. I think another key point that you're touching on is just the importance of timing.

And I guess I'm curious from your perspective, You know, is the right timing, something you can plan for or something you kind of have to go into with your eyes closed. I mean, we were even just talking about how you scooted around New York city, 15 years ago. You could have, you could have invented lime or bird, but guess what?

That probably wasn't the right time for those companies. knows if even right now is the right time, right? We're still kind of seeing how those companies do. 

 

Tim, to answer your, question, timing is everything. Timing is everything. if you're early and you're right, you are still wrong. Boom. Right. Partners she's she said that so many times because you know, I am, I'm a dreamer, right.

And so many of us as entrepreneurs believe that we have the right idea.  I don't, I don't think timing is something you can plan for.

It's just something you have to do. You have to believe in it. it's unfortunate that not all, all those that are our first ever gets celebrated. It's oftentimes, as some of my friends have told me is those that are, that are last, are the ones that get the metal. Right. Right. Is Facebook the last, the last company of social networking?

I don't know. Right. Was it the first? Definitely not, but Zuckerberg is crushing it, right. He's doing just fine. You know, if you want to look at some of the earlier interviews, right? People are looking at Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook, and nobody thought it could be anything. And all of a sudden in LA it aligns perfectly Look at zoom and how well zoom is doing. Right. What happened to Skype? Okay. What happened to it? I don't, I don't know where to go. 

So even, I mean, you have to line things up to a perfect T  you brought up action streamer. I love access treatment. Okay. And it is, there's so many stories and narratives that are brought to the table by virtue of that company.

And it's timing. And it's so opportunity and what people want. I mean, it brings together the notion of storytelling, which is like, how do you see what other people see it brings together timing. Right. You know, I I've tried to launch this when the iPhone first came out. I couldn't get any money and failed several times.

It lived on the track of my mind  It did an ultra marathon in my, my ultimate marathon in my brain. And then all of a sudden I run into Chris McLendon and Chris McLendon is like, Hey, I think I can help you figure out how to compress all this information and throw it over the airwaves.

And because there's not enough bandwidth in these congested environments, we can make it pop up on people's screens and it can live in this new world of where people are sharing information. You know, and then boom, we were able to go out there and get money and boom, we're able to go out there and get contracts and then boom, we're out there talking to different companies and organizations.

And then all of a sudden, now we're in the middle of COVID and people are looking for amazing content. So you have to just go, tend to your question. You have to just do and believe. and as an entrepreneur, just like as a. Football player or as any athlete, which I believe are at, or are entrepreneurs from the get go, right?

Our parents are seed investors. You know, the college is like a series a and the hope is that you get to B and then you get your C round. Whoo. And then if you have the opportunity to get a DRAM, all mine. Gosh. you have to just work and you have to be able to get back up no matter how many times people knock you down and just go for it.

And that's the challenge of being an entrepreneur. And I think that there's another conversation out there where There are so many people that are. Willing to just follow. And those that are followers are not the entrepreneurs of the world. You know, the entrepreneurs of the world are the leaders and, and those that are leading have to be willing to go and walk in front of people, not knowing what is ahead and take the.

Chance of the next step, not knowing if there is stable footing.

And so those that are following are always going to tell the stories good, bad, or ugly. They're always going to wonder why can't they? And so there's always going to be this thing in the back of their mind, that's going to create this narrative of, you know, I should be the one doing that.

Well, then get out there and do it. There is this, this entrepreneurial, mental fortitude that you must have in order to continue, whether you're that athlete, that someone is wondering whether you're focused or not, you still have to go out there and score 45.

You still have to go out there and get 15 tackles in two, two and a half sex and a picks six. Right. And that's, that's why, you know, The two of you love what you do, because you were out there doing something that was different than other people taking the chance. And even though, maybe at the very beginning, you were calling people, they weren't calling you back and you're like, okay, fine.  

Well, as, as

a man, as a matter of fact, I think, I think I had somebody reach out to you when we first got started. And so, you know,

no, but I mean, but the thing about it is like, Stuff like that happens. Right. And, and, and, and as honored, you just, you turn it off. You're like, look, it's going to happen when it's going to happen. And so Tim's going back to your point. You can't worry about timing. You just gotta go and you let things happen.

 People are going to meet you, you know, where you are and now comes, comes back to this whole thing, right? The very beginning of our conversation about this competition, Are you going to let them, are you gonna, going to go to battle with them or are you going to go to battle against them?

Woo. That 

you're you're in it, man. You're in it. 

