May 20, 2020

Meghan Klingenberg — World Cup Winner on Speaking Truth to Power & Re-imagining the "Lifestyle" Brand

Meghan Klingenberg — World Cup Winner on Speaking Truth to Power & Re-imagining the "Lifestyle" Brand

FIFA Women's World Cup Champion Meghan Klingenberg joins The Game Plan to share her experience as a key member of the electric 2015 US Women's National Team, and how bonds made on the pitch led to the founding of an apparel and lifestyle brand built to challenge the status quo.

FIFA Women's World Cup Champion Meghan Klingenberg joins The Game Plan to share her experience as a key member of the electric 2015 US Women's National Team, and how bonds made on the pitch led to the founding of an apparel and lifestyle brand built to challenge the status quo.

On this episode, "Kling" shares the founding story of re-inc alongside her USWNT teammates Christen Press, Tobin Heath, & Megan Rapinoe. Listeners will enjoy hearing Meghan's unvarnished perspective on the challenges she faced when starting the company, including everything from supply chain management to navigating a fundraising process that ended in a term sheet from a storied venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

Listeners won't want to miss hearing Meghan's contagious personality and nothing-but-real perspective. We also explore her role as an investor and ambassador for startups. An interest she picked up early in her childhood growing up near Pittsburgh.

Make sure to follow Meghan on both Twitter and Instagram to keep up on all her moves off the pitch. You can also check out her company, re-inc, and order products at https://re-website.com/.

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*

When you're a kid, you have no idea that you're training for this moment.

You know, you're just playing it because you love it. But all of those hours and years are spent in pursuit of the confetti falling down. Right. And so when you're up there, it's like a culmination of your careers goals coming together with all of your buddies and all of your family watching. It's one of the very coolest feelings in the world.

But as we're kind of standing up there and flying home and seeing all of this crazy stuff that's happening afterwards, I felt like something was off and I couldn't tell you what it was at first. I'm like, why would anything feel off right now? You know what I mean? and then I started digging in and I realized that.

Media rights holders, federations, FIFA, sponsors. We're all generating value off of our win and the people that actually did the work, we're not able to, you know, we get this allocated amount from FIFA, which is. Peanuts compared to what the men get. And that's it. That's all you get. You know, that's, you know, that's your life's goal.

Here you go. That's it I thought that was pretty fucked up 

Hi, I'm Meghan Klingenberg, soccer player, cofounder at rethink FICO connoisseur. Want to be celebrity chef and bicycle enthusiast and I'm on the game plan.

We are incredibly excited for our next guest. She was a member of the historic team USA that dominated the 2015 FIFA women's world cup and a key member of the 2016 Olympic squad. More recently, the former NWSL pro has joined up with her teammates, Kristen Press, Tobin Heath, and Megan Rapinoe to launch, rethink a gender neutral fashion and lifestyle brand that is reimagining the status quo.

Please welcome to the game plan international soccer star and proud Pittsburgher Meghan Klinenberg. Meghan, thank you so much for joining

thanks for having me. And what a great intro. I mean, I'm a need you to like, I don't need to take you around to places, so like whenever I need an

come be a

Yeah, exactly. The Jay's got it. and here we go.

Okay, well, I'm so happy that you're joining us and I'm happy to be your hype man

Yeah. Thank you.

Yes. Hype man for hire. Well, now that we're all sufficiently hyped up, let's take it back a bit. Megan, you first came onto the national scene in high school and then went on to be a four year starter at the university of North Carolina, but most of our listeners will certainly recognize you as a member of the us women's national team.

At what point did you realize you had a shot to make the team.

I don't think I ever realized that point. I don't think there was ever a point where I was like. Yeah, I got this. I think every day it was like, get better, get better, get better, get better at. Because you know, if you're not getting better than people who catch up, like that's a sort of mentality and grind that I went after every practice, every training, every lift, every day off.

Even with that mindset, and you know, there was never a point wherever I felt. Comfortable being on the national team are comfortable being part of that group. It's just not that type of place. You know, like if you're comfortable, then something's wrong.

Right? Never comfortable, never satisfied. Best in the world.

Exactly. But, but also like, if you're, if you're comfortable, that means that you're not getting better. And if you're not getting better, then you're not helping the team. And if you're not helping the team, then you can't be there. And so, You have to get, I guess, get comfortable with being uncomfortable really quickly in that, in that group.

And if, you can't handle stress and you can't handle pressure and you can't handle just like not being. not winning every game because you're going to lose a lot of games when you're, when you're playing against each other and practice in the national team. If you go from college where you win every single game that you're playing in practice to starting to lose some, That can be really tough for certain players, but you have to be able to get used to it really fast no matter what they throw at you. And so that's why I think, you know, those players are, that are with the team have to be really good at dealing with anything that comes their way at any time.

In addition to the us women's national team. You're also a member of the Portland thorns and you've previously played for several teams, including the NWSL Houston dash. You've played in Sweden and you've played for the now defunct WPSL. What's that experience like where you don't even know the viability of the league you're playing in, but then also in the back of your mind you're thinking about training and getting ready for the us women's national team and those games.

It's really hard because you need to be able to, when you're with the Nash team, that needs to be your number one priority and what you're focused on. But then when you travel back on the plane, you need to make that switch. You know? You need to be like, okay, thorns come first now. And how. Like, how do I make sure that everybody knows that I'm thorns first now?

Because it's not only about you knowing that it's thorns first, it's about everybody else knowing that you're thorns first. Because if people think that.  you're not, you know, club first, then they're not going to trust you. And it's not going to be this type of place where people are going to stand up or  be willing to try things or be willing to risk things.

And if you don't have that type of environment, then you're certainly going to fail. So it's not only about you getting into your mindset, but it's also making sure that everybody else knows, Hey, this, this is my mindset. This is where I want to be. This my first choice is what I'm preparing for.

yeah. And as it pertains to, I think a lot of attention that's been recently paid to both the compensation and conditions of the women's team and the women's game as compared to especially the men's game. And when you compare the relative success of the women's team, especially recently versus the men.

where have you seen those attitudes really shift , and what impact has it had on, you know, whether it's the conditions or compensation that you're seeing for you and your teammates. Yes.

Yeah. When I first got on the women's national team, it was in 2011 and, the players association wasn't very robust. I think all that they really did was ensure that we renegotiated a collective bargaining agreement every four years or whatever it was, and then that's it. and. People were okay with that, and that's fine.

You know, if, if you want to just concentrate on soccer and just do soccer, then do it. There's nothing wrong with that at all. But then this group of players came in, they cared about a lot more than just the game. and. A lot of that translated into, participation in the union. And this participation in the union lead to a lot of education about what it means to Wombi robust union to what it looks like, like what's fair and equitable, and three, how do other unions.

Like get to the point where it is fair and equitable. So there was a lot of education that had to happen. And so we had people, you know, like beggar Pino and Alex Morgan and Kristen and myself, and. Becky sour, Brian and Kelly O'Hara. You know, just like really digging in. And even Sam is some of the younger kids really digging in and wanting to know, like, okay, well how can we make the soccer landscape the one that we came into better leave it off better than what we are leaving.

and so that kind of became the mindset. Of the group. And so we got really involved in trying to change that landscape because we felt that we didn't want players to go through what we went through.

yeah, that's right. And we had a, had their mitts on the show recently, and she was talking about how the game was. In her era. I mean, it wasn't that long ago, but even just that the players now are much more mindful of the disparity and how thoughtful they are about sharing. how those conditions don't match up to what their expectations of the game really are.

And then when they look across the field and they see what the men's team is doing, and they say, Hey, like. Let's, let's meet us, you know, equally, and let's, let's be fair about how we're doing this. I mean, it was really, really powerful to hear her story from that point standpoint as well.

Yeah, of course. I think that we don't, we don't expect anything less than.  We deserve, you know, like, we deserve safe playing conditions and we deserve fair pay and we deserve respect and we deserve, you know, equality not only when it comes to pay and feel conditions and these things, but also in opportunity.

Why do we not have the same opportunity as the men? And I think that. You know, there comes a point in your career when people tell you you can't, you can't, you can't, or you won't. You won't. You won't. And we're not the type of people that got where we are by saying we can't, or we won't. whether the type of people  that got here to the pinnacle of the sport by saying, I'll prove you wrong, you know?

And so, we never thought that this fight was out of reach, and we certainly will never give it up.

Yeah. And, and I love that attitude. And you know, you've said in the past that some of your favorite athletes are Michelle Akers and Sidney Crosby, as if you're, as if you're Pittsburgh. Pride was in doubt. Right. but, who have been, as you think about, looking forward in your career, who have been some of the biggest influences or folks that you've admired or sought guidance from.

In terms of building a life outside of the sport and who are some of the athletes that you think are doing a great job with

Yeah. So there's so many, right? Like, and what's really interesting is have you guys been watching the last dance, Michael Jordan

yeah. It's so good.

good. Right? But he was one of the very first, I mean, Michael. Was so smart about his brand and there wasn't even a brand back then, you know? So he, I mean, he was the type of person that knew, okay, well I'm going to be playing X amount of years, but that X amount of years is not going to add up to my life and I need to be able to take care of myself and my family for, for the lifetime.

And so. He really got dug in with Nike and said, Hey, let's do this in a different way. So definitely Michael Jordan. I love Serena Williams. like you mentioned Michelle Akers and Sidney Crosby, but like, she probably is like one a and they're one. They're like one B. You know what I'm saying? Like, so data is too cool.

not only is she the goat of tennis, like. Yeah. No qualifiers. Right? No qualifiers. but you know, she has her own VC firm. she's incredibly well versed in. things outside of tennis. You know, she has her own fashion line and she does like all kinds of different things. What being a mother playing tennis, fashion line, VC, all these, all this different stuff and still being the best in the water where she does.

So that's pretty cool. I like to look at those too, cause you know, if the goats can do it then why can't I.

Yeah. Hey, I mean, it's, no matter what you do, it's always great to have, you know, sort of mentors and people to aspire to. And, and those are, I certainly folks that are doing it at the highest level. On the flip side, I'm, I'm always curious to get the perspective of pro athletes that,  see their peers who retire, struggled to find, , balanced or struggled to find exactly what you're talking about, which is that direction.

You know, we, we've heard from a few athletes that,  what they have from the day they start playing the sport at age six is , three pillars of team routine and competition. And then the day they retired, they lose all three of them right away. And so I want to understand maybe from your standpoint as you're, , maybe more forward thinking about finding that balance for yourself.

How do you think about filling those pillars in life outside of soccer?

Yeah. I mean, one of the advantages of being an athlete who happens to be female is that we have to plan ahead. there is no chance that my salary will take me through the rest of my life, and so I'm not willing to chance. my life after soccer, just so I can be single-minded on the pursuit of my sport.

I think that a lot of athletes are single-minded in the pursuit of their sport, and that's great.  Right. But. I've found that I'm able to do more than that. I really love using my brain and going to work in the morning, you know, like getting it done physically.

but then I have six or seven hours afterwards cause I'm a morning person. So I get, I get done with all of my stuff, whether it's like running and training and gym by probably like 11 in the morning. Then I have all this time afterwards, what am I supposed to do? I can't just like. Have seven coffee dates with friends, like that's just not gonna do it for me.