I think, I think so. Someone's gonna write to me, someone's gonna write to me like the honey that wasn't that deep 

You know what  if it sounds not that deep, I'll edit it out. I'll tell you this Donnie. Now what? Four or five months into the show? The best advice was probably actually from one of our first episodes, Ellis whims who played defense on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He said one of the best things about playing in the NFL.

That's taught him now as an entrepreneur, there's always the next play. You get something wrong, you get beat, you know, you weren't in position where you were supposed to be. Okay, come on next, play, move on. And that's the thing that when we talk about this idea of like taking rejection as an entrepreneur, Right.

Yeah. To your point, we email people. They don't get back. Okay. Next play, move on. And I think that, that piece of the mentality, whether you're an entrepreneur, whether you're an investor, look, you make, you do a bad deal.

Okay. Move on to the next one. There is a certain level of comfort that you get from that just emotionally where you're like, okay, 

Yeah. I, I called that, recognize, regroup, refocus. That's what a performance coach always told me. If I made the tackle or miss tackle, recognize what happened, not regroup, kind of get my body together, check out, make sure everything's all good and refocus and identify with what's the next play. I would say that's, that's the right way to look at it.

The problem is not everybody has something to fall back on.

Right. not everybody has a, a pillow to lay on or, or meal to, to, to prepare or a community or family that's gonna support them. And so, you know, when I was saying before about entrepreneurship, it's a low barrier to entry. It's a low barrier to entry, but the fall from grace. Right. is a, is a challenge changing one because not everybody's going to be able to recover in the same way. And you know, there's also this narrative to the world where we were, where we do love a good story. And, I would expound upon that and say, we probably for we'd love a better opera. And in order to make it interesting, they've got to go through a bunch of stuff.

Yeah. Let me ask you this in, in, in sort of your story, you've got so many different aspects of things that you're, you're involved in entrepreneurship investing, you know, getting involved in the media and content side. what takes up the most of your time today and how do you sort of divide your focus and attention when you're trying to, you know,

today, like, right. Like right now, right now I'm watching my kids go around my driveway, making sure that they don't run out to the street. Alright. That's what I pay attention 

to. 

That That's a it's a big job. I think one of the things that I've spent a lot of time, and we can just think about it from COVID 

is I've been spending a lot of time, just sort of doing my own personal through work and business, being able to recognize, regroup and refocus.

Right. You know, going into COVID. I had a job coming through COVID I don't know, have a job right. Coming into COVID I had some irons in the fire coming through COVID now I'm evaluating what fire is burning the brightest. 

Right.

and coming into COVID I think that there was a pace, right. You know, I was barreling down the highway at 220 miles an hour, you know, and I, and I thought I saw things clear and foam.

Right? You didn't, you didn't, you didn't see that little, bump in the road that all of a sudden put a big in your tire that all of a sudden broke your rim, therefore broke your axle. And then all of a sudden you're sitting on the side of the store, right? So. That recognized, regroup and refocus is now saying, okay, now I'm sitting on the side of the street.

I'm watching them highway, I'm watching the fire of those specific, you know, stakes and, you know, in the, in the flames trying to figure out what am I supposed to do? Right. And so I'm really enjoying this, these moments where I'm able to reevaluate and figure out where I'm, where I'm going to go next. You know, like I said, I was the CEO of Pecham data, you know, I have my investment vehicle, I've done a bunch of television, obviously from sports background and, you know, I love, I love being in the midst of creativity, but.

You know, I have this knowledge and network and I have this inherent curiosity. That now, because the pace is slow. That is certain height. It's more of, I was forced to slow down.

And so now all my senses are starting to get more excited and start to realize where I am in life and what I ultimately want to do. And so you asked me. Where I am. Yeah, I am. I'm really looking outside, making sure my kids are good, 

Yeah. Wow. That, no, that's, it's, it is a beautiful sentiment and it is, the way you've sort of said it, which is you, you take this time and you take it in a positive sense to regroup. We don't get these moments that often, and hopefully it doesn't take a global 

often, often. There is there's we won't get this ever again. We will not

Yeah. 

how many? how many? All right. So March 5th was the last time I traveled, put this in perspective. I've been traveling since I was 18 years old, at least every weekend or every other week. And I haven't traveled since the 5th of March. I don't know how many days that is, but it's a lot. , Just think about all the, all the technology and all the connectivity, think about how different would be if we didn't have all those devices in order to be able to alert us to what's actually happening. Right. so we have a little bit of visibility into what's going on and I think sometimes even that's important to shut off for a minute so that you can really start to evaluate and lower your sort of social footprint.