So, I really started feeling in my afternoons with different things and some of them I ended up not liking, and some of them I ended up loving. And that's just kind of the way that I've been trying to figure out, okay, how can I feel? There was that three pillar void that you were talking about when I'm done.

So we hinted in the intro that you started reading with your teammates, Kristen press, Tobin Heath, and Megan Rapinoe. Take us back a little bit and give us the founding story. What brought you together on this idea specifically.

Sure. Of course. I love the origin story, by the way. It's like, it gets me so jazzed up. in 2015, we won the world cup. Like, you know. Jay gave a really awesome intro about it, but we did and it was awesome and we hadn't won in a really long time. And when you're a kid, you have no idea that you're training for this moment.

You know, you're just playing it because you love it. But all of those hours and years are spent in pursuit of the confetti falling down. Right. And so when you're up there, it's like a culmination of your careers goals coming together with all of your buddies and all of your family watching. It's one of the very coolest feelings in the world.

but as we're kind of standing up there and flying home and seeing all of this crazy stuff that's happening afterwards, I felt like something was off and I couldn't tell you what it was at first. I'm like, why would anything feel off right now? You know what I mean? and then I started digging in and I realized that.

Media rights holders, federations, FIFA, sponsors. We're all generating value off of our win and the people that actually did the work, we're not able to, you know, we get this allocated amount from FIFA, which is. Peanuts compared to what the men get. And that's it. That's all you get. You know, that's, you know, that's your life's goal.

Here you go. That's it I thought that was pretty fucked up. , so I started thinking about ways to change that. And I went to, North Carolina, and. Ha got my business degree with a concentration in entrepreneurship. It's something I was really interested in, so I started bouncing around all of these ideas off different people.

One of them happened to be Steve Nelson, who is one of my cofounders at Ray, and I called him up. I'm like, Hey, Steve, what would happen if we combined all of our winnings and created a fund and then invested all the winnings. To create like more money from the right. So like going down all these different paths.

And then eventually I was like, actually, see what if we create a startup that is based around the timelessness of the women's Nash team and the wind? And he was like, that's kick ass. Let's do it. So, there was a couple problems with this. One. me and Steve flew down to Orlando and we gave this like.

PowerPoint presentation about new coasts and like what we wanted to do to the team and they thought I was absolutely nuts. Okay. They thought I was crazy. They're like, what the hell is this little girl talking about, you know. So it didn't start off real strong. But what I realized is that a U S soccer actually had the group licensing rights from the last collective bargaining agreement.

So I was like, Oh, well, we can't do anything until we have those. So started getting really involved in the union with Christen press and Becky Sauer, Brian as fellow player representatives, which is essentially a CEO of the union. So we were like.   okay, we got to get these back, and I think they're really valuable.

USR had earned $0 million off our group licensing rights up until that point. So we went into the collective bargaining knowing that. Hey, these are valuable. We want these back. And youth soccer was like, sure. They're like, we have zero $0 million of it. So, we took those back. And so we're like, okay, now we have them.

What the hell? What the hell are we going to do with them? You know, like, we don't have the infrastructure, we don't have the resources monetarily or like human resources to be able to pursue this. So. Luckily the NFL PA came to us and said, Hey, we have the infrastructure. You have the value and the brand.

Let's work together. So we created a company with the NFL PA and the WNB PA called rep worldwide, I'm just like really proud of this. So this is like just a little detour on the origin story. rap world wide, you know, through the world cup generated hundreds of thousands of dollars, close to millions of dollars of revenue for our players.

That was at zero before. So it's, it is valuable. It's, so I was like, okay, cool. We found out they're valuable. Now let's make a new coach. Let's get after this. Right. And unfortunately trying to get 30 decision-makers all on the same page is like herding cats and it's impossible. So Kristen Tobin, Pino, and I were like, Hey, you know, we believe in this and we're willing to do the work.

Let's do it. And that was the origins of rank.

Wow, I love that. So it sounds like defining what re stands for an understanding who you were making this for came naturally, but where did you even begin as it related to building out the supply chain, including everything from product design. To material sourcing, to manufacturing and fulfillment.

Totally. I mean, it's a big adjustment. it's a totally different playing field. And people have different roles. You know, I know on a soccer pitch, we know all of our roles that inherently, well, right? We're really good at what we do, and we know, you know, this is who I am, this is how I play, and this is how I can make everybody else better, right?

And all of us know that about ourselves, right? Kristen. You know, the scoring goals, I'm stopping them crossing them. Tobin's creating peanuts, creating from different sides. You know, like we know exactly who we are there. we didn't know who we were. starting re everybody had to kind of figure out, okay, where do I fit in and what am I good at?

And so then. As time went by, we started just filling in different roles and filling in, okay, well this, you know, needs help. And this is what's interesting me. So I'm just going to dive in there. So I think one of the coolest stories is, is Tobin and how she. Has really taken up the mantle of creative director for rank.

And a lot of the creative design starts with that  crazy, brilliant brain of hers. And, you know, might start off as something so abstract and something that will never work. But then she keeps working on it and working on it and brings it all together to create something. That, you know, okay, now we can make that.

Now that's going to be able to be put in the world. And so I think that's a pretty cool story about Tobin knowing like, Hey, this is something that I really want to jump into. This is something that's interesting to me, and she's really, you know, taken, taken up the flag and run with it.

Yeah. And looking at the site, I mean there, there's so many interesting sort of design influences that are, that are going on. How did you decide on. Like a street wear lifestyle brand being where re started and how, how did you think about who the customer was or who do you want the customer to be for the brand.

We chose streetwear for a few different reasons. One, we felt like it was an. Area where the clothes are designed by men, for men with men's sizing in mind. And it really excludes a lot of people, especially me. I'm five foot three, like 119 pounds. Nothing ever fits me right in streetwear, it just doesn't happen.

So we knew that this industry was ripe for some reimagination and we also knew that. this is the type of. going into the world cup year, this is the type of like area industry that we could actually take on. We knew that, we probably couldn't create, we can engineer an app in a couple of months to be able to, you know, put it out into the world that was just not going to be able to, like, we were just working.

I'm going to be able to do that. So we were like, okay, one. The world needs us. And two, we can do this. So those are the two really big, you know, reasons. And then J, what was the second part of the question? What is the customer.

Yeah. Like how did you, how did you think about who the customer was for

I think the customer is somebody like me, you know, and the customer. We, we want to be really inclusive. Anybody can wear our brand. You know, we want Jay, we want Tim, we want me, we want anybody to be, feel, feel comfortable being in our brand. Anybody that wants to reimagine their world and recreate a status quo that is better for, you know.

Everybody instead of just a small minority and power, that's the person that we really want to reach. And so we figure that, Hey, we're a really inclusive brand. We want to go up to double, triple XL and all the way down to double, triple Xs. but at the same time, we, we want our clothes to stand for more than just, Hey, streetwear.

Cool. We want. To be those things. But we also want people to like rock them when you know they're about to go take on something for the first time that they were a little bit scared to, and now they're going to wear a rain could because we believe in them and it gives them power. Like that's the type of customer that we want.

One, we want you to look kick ass and two, we want you to change the world.

Wow, I love that. So it sounds like defining what re stands for and understanding who you were making this for came naturally, but where did you even begin as it related to building out the supply chain, including everything from product design. To material sourcing, to manufacturing and fulfillment.

Oh man, we, we really had some, interesting roadblocks at the beginning as every startup does, right? Like, it's just hard. It's just so hard when you're new and you're trying to figure it out and you're leaning on it. People that you hope you can trust, but you don't know if you can trust. So it's, it's, I mean, we did not do a perfect job of it at the beginning, and we're certainly not doing a perfect job of it right now.

We want to keep getting better and make better clothes, that fit better and feel better and, and are better for the world. So it was really difficult at first. I don't think we really hit the Mark that we wanted to. I think we fell short with our, with our. first line. And that's really hard to say because we're really proud of it.

We're really proud of what we did and a really short amount of time, but we also knew that, Hey, if this was soccer, that wouldn't be good enough. And for us, we have this bar that's not just here like, good enough is not good enough for us. Right? Our bars up here, we want to be excellent. And so that means, you know.

Always talking about the fit, always talking about things that went wrong with the thing, with the previous line. How can we make that better? How can we design it better? What materials can we use better? Was fulfillment good enough? Was customer service good enough? And we'll go through every aspect of the customer experience, whether that is, you know, the website all the way down to returns.

And, we'll just be like, Hey. We heard from people online that this wasn't good enough, and even if it's maybe just one or two comments, we do our best to try and fix it.

Yeah. You're, you're at this intersection actually of two very, very interesting trends, I think in consumer apparel. So one being direct to consumer, which I think we've really seen take off in the last five years. Right. You don't have to have a digital store. I mean, ended up the storefront. You can have a digital storefront, digital fulfillment, and a great customer experience and to your point, a brand that people really resonate with.

And then the second is, I think this resurgence of streetwear and whether it's, you know, Supreme on one end or Bape or any of these other brands that are really taken off, you're kind of finding yourself at the, at the cross section of two really great things. One, you can provide an awesome customer experience digitally, but two, you're building a product that people are seeing out there.

And they want it to be for them, which I think I think is really great. The one challenge, and I'm curious for, how you guys are sort of addressing it, is that there are so many apparel brands and there are so many street wear brands and so beyond just your involvement, which obviously plays a big role in it, right?

People want to wear stuff that they see Meghan Ruffino and they see you and as he Tobin Heath wearing beyond just the involvement of the sort of celebrity athletes, what makes the brand. Stand out or unique.

Yeah. So we knew that, that this couldn't rely on our images because people are famous then. They're not famous. Like that's just the way that the world is. It's not like, you know where beyond today, and we're going to be famous until the day that we die. Like that's just not how it's going to be, you know?

And so we wanted the brand to stand for so much more than us anyways. Because like when it comes down to it, we think of ourselves as people that are just trying to do our best and change the world. And we're like, Hey, okay, cool. Where people that are trying to do our best and change the world, that's what we want this to be about.

And so we really dug in on the mission part of our company and honestly have honed that and crafted that. So like with so many hours and so much dedication and focus because we know that how are we going to stand out, especially against, you know, if Tory Birch is going to start her own street wear line like.

Tori already knows how to make clothes. She's really good at it. And she probably already has a supply chain setup. So how the heck are we going to compete against, you know, Supremes and all, and, and, and the kid and all these different types of companies that are already doing it and seeing success. And we really thought, Hey, the mission, that's where it's going to be different.

And that's where it's going to outlive us and outlast us. And so we also knew that. This mission that is just so much bigger than, than clothes. We never expect to be just a clothes brand. If we are, I think that's a huge failure for us. To us, it's more about, you know, how do we get this message out in the world?

And how can we become the biggest company possible because it's important for us to be able to change the status quo that way, you know, our hiring practices, through our hiring practices, we can start changing how, you know, people of color are hired and, how, you know, queer men and women are hired. And, and.

retained income in companies, which oftentimes, you know, it's difficult for those groups. So if we become as big as Nike, or as big as Apple, or as big as these. Giant companies. Then we have a lot of power, and with that power we can start changing the world. So we think, you know, we're coming out with some really cool stuff soon at, we have, we're calling them capsules, so the black and white capsule is, is the clothes.