So you can actually understand what type of. Impression or imprint you would like to make 

actually I think I'm given, given the time you've had to reflect, it's actually a good way to end with a question we always end on, which is what is a piece of advice that you'd give your younger self,  

knowing all the things that you know now. 

 I think it's something that I say all the time, it's, the breeze of opportunity. You can come from any direction, you just have to be sensitive enough in order to be able to feel it. Right. and, and if I were to add a little caveat to that, you know, you have to know that the breeze exists.  I think that's maybe what I would tell my younger self is that.

the breeze. Is this going to be there? You know, are you going to, are you going to, take the time to really understand and know and feel where it's coming from so that you don't miss it?  that's that's probably what I would tell my younger self. Besides that I would probably tell my younger self, you know, you should have practiced your piano and you should have, played better golf. Cause those are, those are, that's a instrument and a sport. You can play for a lifetime, but

I think he made out. Okay. I think you did all right for yourself. And, so with that, we'll take this episode, hopefully we can recognize it, regroup and refocus and take these learnings with us. Thanks so much to honey.

All right. Appreciate it guys. 

So Tim, that was a fun and meaningful conversation with our guests 11 year NFL pro Donnie Jones. But now it's time for your favorite segment in mind, the partner rundown, we're going to hit on a lot from Donnie's journey as the first NFL player to be on NFL network, to then becoming an entrepreneur.

Also what founders get wrong when pitching VCs. And I also want your thoughts on the rise of subscription media. So last to get into today, let's jump right into it. So the honey Joe's became the first NFL player to join NFL network. When it launched in 2003, while he was still an active player. You see players doing that a lot more today.

I want your thoughts. Is it a good idea or just more of a distraction?

Well, look, we've heard a lot from all of our guests about how they want to maximize their time as an active player, as much as possible, or if they're retired, they wish they had maximized it even more. So I think like Donnie said, it comes down to the individual athlete, right? Are they performing at a high enough level on the field that they can justify doing these other things?

And so I think the three things to focus on are one consider your own situation. Are you in a position where you can carve out time? In addition to your workload as an athlete to go try something new, number two, maximize your off season. Maybe pick up a new skill, one new skill, every off season, Sean Green talked about that when we had him on the show, it's something he really steered in on and three, you know, take the long view and realize that the success just like your athletic prowess, it doesn't happen overnight.

It's something you have to build over the length of your career.

Yeah, that's an interesting point. Yeah. Especially because media is actually one of the places that today it's not considered a distraction. I'm sure it was a little bit more when the honey was doing interviews on the left side of the field and then running onto the other side to put on his pads and go play in the game.

I think today it's a lot more expected, but one of the things is that there's only so many of these media jobs that are out there, right. So people kind of expect their favorite players to go become analysts, but. Over time you realize that only a small subset of them will. So more broadly, I think your advice applies not just to what athletes can be doing as it pertains to media, but also for them to be maximizing their opportunities in other aspects in the off season.

So whether it's starting their company, whether it's getting involved as an investor, whether it's going in taking an internship opportunities somewhere, I think all of the things that you just listed, whether it's controlling your own situation. Or, you know, maximizing that, that skillset learning in the off season applies across the board, especially because not all of them are going to become media analysts.

So one of the things I love that Donny talked about is this idea of the entrepreneurial journey. Do you think, maybe in our business, we get a little too carried away with that idea.

So feel pretty disagreed with me on this. I actually don't think on the whole that we do, I think. It is all a response to the fact that becoming an entrepreneur is so incredibly difficult. It takes so much risk-taking, especially in the early onset, especially if you're a first time entrepreneur and you're still learning everything in flying by the seat of your pants.

So in a way, I think it's a good thing that as investors, as an industry, we celebrate that type of risk because we know the incredible achievements that come out of it, not even just for venture back companies, but for any sort of entrepreneurship for small business entrepreneurship. The problem where we get carried away with it is when we start to lionize these individually rules, even when they haven't really done anything, it's in Vogue to be a CEO to create your own job.

And then you realize like, okay, not all CEOs are created equal. So on the whole, I think it's good that we celebrate these people, but we can get carried away with sometimes.

Yeah. And I'll admit as a VC. I think a lot of it is driven by venture capitalists for two reasons. One is we all love to champion. The funding rounds that we do. Right. Which is not really what building a company is about. It's a very important part of it, but the success isn't raising the capital, the success is what you go on to do with the capital that you've raised.