There was so much more to the black and white collection than just the clothes. we, we had, you know, posters coming out. We have reset the table cards that will actually be coming out really soon. We're incredibly excited about them. And essentially what they are is, I guess, cards for humanity, conversation starters, that, you know, allow you to get into some deep topics without judgment, you know, so, you know, asking questions.

It may be you wouldn't want to ask at a dinner party, but. Hey, here we are with these cards, and now you can choose the one that really resonates with you and you want to hear people's opinions about, pick it up, read it out loud, and I think you have a pretty good conversation going. 

Yeah, that's pretty cool. And I love how much range the brand has in all the different ways it can be used, not just clothing, which I think is the whole point. It really embodies the values that you and your cofounder stand for. But I want to touch on something you said earlier, which is how do we grow this company to be as big as possible?

I think it's probably easy for people to think that with a team of well known athletes behind Ray, it was easy to raise capital, but we all know fundraising is never easy. What was that process like for you?

Yeah. So I think, it wasn't. Easy, but we got the round done and we closed the seed round at the end of July last summer. And, we were incredibly lucky to get the type of support that we did. We actually, you know, got Kleiner Perkins to come in and be one of our very first investors, which is pretty badass.

And yeah. You know, we have any case on the, on the job, and she's, she's awesome. So we, we love working with her and we love working with Kleiner and we love that, you know, they. Felt comfortable enough to give us, you know, the female leadership on their side that we really wanted. And, and Annie, you know, is, is a millennial too.

So she gets who we are and where we're coming from and how to help. So we love that. But then we also have, we tried to round out the set of investors with others that have experience in, And areas that we need, you know? And, and that doesn't mean necessarily in areas that we need right now, but maybe areas that we're looking to try and move into in the future as well.

So, we really, the lucky part about being an athlete is that it gets your foot in the door. but that doesn't mean that you're going to close. And so we were incredibly grateful to have that access to, to the investors and the angels that we wanted to talk to, but we had to close them. And so we prepared for weeks, with, you know, our pitch deck with, you know, who, who's going to say what, you know, what do we need.

how much money do we want to ask for all of these different things? Like, and then, you know, we, we went after it. And so it definitely wasn't easy, but it was, we're really grateful to have this set of investors that we do.

if, if you don't mind me to ask, what were some of the toughest questions or maybe objections that you got from VCs? Cause we know a lot of the folks that sit on the show are entrepreneurs themselves. They've probably gone through a very similar process. Always curious to hear what some of the challenges or objections that you got as you went through that

Yeah. Honestly, a lot of them are like, Hey, you're just too early for us. because we had no revenue at that point, and we were just trying to take on the world. And they're like, Hey, you got big ideas and aspirations. We love the idea, but we just can't get involved until we see some sort of revenue and, and see the value generation.

. We had a couple of people walk away because of that. And then I think a lot of people just don't like investing in D to C brands. You know, they want to see some sort of technology associated with your B to C company. And we're like, we're not, we're not that. We're not going to be that this is who we are.

This is what we can be really good at, and we're gonna focus on the things that were we could be really good at instead of trying to be something that we're not. so we had some people walk away because those were probably the two biggest, Hey, we, we just can't take a chance on that. But we plan on going back to a lot of the people that are like, Hey, too early.

you know, in our next round, it'd be like, Hey, what do you think of these numbers? You know.

Yup. Well, it's always good to hold VCs accountable, especially to that kind of deferred feedback.

Well, it isn't your main focus. We've heard you've been involved in some interesting investments too, like the wing dive plane, AI. You almost invested in carbon. Where do you think that interest in investing has come from?

Yeah. So, I think the reason that I was so interested in investing in startups is because my parents have been such an incredible example when it comes to, you know, investing. When I was younger, they were always, you know, watching the stock market, talking about, you know, why, why do you want it? Why are we doing this, Megan, you know, like.

This is why we're doing this, and this is the advantages to investing, and this is why will help your life. And even though you want to buy that thirty thousand forty thousand dollar car right now, you should invest it because that'll be $120,000 when you retire. And then you can get whatever the hell you want, you know?

So, they were really great about talking to me. And my brother when we were young about why this is important. And so I already knew why it was important. I had a little bit of interest in it, and then I went to. Business school at UNC and got really interested in startups, but I knew that I can't help out with every startup, that, that comes my way because I just wouldn't have enough time.

But that means that, you know, I'd like to do some investing because I'd like to give some help, to those, to those founders and entrepreneurs. And that's where I got really invested and interested. And. Luckily through kind of, you know, my friend Steve Nelson, who's one of my co founders and, and some others, just meeting throughout the sports world, they put me in touch with certain individuals who, I don't know why they would let me, but they let me in on certain deals and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of them.

So.

Well, I think that makes complete sense. And given your platform as a pro athlete, have you had any luck finding opportunities that involve becoming an ambassador or advisor for a company where you might receive options.

Yeah, definitely. I take those on a pretty sparingly because you want to give the effort and the time that the founders need, and you want to really believe in the companies, you know? So I, I'm working with one called we played, which is actually a really cool, have you heard of them?

I think so. I think I might've met with them at some point.

They were in a tech star sports. They just won a this past summer. But anyways, the guys are awesome. I re, I really love the founders and they're doing a really. Cool I don't know, I, I'm, I'm blanking on the word, but like non live sports, so live sports, you know,  you're able to cash in on the value, right?

You can sell those live sports and make a lot of money off of them, but what happens to the replays? Right?  so they created this platform where you're able to basically search and they're still gaining rights to certain, bodies of video, but you know, you can log on and be like, Megan Klingberg tar heel goals. Boom. There you go.

that's the, I'm sure everyone's going to be digging into your,  Tarheels highlights after this. I mean, look, Tim can probably comment on a given his involvement with overtime, but I think there's a really interesting. Shift that's happening around sports rights and we all know that like the major league sports rights are all locked up and like they're not going anywhere or you know, they'll move around a little bit.

Maybe Amazon gets involved or Google gets involved, but like they're sort of staying at the top. But there is such an interest in hunger for a sports rights outside of that. And I think overtime is one company that sends something really well with it. You know, we played is definitely one that I'm going to check out after this, but there is an opportunity to say.

if you love dunks, you don't just have to watch NBA ducks, right? There are dunks that you can watch somewhere else. If you like really great goalie saves, like go, go check them out outside of just watching them. And we see this sometimes where you're like, you know, on ESPN they would always have like the YouTube highlight of like the kid who, you know, just broke off a really big return or something and you're like, yeah, w where does that content live?

And so I think it's really cool that you're finding opportunities to get involved in platforms with that content. Lips.

I'm really excited about it because you know, as sports grow and. I mean, we're going to see totally different platforms and the way the sports are played. I know that Jonathan Soros is doing athletes unlimited in a really interesting way. Like it's player first instead of city and community based first.

like, you know, the players are competing against each other instead of teams competing against each other. So like, there's all these different innovations happening in sport. but what I do know is that like, I have friends that will get trapped in a YouTube hole for hours or days, right? And I'm like, what is happening?

You're just watching Messi magic over and over and over and over again, and all these different videos. Right? And so I think that there's definitely something to be like said about those people and what they like. And I think we played, Plays to them, if you will, and it could be really interesting.

You know, we got to figure out how does the modern millennial and even younger, how do they watch sports now because they don't watch TV the way that other people do. So it's about finding that that new way.

Yeah. Yeah. so, so I guess we'll, we'll one last question that I have, and it's actually a question that's not for me, but from. Your colleague at ranked

Oh, geez,

So yeah, so, so Jenny told me that, you guys went to the web summit

we did.

year and she said you guys had a lot of fun. So I wanted to, to learn a little bit more about that.

So what was your experience like being up at the web summit and tech and entrepreneurship and sharing your experience there?

My God, I, that was nuts. That place is absolute mayhem. I have never been in an area with so many people at one time. That is crazy. but it was really cool. I love how it's just this intersection of sports and tech and just. All of these different entrepreneurs and founders and VC and like everybody that's living in this world coming together and kind of sharing secrets, their secret sauce, how they're going to get better, what's the, what are the trends?

it was really interesting. So I was. I'm pretty stoked to be a part of something like that, because, you know, as a really early stage startup, a lot of times people kind of write you off, but until you make it, you know what I mean? They're like, Oh, that's a cool idea, but have you done anything? Not really.

You're not coming, you know? so I felt pretty blessed to be there, but. of course, Jenny and I went on stage together and she always makes me look bad. cause cause she's an absolute gem of a person, but she's also probably the smartest person I know. So, it's, it's a joy to be up there with her, but it's also a bit humbling.

well, from everything she just told me, the feeling is absolutely mutual. I mean, she's told me that she loves working with you and I can clearly tell why. Just from how engaged you are on like even the minor details of the business, whether it's on the supply chain side or on the brand building side.

It's, it's really, really great for us as investors when we hear that from a founder who like has a great sense of the big picture, but then also is like constantly thinking about how to. How to like optimize little bits and pieces here. And so I just want to, I mean, even even better than it is coming from a pro athlete turned entrepreneur, but from any entrepreneur, when you have that ability to go big picture and then come down to the details, that's like a dream for us to hear as investors.

Oh, cool. Well, the, the gray part is like, you know, we have the dreamers on the team, you know, that, that are like 15 years down the road, you know, publicly traded all of these services, you know, like all of these dreams. Right? And then we have the people that are like. The mom back and the like real lesson.

And they'll be like, well, how the heck are we going to get there? And then we have the people that, you know, help build out those plans from all the way over here, back to where we are right now. And so we try and fill in the gaps.

Yeah. Well, on, on that note, what are you most excited about as you look out for the future for reading, but then also for the future for Megan, what are

Wow. These are very difficult questions, by the way. Just,

all. That's all we do

yeah. Geez. Wow. I mean, if somebody would have told me I got these hard questions, I probably wouldn't have showed up for the interview. No, I'm kidding. I think for reading quarter, I'm really looking forward to his Knowing, understanding and following and walking with us, hopefully running.

But right now, walking with us to this big picture, we, like I said, we want to be so much more than just a streetwear company. We don't think of ourselves as, as a street wear company. So we want to be able to take that journey to the next step when we are, we're in the process of it, but. We will, I want to walk with our consumers and bring them along with us and, you know, gather more people as we go.

I'd be like, join in, come on, get in this group and just keep moving forward. That's what I'm really excited about with Bree is just opening up the eyes, and letting people see that we're more than just this company that we are now. Because who, I guess. Who we are is not who we will be. and then for Megan, I'm, I'm just really excited about the world, getting back to its new normal.

I'm not the type of person that likes to sit in their room on, you know, zoom chats with talks about, I'd rather be meeting in person and having coffee and you know. You know, maybe we're not handshaking anymore, but maybe we're giving, you know, some sort of air high fives or whatever.