Right? That's like where the work is just, just having begun. And for a lot of founders, I know they hate the fundraising process for that reason. I also think that as VCs, and maybe I'm just speaking for myself here, but we. wish that we could be entrepreneurs ourselves. Right? I mean, that's why we, a lot of us like being a part of this industry, cause we constantly get to hear new ideas and meet with founders and really feed off of their energy.

So I liked that he was questioning it and I think he has every right to do that since he is clearly a true entrepreneur.

Okay. Yeah. And along that same vein, you know, one of the things we talked to Donnie about was this idea of storytelling in that fundraising and pitching context. And I think one of the things that founders get wrong most often is that first pitch. What are some of the avoidable mistakes that you've seen founders make when pitching you.

Yeah. Yeah. I think it's a few really common things. The first a is almost always like, make sure you're talking to a relevant investor or you're presenting your message in a relevant way. Right? So if I'm an investor who has a track record of participating in companies that are in consumer sports or media or entertainment and your a health tech company, Okay, should we really be talking?

Am I really a viable investor for you? Well, maybe there's something really specific that you, you see in my portfolio or in something that I've said, that is why you're talking to me or why you're reaching out. So you mentioned that that's really important. I think that alone can just cut down on so much wasted time on the entrepreneurs part.

And also, you know, from a VC perspective, it makes it makes it easier, or at least

That's right.

of the terms of engagement.

Yeah. I think one of the things building off of that is get your audience to vibe with the problem before you start selling them on the solution. This is, this is sort of the key point of storytelling. Like read the room, understand. Am I somebody that innately understands this problem. Do you have to convince, tell me about the size and scale of the problem.

Before we jump right into, and this is the product that I've built. I understand the impulse. This is your baby. As a founder, you're spending weeks of sleepless nights putting this whole project together, and now you want to come in and sit in front of a VC, hitch the product. But if I'm not bought in to the problem self, then you're going to be wasting your air.

So honestly, that first pitch, if you don't even get to. The product or you get to very little of it, but you sort of wet the appetite, but you convince me that this there's a billion dollar problem. That is time well spent. And I recommend that you do that.

Yeah, that's a great point. You know, one thing we didn't touch on with the honey, but has become increasingly prevalent in media is the rise of subscription media.

Where do you think we're headed with this?

Yeah, it's funny too, because we actually talked about this a little bit last week, too, when we had Haley roses on about how VCs are out on ad supported media, but they're kind of back in on subscription media. The problem is you have so many of these. I just think about something like sub stack, which is like the second coming.

Of medium, where a lot of independent writers are writing and trying to monetize their content. And now what I've started seeing more recently is like seven to 10 semi-popular writers that maybe have a few thousand people that are reading, but not a massive audience are now pooling together. So that seven to 10 of them that are writing about different topics can sell under one subscription, banner 10, that's a new newspaper.

They've just created a newspaper and this is what they were railing against. For the last decade and now they've just gone and created the exact same thing. And one day they're going to start selling ads against it too. And we're back to where we started. So I don't know. I don't know if that many subscriptions are actually going to be sustainable in the long run.

I'm also so glad you brought up sub stack because there's other people coming out and saying like, Hey, I'll help you build a subscription website. You don't need to use this service that takes a VIG off of the small VIG that you're already getting. And I'll be interested to see the longevity of these independent creators and journalists and whatnot because, you know, even though the depth of.

Traditional media has been, you know, widely, broadcasted and talked about everywhere. Like there are still perks to being part of a media company with built in distribution with an editor. And so it takes a lot of work to build out an audience. It takes a lot of work to hold yourself accountable, to constantly be pushing out content.

So we'll see where that goes and you know, how deep those different niches can dig in. And also. Like we'll look at subscription fatigue and see how willing people are to pay and continue to pay well into the future.

yeah. Tell him about that. I think you're absolutely right. We're at a point where creating your own media has gotten so easy. We are an exact example of that. And, I'm so grateful that you're here. Here to hold me accountable as we start to push lots of great content out. So this has been a really fun part in a run down.

Thanks for joining me, Tim.

Thanks Jay.

So that's it for this week's episode of the game plan with Jacob  and Tim cot. Thank you for tuning in. We really enjoyed having our guests to honey Jones on the show to share his wisdom, make sure to follow Tahani across social media on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, a special thanks to Greg Roberts had action streamer for putting us in touch with the honey.

And Hey, if you've made it this far, you must really like what we have to say. Find us on Twitter at the game plan show and leave us a five star review on iTunes. We'll see you next week on the game plan.