But I just want the world to get back to the place where we can interact. And I know that seems like a small goal, but I really don't. I think that it's going to take a lot to get us to that point. So. That's something that I'm really looking forward to is just being able to like hug my friends and tell them in person how much I love them and meet with investors and just show like let them feel the fabric.

Let them like use the reset the table cards, let them  feels what it. What it's like to be in a room with the four founders. Plus, you know, our consumers. Those are my favorite interactions and the things that I really thrive off of. So that's what I'm looking forward to.

Well, that's certainly a sentiment we share as well.

Yeah.

I'm sure.

I mean, Jay's in a supply closet.

and selfishly, we are very thankful that this at least gave us the opportunity to have you on the show. But we just want to finish by asking you one more question, which is, what advice do you have. For other athletes out there that are thinking about how they split their time between performance and preparing for what comes in life after sports.

Yeah, no, that's, that's a great question. I think it's really tough. I would say like. If you want to be sports first, do it be sports first. You know, like there's absolutely no shame in that. Go for it. Be be who you want to be and, and kick ass and, and the things that you're really good at. But if you, if you want to have a bridge, like if you want to jump into something afterwards, I would say dabble.

you know, like go take an internship here. you know, with a VC firm, go. you know, just follow a founder it, you know, who started their own ice cream shop. Like, just go figure out what you like, because if you don't like what you're doing, then you won't be good at it and you'll really miss the game.

Like, I'm going to miss a game so much. I love the game, but I also know that there's stuff outside of the game that I really love to do. And. With people that I really enjoy, so I feel okay about, you know, leaving that behind me and 25 years. so I would just say, dabble, figure out what's your next passion.

Figure out, you know, what makes you tick after, after soccer or whatever it is that you do.

Megan, this has been so fun to chat with you, to hear your enthusiasm, just your incredible passion, not just for, you know, speaking out about, what needs to happen in the game for women's soccer, but also your ability to then translate it with your teammates into a really great brand that's not just a street wear brand, but also stands, stands for something.

that consumers can get really excited about and feel empowered by. So it's been an absolute pleasure to have you on the game plan and we cannot wait to stay in touch with you to see where reading and where you go from here. So thank you so much for your time.

Thanks guys. Appreciate it. , it's been a blast.

Awesome. Thank you.

At the end of every episode, Jay, and I like to recap what we heard and share our own thoughts on the businesses. Our guests are building. We call this segment our partner meeting, a term we borrow from the meetings we have when evaluating investment opportunities at our respective funds. So Jay, how much energy did you just get from talking to Megan.

man, I got to tell you, that was incredible. And talking to entrepreneurs like Megan that are so. Excited about their business. It just reminds me why I love being an investor. I mean, just the ability to hear somebody who is that knowledgeable and that excited about what they're building and just really has such a clear vision for what they want to bring into the world.

yeah, man. I mean, it's, it's, it's enthused. It's, you know, it's just like, gets me really, really excited about what we do all day.

Yeah, and I think it's easy to have a lot of energy and excitement going into a new idea or just starting something. But to be almost a year in now and still show the level of energy she has is really powerful and it's exciting and it makes me believe in the prospects of the business a lot more longterm, you know?

With that. her willingness to share some of the early stumbles and what was the, what that was like and how, you know, their bar is higher than that and how she aspires for it to be a better business or to have better goods or better supply chain, I think is, is great too. And it shows how involved she really is in re.

She, she talked about that too cause she said, you know, we don't want to build a business. That's good enough. I don't, I don't think those were her exact words, but something along those lines where she was like, when you're on the soccer field, when I'm with my teammates, like, good enough isn't enough.

Right. That's how you know you don't win championships with good enough. And so bringing that mentality, I know it's always pithy, like, Oh. What they do on the field is what they do in their business. But just that mentality, that sort of mindset of continue to get better, continue to improve your knowledge base and don't just settle for good enough is probably, I think to your point why that enthusiasm is still there.

Cause she's, she's always learning new things. She's always applying new things and always trying to make the business better.

Let me ask you this, what is your take in terms of investing in non-tech from a venture capital standpoint?

Yeah. It's, it's a good question. You know, we've talked about this in the past on some shows, but the reason venture capital investing focuses on the power law is cause you have to have outsized returns to make up for the companies in your portfolio that don't return. Right. So our, our guests, our regular listeners, they understand the power of law.

The challenge with nontechnical businesses is that most of them don't return. On a large enough outcome to make the math makes sense. So we saw this huge push in 20 I want to say 1516 maybe a little bit earlier if you count like Casper and Warby Parker, but that big push of DTC brands in 2015 and 2016 and there were some investors are, you know, us included, that got involved in deals at that time.

that realized that these companies were going to have to raise so much money that we were just not going to see those returns, in the right time. And most of the reason, by the way, they raised money, which is again, why I think this is so interesting for something like rink, most of the reason those companies raised a lot of money was for customer acquisition.

And in this instance, I don't know if they're going to have to raise a ton of money to get this business off the ground. Sure. They're going to have to have initial capital and we see that they've done that. But. They don't need quite the amount of money for customer acquisition because they've got such a great brand and you know, like well known names behind it.

Yeah, and I want to touch more on that in the role of. Celebrity investors, especially in early stage companies. But I'll just add to what you were talking about, and this goes in line with power law, is there's also just the reality of an non-tech business where the addition of another user also requires additional costs, right?

Like the additional cost to make the goods. And so even if your margin is getting better over time, there, there is cost to the. The acquisition that you have to account for, to retention and paying attention to that. And so it's just not the same. But the good news is, I think for entrepreneurs is there are more and more investors that are being set up.

With the intent of focusing on whether it's DTC businesses or other things that don't require the same level of, you know, exponential return or growth that a traditional VC would have. And that's really important that you're aligning with those types of investors if that's where your business is based because they are in line with their LP about the expectations and how that capital is being allocated.

Now they may want to derisk that investment in other ways or a, what I'm seeing a lot too is. Looking to take a greater or more outsized, piece of a company in that case. or even just, it's more, either debt financing or something that looks akin more to some sort of loan versus, true venture financing.

But, it's, I think it's all around. It's good for the ecosystem. It's good for founders. it's good for these ideas that are out there that deserve to exist, but may not have some of the same triggers or appeals that. We look for as venture capitalists that are looking for those outsize returns.

Yeah. And some of the challenge has been that the funds that are investing in these DTC brands are so massive. But the returns for most D to C brands, even the ones that do go public, don't even measure up to that return. Right. So there, to your point, there are probably some size to, you know, ownership percentage combinations that tend to work out.

Okay. You're a 50 million year, a hundred million dollar venture fund. You can probably get into deep sea when you are a billion dollar fund. Now, you know, she mentioned that Kleiner Perkins is involved in their deal, so there's probably some interesting way that they've gotten involved with Kleiner.

Perkins is a massive fund, right? There are certain size and ownership combinations that have to happen when you are investing as a VC fund and a non-tech business. But you know, some of these have worked out. Some have some D to C exits have been really significant. you know, one off the top of my head is I'd be Peloton, right?

Peloton started again, it wasn't a technology business, is it just a bikes or fitness business? And now it's turned into a massive global brand. And all the early investors that came into something like Peloton and we're along for the ride, have seen that value for a direct to consumer, you know, fitness brands.

So there are success stories, but I think the challenge is they have been few and far in between because not every category can support the amount of venture capital put into it.

Yeah. And to that end, you can, the fact that they can now, I guess monetize a single video to 40,000 people. People that don't even have their bikes but are doing other workouts is a really big deal too. So especially with, you know, everyone's staying at home right now, it's certainly accelerated

and there's, there's a, there's a interesting point that I want to make sure that we don't sort of gloss over where she even said this when I asked, right. Beyond your involvement as a celebrity. Where does this brand go? And I think she was very honest about it, which is like, look, celebrity fades, right?

Fame fades. So you want the brand to stand on its

Unless you're

unless you're Beyonce. She didn't say that. And, and, and I think she's right. And maybe, you know, Serena and a few others. but that said, right now, in the early days, that celebrity, that athlete engagement is actually super, super valuable. Right? And it just comes back to the math of it.

You need to acquire customers for your brand. Are you going to go and spend that money on Facebook and Google ads or are you going to have your four world cup superstars tweeting about and sharing it, wearing it? You know, you see it everywhere. It becomes associated with you and then when your, when your fans and audience engage with it, they feel like they're a part of.

Your brand and your community, like the organic growth value of a celebrity, you know, not even endorsement, but like co founder and investor and somebody who's bought in, I mean, that is. Really hard to quantify. I'm sure there are ways to quantify it, but what I can tell you is it's much, much more valuable than the RO as the return on ad spend that you're getting by pumping venture capital into customer acquisition.

Yeah, totally. I think that also goes in line with like the core values and mission of the company and the mission of the founders. Like what that does is not so much necessarily convert. Purchase or convert new customers, but it really helps with reach and, marketing message. So your message gets out there more because it's so much clear and it's differentiated and it's something that people want to talk about or the press wants to talk about.

And so with that. I saw Ray everywhere last July, and it was a combination of the us women's national team being behind, or you know, these four members of the team being behind it, but also because of how the mission aligned with with them. Like it was just crystal clear. It wasn't just. You know, their name attached to something or them as a cofounder in some company that had nothing to do with what they stood for, but it was like truly endemic to who they were and what their personal brands were.

So I think that's where it's starts to have like a compounding effect when you have these celebrities as investors, as long as it like truly aligns with what their personal brand is, that's where it can have a great impact on the marketing piece.

Yeah. It has to be endemic. It has to be endemic in some way. I mean, it's really, really tough, you know, even just for like the average consumer to understand why you're doing it. Right. And so I think in this sense, the fact that this is endemic to her, that, that it sort of mission and brand aligned from that standpoint is one great for her because.

Even after her playing days, she believes in this mission of, you know, finding something that looks dope, that fits, but also empowers you and you feel like, you know, good about wearing it and you know, feel good about what it stands for. And then the second piece of it, which is the authenticity, is something that sticks with the customer.

And as we know, with D to C brands that we have seen. It is much, much better to retain a customer than it is to go and acquire a new one. Right? So you just, you think about like once you've gotten a purchase from somebody, right? Once you've gotten them to buy into your streetwear, what else can you get them to buy into?

And this is what I really like about even her vision just today, which is. This is not just a street wear company. Jay, this is so much more right. You, you heard her say it multiple times, and I think that is just a great vision for an app. Yet today, maybe for the next year, it's going to look like an apparel business.

It's going to look like a street wear company, but once you get that customer bought in and you have an authentic voice with them, there are so many different directions that they can go and so yeah, I'm excited to see where they're going to go with this.

Yeah, and I think too, it's important to remember that it's still the early days, but we're really excited to see where the company goes. Jay, thanks for joining me on this week's partner meeting.

Thank you, sir.

So that'll do it for this week's episode of the game plan with Jacob  and Tim cot. As always, thanks so much for listening.

We really enjoyed having a Meghan Klingberg join us on the show. Make sure to follow Meghan on Twitter and Instagram, and since you've made it this far, you must really enjoy the game plan, which we appreciate. Please follow us on Twitter at the game plan show and make sure to leave a five star review on iTunes.

We'll see you next week on the game plan.